Tag Archives: Blue Rose Code

Blue Rose Code – ‘Ebb and Flow’ [Navigator]

Four months on from the release of his brilliant album The Water of Leith, Blue Rose Code, aka acclaimed singer-songwriter Ross Wilson, releases his new single ‘Ebb and Flow’.

Having picked up the award for Scottish Album of the Yearfrom The Skinny and earned comparisons to John Martyn and Van Morrison, he’s built a reputation as an accomplished and thoughtful songwriter and ‘Ebb and Flow’ is another excellent addition to his canon.

Speaking about the single Wilson said: “above the entrance to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art there is a neon sign that exclaims “Everything Is Going To Be Alright!”. The problem that I have with that is I wasted so long waiting for everything to be alright, waiting for something to happen but now, the truth as I see it is that everything is alright. A subtle but powerful difference. There is nothing wrong with right now, that’s what the song is about.”

As for the tune itself, it’s a darting romp built on sprightly piano and saxophone that brings to mind early Springsteen.

Wilson’s playful voice darts about over a lush bed of harmonies as he quips “never try to find troubles, trouble will find you”.

It’s a bold choice to release a song with a whistling break in the middle of winter, but the message here is to keep up hope.

Life itself will ebb and flow and good times will come again.

With tracks like this Wilson is more than ready to seize the day when they do.

Words: Max Sefton

Celtic Connections: Beth Orton, Blue Rose Code at ABC, 2/2/18

With Celtic Connections drawing to a close, it’s up to nights like this to really cement the diversity of talent a city-wide festival can attract to its doors.

Up first is Edinburgh-raised Ross Wilson, aka Blue Rose Code, kicking things off with fresh cuts from his critically-acclaimed third album, 2017’s The Water of Leith.

Flanked by a full band of double bass, saxophone, piano and more, Wilson’s performance is both vigorous and fun; songs that steal moments of quiet introversion on record become warm and rousing at Wilson’s lively command.

He begins with a reimagining of Robert Frost’s poem, ‘Acquainted with the Night’, picking over those cool and lonely lines with sultry acoustic guitar.

With his mellow, resinous voice deepening to earthier, mahogany tones or brushing over pretty, elevated harmonies, the John Martyn influence is clear and comparisons might be made to fellow Scotsman Lomond Campbell.

You can hear in those notes a long Glasgow winter, the coldest, peaty depths of highland lochs—but also the place between the isles where the sun breaks gold over the sea.

In all darkness and solitude, Wilson has found a sweet spot between soul and sadness, introspection dissolved in the communal, expressive potentials of jazz and folk, yet never afraid of alluring pop melodies.

Favourites like ‘Bluebell’, ‘Ebb and Flow’ and ‘Nashville Blue’ take us through moments of quiet sorrow and rising joy, so the crowd stare raptured or swaying gently to the soulful sax motifs and piano.

It’s a performance full of heart, sometimes Celtic or country-tinged, other times embracing full-on Sunday morning soul.

There’s an endearing moment where he brings his daughter onstage, beaming with pride.

Throughout, it’s clear that Wilson is enjoying every minute and that sincerity of connection really resonates in the audience’s reception; he even wryly remarks that he’s “never known a quieter crowd at the ABC”.

He’s a tough act to follow, but Norfolk’s queen of folktronica, Beth Orton, handles the role with casual poise, welcoming the crowd with a promise of “something different”.

Orton’s set up is typically sparse, with just herself, a guitar and Graeme McMurray’s bass accompaniment; the stage lights dim into eerie pools of white through the dense dry ice.

The focus, then, is mostly on Orton’s voice and the throbbing bass that earned her early ‘freak folk’ mantle, the residues of which are clearly heard on opener ‘Moon’ with its prominent bass riff and atmospheric solstice tremors.

The effect is entrancing, as Orton slips through ‘Wave’ and ‘Petals’ from 2016’s career-reviving Kidsticks—every affective turn blisters in the twist of Orton’s voice, set against a low ambient rumble.

Sometimes, though, in the minimalism it’s hard not to want some percussion or more of the electronic effects that flesh out Kidsticks’ eclectic, sparkly but also haunting atmosphere.

As the set warms up, Orton’s selections become increasingly career-spanning, as languid heartbreaker ‘Sweetest Decline’ leads us back to the acoustic beauty of 1999’s Central Reservation, every line swathed in sunlight: “She weaves secrets in her hair / The whispers are not hers to share”.

Orton’s majesty is understatement: her knack for trembling lyrics that dazzle with simplicity, her self-deprecation—apologising for being a ‘Sweary Mary’ and interrupting lines with minor blunders—and her ability to really sink into the mood of a track.

Her songs, she tells the audience, are really just “short stories with beautiful sounds”.

The crowd are mostly a typically older, Celtic Connections affair, and it’s clear most people have a deep and personal relationship with these songs, as the reception grows warmer with the set delving further back into Orton’s past.

I still remember how at a young age I stole my mother’s well-scratched Simply Acoustic compilation CD and heard ‘She Cries Your Name’ for the first time: there’s something lovely about how those romantic images and syncopated riffs splash across the years.

Tender tracks like ‘Blood Red River’ and ‘Pass In Time’ quell a temporarily restless audience, while sparkier numbers ‘Shopping Trolley’, ‘Concrete Sky’, ‘Mystery’ and ‘Call Me the Breeze’ indicate how Orton’s musical maturity sometimes involves a willing return to soft and rejuvenating innocence.

At times her voice is wavering, almost abrasive; but the unsettling effect feels appropriate to the bittersweetness in her songs.

There’s a beautiful moment where the ABC’s globe-sized disco ball is turned on and glimmers through the room during ‘Stars All Seem to Weep’.

Orton returns to the stage with an encore that involves the stirring urgency of ‘Stolen Car’ and closes on the hypnotic, reflective prettiness of ‘I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine’, drawing a teary sing-along from the audience.

It’s an evening of mixed emotions, songs about heartache wrapped in gorgeous folk tones; songs about recovery and learning to love the world again given the glister of melody and human connection.

January’s exhaustion feels perfectly saved by each performance, and I’m sure I’m not the only one leaving the ABC tonight feeling some much-needed catharsis.

More Photos

Words: Maria Sledmere
Photos: Stewart Fullerton

Albums of 2017 (30-21)

Albums 30-21 – 20-11 – 10-1 EPs 30-2120-1110-1

30. ULTRAS – ULTRAS [Hello Thor]

The brain child of Over The Wall’s Wav Prentice ULTRAS’ debut record caught our ears through its wide ranging influences, colourful tones and Prentice’s ever enthusiastic impassioned delivery.

29. Sun Rose – The Essential Luxury [Last Night From Glasgow]

The band formerly known as Nevada Base finally got round to putting out an album in 2018 and it’s one that was worth waiting for, it’s an emphatic display electronic pop music that shines with a vital energy that we have now come to expect from LNFG releases.

28. December ‘91 – Starin’ At The Freaks

We’ve come to accept December ’91 as a warm and traditionally folky artist, with a dark and subtle back hand that creeps around a lot of the songs, and some embarrassingly if not upsettingly frank lyrics. Starin’ At The Freaks is much lighter in tone than his previous releases and has a little less crude lyricism, delivering the artist’s best work to date This album seems like a step in a more commercially viable direction for the artist, but this comes without a sacrifice of quality and integrity. There are meaningful twangs of Americana, a well balanced mixture of classical and contemporary elements and a lack of seriousness – with some swearing, morbidity and crassness thrown in for good measure.

27. State Broadcasters – A Different Past [Olive Grove]

Glasgow’s State Broadcasters third record, A Different Past is a record that tries on everyone’s clothes from Teenage Fanclub’s buttoned down power-pop shirt to King Creosote’s rain-lashed greatcoat to the glossy sheen of Dear Catastrophe Waitress era Belle and Sebastian. There’s the sense that each track is part of a wider project, serving to highlight a different facet of the whole, that despite their disparate styles and influences there’s a sense of a common project here and it lends the record a thoughtful feel despite its more outré stylings. A Different Past comes with a manifesto: “embrace the world we live in today rather than revisiting and revising memories of our youth and trying to convince ourselves it really was all great fun,” with State Broadcasters, at least you’ll know there is always something fresh and new around the corner.

26. Washington Irving – August 1914

Folk rockers Washington Irving returned with another album of emotional highs and lows, this time delving into the bloody battles of WWI as inspiration for a set of songs that seek to catalogue love, misery and dread. Having played with Glasgow’s kings of anthemic melancholy Frightened Rabbit as well as the likes of Titus Andronicus and Wintersleep, the gang know how to match their miserabilism to rollocking tunes and August 1914 is certainly their heaviest and least folk-inflected set to date. Appropriately given the newly beefed up sound, August 1914 may well also be the group’s darkest set of material so far, from shout along first single ‘We Are All Going to Die’ to the stormy ‘Petrograd’, and when the tracks spark to life there’s a fiery intensity that few current Scottish bands can match, most notably on the brilliant and righteously angry ‘Faslane Forever’. To make August 1914, Washington Irving travelled to New York seeking new horizons; we’re lucky to have them back.

25. Siobhan Wilson – There Are No Saints [Song, by Toad]

Siobhan Wilson’s There Are No Saints starts off with its titular track, a saintly track that sets the scene beautifully and topically for a particularly nuanced, bold, intelligent and endearing album. What it does extremely well is meld contemporary and classical elements with respect, restraint and understanding; delivering one of the best debut albums we’ve heard recently. For such a highly artistic album, it is not alienating or difficult to engage with; there is no sense of snobbery here. There is nothing about this album that occurs in a particularly linear, predictable or boring way, it is exceptionally progressive and evolving.

24. Campfires In Winter – Ischaemia [Olive Grove]

Campfires In Winter debut album took some time in coming, as such it came at a time when the Croy four-piece are familiar faces on the Glasgow indie rock scene. Ischaemia, the follow up to a multitude of singles and EPs over the past few years, is an interesting synthesis of the sounds they have tried on over the last half a decade. Campfires have built a reputation for emotional live performances that blur the line between windswept folk rock and soaring shoegaze, on Ischaemia they brush up against these constraints with a record that pushes their sound in some more experimental directions, in a record that thrives on brains and a dark humoured outlook on the world.

23. Blue Rose Code – The Water of Leith [Navigator]

We were late to the game for Ross Wilson, aka Blue Rose Code’s acclaimed new album, and as a result maybe it wasn’t given a fair roll of the dice. Still, on the short time we had to spin in was an enchanting experience as Wilson sheds his past and looks to the future in true beautiful terms.

22. Fuzzystar – Telegraphing [Satelite Sounds]

Fuzzystar is the moniker of Andy Thomson and friends, an Edinburgh based gang trafficking in buzzy indie pop; Telegraphing is their debut record and it’s a ten track, tune packed blast that delivers reverb stricken off-kilter  indie pop at it’s best. At points the guitar is big and crunchy at others it’s sleek, while Thomson’s weary vocals lead the way, Telegraphing is a layered, fuzz  packed beauty that will have your heart captured in no time.

21. Best Girl Athlete – Best Girl Athlete [Fitlike]

Katie Buchan, aka Best Girl Athlete, followed up 2015’s Carve Every Word with her new self-titled album, which includes an eclectic mix of tracks displaying her strength in producing a strong and diverse range of music displaying real growth both musically, and lyrically. The album is stronger and sounds a great deal more confident as Buchan plays around with an interesting mix of genres and styles. Best Girl Athlete has moved into a more mature and complete space, through her alluring vocals and striking lyrics that shape each track and with this exceptionally well shaped album shows Buchan’s growing strength as an independent artist, promising impressive things to come in the future. 

Albums 30-21 – 20-11 – 10-1