Tag Archives: Emma Pollock

Electric Fields 2016, Day One, 26/7/16

Back down in Dumfries for another Electric Fields and this year the festival has seen a whole load of new investment, resulting in a stronger, less Scottish oriented line up, an extra day of music, larger stages, better food and an all round bigger feel.

And it all seems to pay off, at less than £100 a ticket this festival is bargain when you consider the acts on display; and the whole thing feels a lot less thrown together.

Not that the festival in previous years had been thrown together, you can just tell there’s a much higher budget this year and it has been put to good use.

Musically we start with what could potentially be the pinnacle of the weekend as Glasgow’ rioters Sweaty Palms open the Tim Peaks Stage, and lift the oddly couch scattered space quickly with evil sneers, dirty guitars and pure sleaze filled gothy garage rock.

The five-piece are kitted out in an array of hooded cloaks, along with a military hat and the now compulsory toplessness from at least 2/5 of the band; this look cements the slanted humour to their sound and set, which has increasing become something that you can’t really know what to expect from, well except a full on unruly experience.

These guys are deserving of a bigger stage, but they do play to a fairly healthy crowd and deliver a set that gets the festival off and running in the perfect way, as they put you in a trance with their psych touching vibes and let loose with a give a fuck attitude that is much better utilised here than it was in the ridiculous slot they were handed at T in the Park.

This is my first time experiencing Glasgow based duo Elara Caluna in a live setting and from this showing in won’t be the last as they, joined by two other musicians, deliver a flowing set of lackadaisical indie pop with darker undertones.

Calm, yet unsettling vocals allow intricate percussion and lulling synths to ease into an almost dystopian landscape without any restraint and leave you with an eerie yet comfortable feeling.

Elara Caluna’s set is a subtle mix of the sweet and the creepy that drags you into a trap, but you’re too drawn by the beauty in to even care.


Due to an unfortunate interview mix up I find myself sadly missing the delightful Tuff Love, and the novelty of catching Sugarhill Gang is killed off by the band being caught in traffic and completely missing their set, so next up is a trip to the Stewart Cruickshank Stage, named in honour of the recently deceased radio DJ who did so much for the Scottish music over the years, for former Delgados singer Emma Pollock.

Pollock clearly familiar with commanding a crowd and relaxes the nerves with a driving rock set that fully demonstrates her well honed pop rock tracks that quite rightly were shortlisted for this year’s SAY Award on In Search of Harperfield.

There’s a real confidence to her vocal, which compliment the strong and enchanting songwriting that comes with an overriding pop feel.

Still, this year’s festival has been marred by the tragic recent passing of The Lapelles frontman Gary Watson, and Pollock is the first of a few artists this weekend to mention this as she takes to stage in the slot Watson’s band were set to hold, her words are a fitting tribute the talented young man, talking about how the whole Scottish music scene has been rocked by his passing.


On the Main Stage Public Service Broadcasting look like they’re ready to set up a science lesson at a posh school in the 70s, but instead they inject the evening with glitchy tropical beats and quirky samples of old broadcasting transmissions.

There’s no doubt they’re an odd ball act, but what they’re doing remarkably impressive and gets the crowd moving in the early evening.

Using samples to make a stuttered personalised thank you to the festival, comes across rather cheesy, but hindsight it could also be played out as a joke at the expense of bands praising crowds without really knowing where they are, only further emphasised by the knowing expressions on the band’s faces.

This is a set packed with technical talent, but what’s even more pleasing is the fact that band seem to be having as much fun as the crowd, as they dance away on stage in their shirts and ties and tweed jackets and bow ties, it’s a engaging stuff that more than justifies their main stage billing.

As darkness falls I catch a burst of Wild Beasts; I haven’t yet heard new album Boy King, meaning a lot of the material is unfamiliar, but what is on offer still has plenty of attention grabbing hooky synths and that addictive, potentially Marmite high reaching vocal of Hayden Thorpe.

On stage they appear your standard alt rock band, but there’s so many pop undercurrents to Wild Beasts’ sound that it differentiates them from that image and elevates them above their peers, however during a crazy moment of crossovers I have to head elsewhere.

That elsewhere is back to the intimate Tim Peaks stage for Manchester four-piece Horsebeach, cos well I’m a sucker for that dream pop sound.

The of the band drift beautifully somewhere between that dreamy guitar pop sound and the shoegaze bracket; the subject matter of the set seems bleak at points, but the floaty nature of their sound elevates them and has a growing crowd in a lulled hypnotic mist.

It’s true that Ryan Kennedy’s vocals might not hit the heights of some of the best of the genre, but it’s still early days for these guys and there’s plenty of charm to both his delivery and their set in general that warms you right through and puts a nice end to proceedings before I head off to have a touch too much fun at the Bowie and Prince Disco.

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Words: Iain Dawson
Photos: Warrick Beyers / Martin Bone

Emma Pollock – In Search of Harperfield [Chemikal Underground]

Former Delgados vocalist Emma Pollock, has just released her third studio album, In Search of HarperfieldI; featuring eleven equally distinct tracks, this album offers insight into different sides of the singer’s personality and musical style, while developing a story and featuring varying imagery mirrored by each arrangement within the each track.

Without a doubt, there is a great deal of underlying history throughout, prevalent in the album’s striking lyrics.

As Pollock has admitted, the album’s opening track, ‘Cannot Keep A Secret’, is a personal telling of her family history, and by opening her album with this, she welcomes us into her open book of memories and imagination.

Tracks such as ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’ and ‘Alabaster’ introduce a darker element to the album, with ‘Alabaster’ especially appearing mysterious and haunting with a fairy-tale feel to the lyrics.

There is a mythical theme running throughout the album conveyed through the contrast of tracks such as ‘Intermission’, which features a heavy and powerful arrangement, alongside tracks such as ‘Clemency’ – appearing lighter and dream-like in its structure.

‘Parks and Recreation’ and ‘Vacant Stare’ move away from the mysterious and experimental sound, displaying an indie/rock style – a small reminder of Pollock’s earlier work with The Delgados.

The most impressive track on the album is the closing track ‘Old Ghosts’; as the title suggests, the track features Pollock delving into her past and opening the song to her memories and experience, concluding the narrative of the album while featuring a musical arrangement that flows beautifully.

This is an intelligent and deep album, which musically matches up to the very high standard of lyrical storytelling running throughout its entirety.

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Words: Orla Brady

Wickerman (Saturday), 25/7/15

Saturday got underway in earnest with RM Hubbert on the main stage; I arrive, a little late, to him announcing: “Radio One won’t play pop songs about depression…”

He describes ‘Bolt’ as a more upbeat number (facetiously described as his attempt to get mainstream radio plays), but it is followed by what, in his own words, is a sad song.

He dedicates it to his late father-in-law who he reveals had a major influence on his own life, relating that loss to the loss that the festival has been enduring this year.

It’s a beautiful sentiment, one reflected by Hubbert’s sensitive and gentle mastery of the fret-board, and only reaffirms why Hubbert, a previous SAY award winner, is such a gift to the Scottish music scene.

The set ends with ‘Car Song’, where Hubbert is normally accompanied by Aidan Moffat (who he guesses is still in bed); what I find surprising is how vocally similar the two are – as when he sings Moffat’s part, it really is uncanny.

witheredhand04Withered Hand is an artist who I have not seen live in some time – in fact it was just before he released his first album, Good News, in 2008 that I was engrossed by his live performance.

It was, therefore, with much excitement that I made my way towards the Scooter tent, only to find he was already half-way through his second song (it turned out that all the acts for Saturday had been brought forward 15 minutes to allow for the Wickerman Burning at midnight – making all our schedules incorrect).

Third song in he plays ‘New Dawn’, an imposing and up-tempo number that begins to stir the crowd.

Wearing a trucker cap, with a Black Sabbath T-shirt, it’s clear Withered Hand has gone through a bit of a change since last seeing him.

Brimming with confidence and heading a tight, five-piece band the new dynamic has introduced greater complexity and ambition from his older writing.

A good example of this is ‘Love in the time of Ecstasy’, where the slow, solo build up gradually builds to glorious cacophony integrating the plethora of sound that the five can produce.

It feels like a different song in this context, an upbeat gospel-inspired song that bares some resemblance to The Eels live version of ‘Climbing to the Moon’.

After a huge response from a now full Scooter tent, we are introduced to a newer track, ‘Horseshoe’, followed by original break-through hit, ‘Religious Songs’ (dedicated to all the Pagans on site).

The song order alone shows how far Withered Hand has come, his stagecraft is considered and routinely accessible.

This sometimes seems to feel almost at odds with the original awkward, theological and sexually obsessed roots of the material – lines such as “I beat myself off when I sleep on your Futon,” are now sung like proud anthems of personal revelation by a devout group of fans; in short it all works wonderfully.

Mere moments from the Scooter tent, Emma Pollock takes the stage in the Phoenix tent – 15 minutes early of course.

She admits that this was a bit of a homecoming as she had lived in Castle Douglas for six years and completed her sixth year of school at Kirkcudbright Academy.

The surrounds are somewhat distant from her spiraling, sun-drenched Californian sound, and despite being in a dark tent, the weather seems to be obliging, bestowing some golden shafts through the open spaces of the tent.

The stand out track in the set is ‘Red Orange Green’, which she plays shortly after introducing her new backing drummer.

Generating excitement on the Summerisle stage, Neneh Cherry seems ready to capitalise on the improved weather conditions.

Her Saturday evening starts with some poetry, as she floats onto the stage, immaculately presented, easily winning the award for best shoes on show.

She decides not to reflect the clement weather, plunging straight into ‘Blank Project’, a dark, moody track, seemingly inspired by elements of contemporary German sound and production, typical of her new approach to music.

It’s hard to fault, her movements are perfectly timed to the bass-driven percussive elements and it immediately sends a signal to the crowd – this will not be an exercise in 90s synth pop nostalgia; quite right.

Despite thoughtfully enjoying Neneh Cherry’s set – it felt as though we had been denied some upbeat, sunny festival vibes.

jimmycliff07It was a fleeting concern as next up on the main stage is Jimmy Cliff.

Needing no introduction, and before he even arrives, the Summerilse stage is as busy as I have ever seen it.

The crowd eagerly anticipates Cliff’s arrival and he does not disappoint.

Soon into his set, ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want’ lifts the atmosphere and hordes of people are up and dancing – providing an upbeat festival sound, a sound which Cliff provides with suitable aplomb and the audience welcome with joyous revelry.

Hit after hit surge festival goers into action – not since Chic played two years ago have I witnessed such an optimism in a Wickerman crowd and by the time he finishes with the eternally enlivening ‘Wonderful World, Beautiful People’ spirits have well and truly been lifted.

Sharing a similar trajectory as WHITE, who entertained on the previous night, C Duncan is currently riding high on a wave of promise.

Unlike WHITE he has a lot of songs (a product of a very busy year) to draw upon; the twenty five year old Glaswegian is becoming a radio favourite and he fills the small Solus tent within minutes.

His magnetism is evidenced in opening song ‘Far’, a steady, lilting sound, accompanied by whistling harmonies that immediately reminds me of Sufjan Stevens early album Seven Swans.

In recording, the soloist has a multi-layered approach and live, in the tailored confines of the tent, he manages to reproduce it with a well-rehearsed group.

His sound is full of craft and intrigue, during ‘Here to There’ he manages to get a very excited (and lubricated) Blochestra to kick off with contagious dancing.

He finishes on a high, with the singular Garden’, particularly impressive.

C Duncan has a well-developed and distinctive sound – and undoubtedly shines as one of the big hits of this year’s Wickerman.

For the final act of the festival I decided to avoid main stage headliners Example and DJ Wire in favour of fierce Glasgow five-piece Outblinker in the Solus tent.

They, like Ubre Blanca the night before, deal exclusively in sustained, immersive instrumentals and I was excited to see them, as a few weeks earlier I had documented a live session with them and was eager to refamiliarise myself with their live output.

They do not disappoint – opening with ‘Pink, they demonstrate tight intricacy with assailing blasts.

They are a collective of some very talented musicians and they power though their (regrettably short) set goading the crowd’s excitement for the Wickerman Burning.

I feel however, as I felt to a certain extent with Ubre Blanca, that this type of sound doesn’t lend itself well to a short (30 minute) set in a festival environment.

Their music is long and enveloping, demanding attention – definitely one to check out in a dark, beer-stained venue!

The festival ends with the annual burning of the Wickerman; as always the firework display is outstanding, although unlike previous years the organisers had decided to leave the main stage empty forgoing acts like Public Service Broadcast and Utah Saints who had played that slot before.

Overall, the festival is a hit for me; I’ve always thought that the smaller tents of this festival had more fascination, showing a more esoteric breadth of talent than the main stage and with the addition of the Pheonix tent it felt like another step forward in this respect.

Problems with the scheduling and weaker Summerisle acts can be easily fixed for next year, and I am convinced that these issues are in part influenced by the trauma the organisers have had to undergo this year.

Next year the Wickerman will be entering its fifteenth year, and I believe that after this year of transition, the long-term improvements will be felt, and enjoyed by larger numbers than ever.

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Words/Photos: Gordon Ballantyne