Tag Archives: Jo Mango

A Christmas Carousal with Malcolm Middleton, MC Almond Milk, Jo Mango at Platform, 15/12/17

Platform’s Annual Christmas Carousal presents an evening of incredible Scottish musicians whose songs confront feelings of comfort and joy in a year that seemed bleak and hopeless.

Each songwriter explored the expectation of being happy in the harshness of winter, and questioned the conflict of feelings that seem to appear during the festive period.

Jo Mango kicks off the festivities; inspired by Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Pale Fire, Mango’s second song describes a scene of looking out at bright snow from the darkness of a living room setting.

Mango quotes the novel’s opening lines, exploring the connection between future and past, and darkness with light: “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain / by the false azure in the windowpane”

Continuing with the wintery theme, Mango describes her next song as “a Christmas song for a foetus,” explaining a conversation she had with a colleague who became tearful that his unborn baby was yet to experience the beauty of the world.

Mango triggers a waltz beat on an omnichord, and uses the touch plate to produce a gorgeous swell of notes.

The refrain of “I can’t wait until you see” allows for contemplation; that Christmas is perhaps a time for reflection and appreciating the world around us.

Continuing with the festive-theme, Mango delivers an incredible and captivating version of Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Only at Christmas Time’, which is accompanied by the ringing of desk bells.

Next we hear ‘Evermore’, a song that describes the therapeutic sound of ice flowing on a river, as well as the devastation of a house fire.

The song begins: “December, in the year the kitchen burned / floorboards creaked like ice-bergs”

Although the contrast of ‘fire’ and ‘ice’ demonstrates feelings of conflict, the song takes these contradictory terms and encourages their co-existence.

Reaching the end of the set, Mango sings a mash up of the traditional Christmas carol ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ with Brian Wilson’s ‘Love and Mercy’.

Loosely aimed towards Donald Trump, the song presents a resistance and alternative to hate, and finds light in darkness.

Comfort and Joy, and Love and Mercy: the final sentiment of the incredibly talented Jo Mango in what has been a whirlwind of a year.

Next to the stage is MC Almond Milk and with the usual live drummer contractually obliged to play at a pantomime this year, James Scott takes to the stage himself.

Even without “Little Drummer Roy” as Scott refers to him, the set is bursting with bright electronic beats combined with a confident delivery of realist Scottish lyricism.

Opening with ‘Yuptae Dollface’ the MC professes his “disregard of what the mood of the nation is”, relating to the bleakness of 2017, as suggested by Mango.

Performed with an acoustic guitar complimented by a drum machine and haunting synth sounds, the song demonstrates a disdain for the modern world, with references to social media and youth culture.

A stand out track of the set is ‘1995’, which tells a nostalgic tale of growing up in Scotland.

The song is self-reflective, and contains a multitude of relatable cultural references from shopping in Argos, to the first time hearing Kurt Cobain.

As the timeline progresses, the music gets more chaotic, mirroring the tumultuous journey of those formative 10 years.

Not wanting to disappoint the crowd, Almond Milk finishes on his festive song ‘Black Friday’; fist pumping, and sampling the BBC’s Grandstand theme tune, the crowd cheer as Scott raps: “down to the bookies for a white Christmas bet / this is gonna be the best Christmas yet”.

The song seems to mock the elaborate consumerism over the Christmas period, and ties in with the over-arching themes throughout the set in which the MC satirises and holds disdain for modern culture.

With contempt and disdain firmly in the air, it seems like the right time for headliner Malcolm Middleton to take to the stage.

“Is everyone ready for Christmas… or are you all here ‘cos it’s shite and you know it?”

Like Jo Mango and MC Almond Milk, the juxtapositions and mixed feelings of Christmas become apparent even before Middleton plays his first song.

In ‘Devastation’ we hear contrasting terms: “I’m sorry for the silence, I’m sorry for the noise”.

He proceeds, “You know I’ll make it up to you with a million steak McCoys.”

Similar to MC Almond Milk’s pizza crunch anecdote, Middleton portrays themes of love and redemption in this poetic reference to an exquisite Scottish delicacy.

The third song of the evening ‘Like John Lennon Said’ is a poignant moment of the night, where Middleton repeats “above us only sky”.

This could revert back to Jo Mango’s ‘Christmas foetus song’ where we are reminded that the value of life is sometimes measured in the grandiosity of our surroundings.

In keeping with the festive spirit, in true Middleton style, he sings ‘Burst Noel’, a Christmas song where he finds himself helpless on the bathroom floor.

Though the subject matter may seem depressing, it would be foolish to view his songs in that way.

Middleton’s lyrics are from a realist, romantic, and perhaps unfulfilled idealist perspective in which honesty and humour play a vital role.

Continuing with the Christmas theme, the band kick in with ‘We’re All Going to Die’ that had a strong backing in 2007 to become Christmas number 1.

The melody is cheerful with a fast, persisting drumbeat, and a catchy refrain, which contrasts with the subject matter.

Middleton finds joy in sadness, you’ve got to laugh into the dark”, summing up the Christmas spirit of 2017; in darkness, there will always be a bit of light.

Words: Marie Collins

Jo Mango and Friends – Wrack Lines [Olive Grove]

Curiously the story behind the Wrack Lines project is as interesting as the record itself, challenging a series of musicians to think about the environmental impact of their work, both touring and recording.

The EP forms part of a research project called Fields of Green: Addressing Climate Change through Music Festival Communities, which seeks to encourage audiences, organisers and musicians to plan environmentally sustainable behaviour around music festivals, in collaboration with researchers at the University of the West of Scotland, Edinburgh University, Lancaster University and the charity Creative Carbon Scotland.

Released on Olive Grove Records, Jo Mango ropes in an impressive array of Scottish musical talent, Admiral Fallow, RM Hubbert, Rachel Sermanni and The Pictish Trail for the project, but given its status as part academic project, part travelogue, part creative showcase; does Wrack Lines stand up to scrutiny on its own?

According to the accompanying press release the title “Wrack Lines” refers to the name given to the waving line of detritus that is left on the beach when the tide goes out; it is also an image of the creation of music (which itself is made from waves).

It’s an appropriate name for an EP that muses on the ephemeral, with Mango’s voice floating in and out, circling her duet partners like a dancer.

Obviously this works better on some tracks than others; ‘Loneliness and Rhythm’ with Louis Abbott from Admiral Fallow is a spacious musing on distance and alienation that benefits from the interweaving voices complementing one another, but the otherwise excellent ‘Believe Me I Know’ might work better as a Pictish Trail solo track with its rather more straightforward lyrics and electronic backbeat.

‘Sustain’ maintains RM Hubbert’s reputation as one of the most talented and tasteful musicians around, but it’s the final pair of tracks that offer the most effective display of Mango’s talents.

‘The Sky Exploded’ is a gentle ballad that manages to spin quiet pessimism into a call to arms, while ‘Bitter Fruit’ with Rachel Sermanni sees two songwriters at the top of their game trading lines and harmonising over a single gentle acoustic guitar.

Overall, Wrack Lines is a gentle reminder that doing the right thing need not always be preachy or painful.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/175239539″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]

Words: Max Sefton

Fields of Green Song Writers Circle with Rachel Sermanni, Jo Mango, The Pictish Trail, RM Hubbert, Louis Abbott at Platform, 21/1/16

Easterhouse has a reputation as being a grim place, dogged by urban deprivation and lacking culture, however on Friday night within the stark modern walls of Platform five vibrant Scottish talents bathe this part of the city in the brilliant light of musical wonder.

“The Fields of Green” is a collaboration of folk musicians brought together by Jo Mango as part of Creative Carbon Scotland’s study of the carbon footprint of touring musicians and music festivals.

The result is a five track EP, Wrack Lines, released on the Olive Grove, in which Louis Abbott, Rachel Sermanni, RM Hubbert and The Pictish Trail have all written a track with Mango exploring the subject of touring, music and the environment.

The gig kicks off with Admiral Fallow’s Louis Abbott playing an acoustic version of ‘Building as Foreign’ from the bands recent Tiny Rewards album.

Beautifully picked out on guitar and sung in his usual rich Scottish tone it sets the packed and attentive audience up for what clearly is to be a special night.

After or before each track the artist explains the meaning of the song and a bit about how it was written.

Abbott discloses that the track paid homage to ‘Subbuteo’, from debut album Boots Met My Face, a song about childhood and returning home.

RM Hubbert keeps the intimate feeling going with a rendition of the darkly melancholy ‘Bolt’, from his Breaks and Bones album.

An incredibly gifted guitarist he strums and drums on his classically strung flamenco instrument producing a flawless depth, which encapsulates the room.

Next up is The Pictish Trail; my first time seeing him, this is a guy you want at your parties!

Hugely engaging with a hefty sprinkling of talent thrown in for good measure, he keeps the audience on their toes with quick witted one liners and stories of life on the island of Eigg.

None of this detracts from the quality of his song writing and he introduces himself with the delicate ‘Lighthouse’ in which he quietly picks and strums his way to a wonderful crescendo of an ending.

Jo Mango, who has been compeering the show, then delights us with a new song ‘Pale Fire’, which as she explains is the colour of the flames when you burn your poetry.

Backing her charmingly innocent voice with piano she reaches for quivering falsettos leaving the audience in a stunned pin dropping silence.

Last and certainly not least, the as usual barefooted, Rachel Sermanni delights all with ‘Ferryman’, from her 2015 release Tied To The Moon. Perpetually, enigmatic she beautifully strums a mandolin that is almost lost in the background of the haunting melody of her voice.

Mango then combines in turn with the other artists to perform the tracks from the Wrack Lines EP (£5 to buy with all profits to Creative Carbon Scotland).

Each song is brilliantly composed and in the tradition of folk music telling a story, be it about touring as a musician or damage to the environment.

With Abbott on guitar and Mango on piano ‘Loneliness and Rhythm’ uses off rhythm time signatures to convey the off kilter nature of touring.

Hubbert is accompanied Mango’s faultless vocal with slow broken guitar, which he stalls to dramatic effect before picking and drumming his way along on ‘Sustain’.

The Pictish Trail then has the room in raptures of laughter with ‘Believe Me, I Know’ with lyrics telling of hitching lifts in the back of a car to get to gigs before playing to paltry audiences and earning only enough for the petrol money home.

The serious moral being is it worth the damage to the environment to allow a few fans to hear your art?

Mango then sings ‘The Sky Exploded’, wondrous and tender with a soft repeating riff, the narrative is to do your own small things to be better every day despite the major catastrophes happening around us.

The highlight of the EP and the night follows, with Sermanni and Mango deliciously entwining their vocals with achingly gorgeous whimsy on ‘Bitter Fruit’; two exceptional Scottish talents combining to remind us of the rich vein of form modern Scottish folk can mine from.

After a short break the evening gallops on with the audience drinking in another round of individual songs from the artists; each one a highlight in its own right to dedicate more words to them would stretch this review to bursting point!

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/175239539″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]

Words: Peter Dorrington

Label Focus: Olive Grove Records

Having two of Scotland’s top bloggers behind a record label seems to make a lot of sense, but when Lloyd Meredith (Peenko) and Halina Rifai (Podcart) started Olive Grove back in the summer of 2010 they were just dipping their toe in.

Fast forward four years and they’re pretty well established and putting out records in pretty regular fashion, all the while sticking to the principles they set out with to remain non-profit and to provide a platform for the bands they like to make it to the next level.

When I caught up with Lloyd on his lunch break from his day job, that he tells me is too dull to discuss, I was interested to find out how Olive Grove came about and what does the future hold for the label that has launched the likes of Randolph’s Leap and The Moth and the Mirror.

As both Halina and Lloyd had been pretty intertwined with the Scottish music scene for years previous the two were quite familiar with each other, but it still came out of the blue when Halina phoned Lloyd one July night and said “I want to start a label, and I want to start it with you”.

At this point Lloyd had just been made redundant , so as he puts it “I had a bit of money and time to play with”.

“We got together and came up with an ethos, basically we decided that we’d release the bands we liked to almost provide a stepping stone to something bigger and we wouldn’t take any money from it, so it was basically just an extension of our blogs, cos it’s for the love of the music essentially.”

He laughs as he makes this statement, throwing in a “fucking stupid idea” and a “four years later we’re still not taking any money”, but that’s not to say he’s not happy with what he’s doing, running a record label for the love of the music has its rewards, but there is a lot of work to be done for no financial gains – it’s a frustrating life for people who dedicate a lot of time to help promote the music they love.

However, back in 2010 Lloyd had just done a show with Randolph’s Leap, who he now manages despite them leaving Olive Grove for well respected Eigg based label Lost Map, and it just so happened that they’d just recorded an EP, “so, we met up with them and asked if they wanted us to put it out, I helped fund that one and that’s how it started”.

From then on they did a Christmas single with Esperi and their first full length the following year with The Son(s), who Lloyd had gotten to know through the Peenko: “I’d done interviews with them but I’d never met the guy, I only actually met him about two years after we put the album out but we’ve met and we’re quite good friends now”.

Following that the releases rolled in, Pensioner, The Moth and the Mirror, Jo Mango, State Broadcasters, Woodenbox, Call To Mind and as I write this they’ve released Skinny Dipper’s debut EP.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/162697377″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

At the time of our chat though it was Call to Mind who were fresh off the press with their full length The Winter Is White, and Lloyd just off the back of catching them at T in the Park states “I felt so bad cos it was at that point that it was so hot outside and you didn’t really want to go into the tent… they sounded great though”.

Over the four years Olive Grove has been on the go it has developed gradually to a point where it’s doing “reasonably well”, bands now know the label and should have a reasonable idea of the sort of sounds they release, generally stuff with folky, indie twinge to it, so they get approached on a fairly regular basis about putting things out, but Lloyd is the first to point out that they’re more of a facilitator, aside from the occasional release where the label has recouped expenses most of the releases are down to the bands own budget, but whether they can afford a full PR scheme or a run on vinyl or just a straight forward release with the duo using their own, pretty substantial contact lists to promote the record, if it’s something the two of them feel strongly enough about they are happy to put it out.

Still, with two individuals known for there strong opinions on the music picture in Glasgow there are bound to be cases where they disagree on a certain act, and Lloyd is happy to admit to this though doesn’t want to site any specific occasions.

“Sometimes we’ve had to knock bands that’d I’d really have liked to work with and vice-versa, basically we both had to agree otherwise it wasn’t going to happen.

“I lean more towards the folky pop sort of sound and Halina likes the rocky bands so there are a few that we had to leave, that we individually thought would have been good.”

Still, their existing relationship with the scene sets them in good stead, indeed Lloyd states that most of the acts Olive Grove has put out have had an existing relationship with at least one of them through their blogs, they do have an email address managed by Halina for demos, but Lloyd doesn’t seem to think this has came to fruition as any the label’s releases, still, the defining statement must be “we won’t want to work with them unless we both love their music, you’re not going to give up time basically for nothing if it’s for something you don’t like.”

And of course the bands these guys like should already know they like them, as they will have written or spoken about them at one point or another in connection with their sites, that along with the very cohesive sound that the label portrays, which seems to stem more from Lloyd’s tastes: “Halina likes more rocky stuff, which I’m not so much into anymore but I guess I’m more of a driving force when it comes to these kind of things.”

Still, he’s eager to point out that having bands with sounds that meld together on the same bill nicely has provided a few positives for the label, the seemingly endless cross collaborations between the acts on the label, label acts successfully touring together and a couple of label showcases (at Oran Mor for Celtic Connections and at Insider Festival) have demonstrated this superbly.

“I know it sounds wanky but I like to look at it like a family,” states Lloyd after listing off all the various connections between the acts he’s put his time behind, but it is a nice way to put it,  the togetherness and willingness to put these bands together on a label you would assume makes it that much easier for the bands connected with the label.

“Who’s sold the most? Who’s got the biggest dick?” quips Lloyd when talking about the biggest success story of the label, but these are things that are difficult to measure, and not ones you want to single out, especially when he’s put so much time and effort into the output of these acts.

“They all have different sections of being my favourite, The Moth and the Mirror album was phenomenal and blew up out of all proportions, we were promoting that over in America too, so it was going crazy over there, we just got such an amazing buzz from them.

“Having Jo Mango, who’s already well established, her album did ridiculously well in terms of what we’ve done, we released an album by Woodenbox who are one of my favourite bands, I remember when my daughter was born, listening to their first album on repeat and then two year’s later we’re releasing their next album, but the obvious one is to say Randolph’s Leap cos I’ve been there since the start, they’re my babies.”

Having all the acts from Scotland is also an active call from the label and a logical one, they’re following was already primarily Scottish and as Olive Grove has grown their fan base has become even more identified with the Scottish folk pop sound, but that’s not to say they don’t get people listening and ordering the records all over the world or acts from other countries approaching them, but as Lloyd puts it: “trying to pitch a band from outside Scotland to Scottish people when you don’t really know them would be difficult, I’m quite happy in my own wee Scottish bubble”.

Despite Olive Grove records being purchased around the world the best order for Lloyd personally was perhaps the closest to home: “I think the coolest thing for me was someone ordered The Moth and the Mirror album and literally he lived six doors down from me, I’d never met him in my life and I was like ‘someone in my street buying my albums!’, so I posted it through his door and left him a note, and eventually got to know him later.”

Talking about the worst thing about running a record label Lloyd is quick to give a pearl of wisdom about starting your own label: “I think anyone thinking of starting a record label has to be aware that you spend half your life in a post office queuing to post things, that’s what I spend my lunch times doing, most of the time.”

But moving away from the negatives I ask Lloyd to give us the defining moment for him in Olive Grove’s lifespan:

“We did the showcase for Celtic Connections at Oran Mor and we got pretty much all the bands on the label to play live, so we had Call To Mind, Jo Mango, State Broadcasters, Woodenbox and Moth and the Mirror all playing the same bill and we sold that one out.

“For me that took seven to eight-months planning and organising, so to pull it off and pack it out just meant a hell of a lot to me, but even small things, daft things like radio sessions, The Moth and the Mirror got album of the month in The Skinny, which was amazing, but for me the Celtic Connections thing stands out, plus we did a similar one the year before at Insider, we took over the Main Stage there for a bit and that was a pretty cool.”

So, what’s next for Olive Grove, for Lloyd, as Halina takes a step back from the label for a while, there does seem to be a few things on the horizon but it does seem to more of a case of keep doing what he’s been doing.

“We’re in new territory at the moment where we’re releasing a second album with a band, so I’m listening to The Son(s) record and bits of the new Woodenbox record and thinking hurry up I want to get it out, obviously if a bigger fish comes along in the meantime I’m not saying we’d happily give them away, but I’d be really chuffed if it gets them up a level, but if not they’re staying with us and that’s all good.

“We’re also doing a Jo Mango remix album, it’s kind of nuts, she’s been talking about it for a while, it’s basically the full album Murmuration but it’s going to be called Transformuration, we’re going to do a limited run of that for Cassette Store Day, but basically I’ve said whoever comes with a finished album first gets release first.”

So, basically get your boots on guys and get the albums ready, Lloyd’s waiting ready and willing to wait in the post office for you.

Read the ravechild review of Olive Grove’s Celtic Connections Showcase at Oran Mor

Ravechild reviews for Olive Grove releases:

Woodenbox King LiarWoodenbox End GameThe State BroadcastersRandolp's Leapjo mangoJo Mango - MurmurationCall-To-Mind-A-Family-Sketch-300x300

What the artists said:

The Moth and the Mirror: “Halina and Lloyd have been like loving and supportive foster parents to us, they took us in and looked after us, never asking anything in return, we have been lazy louts… I don’t think we’ve cleaned the dishes once!

“They are really an amazing example of how nurturing the Scottish music scene can be, in the face of recession and a topsy-turvy music industry, pure love of music still exists in the hearts of the Grovers; they’re the best!”

The Son(s): “Lloyd and Halina should be so proud of what they’ve achieved with Olive Grove, running a DIY label takes lots of enthusiasm, energy and lots of time, it’s the sort of thing that tends to naturally take a back seat as the rest of life butts in, so DIY labels don’t always live long or fruitful lives.

“Setting up a label, helping wee bands like ours make and release records – that’s hard work, having a growing stable of great musicians, regularly releasing good records – that’s impressive, but keeping going nearly five years with the same love and exuberance they had at the start…. that’s something much more; bless both their hearts.”

Jo Mango: “Olive Grove records have been the most unique and dream-like of partners in releasing our music, their non-commercial ethos and their commitment to the music itself and its producers (and listeners) rather than the machinations of the industry is something that is so rare it seems almost inexplicable.”

Woodenbox: “We have always enjoyed a DIY approach to releasing music, the only problem with being totally DIY is you need to be good at constantly driving all the elements to keep things moving forward.

“Olive Grove have a really great ethos in what they release and the methods of support they provide, I am proud to be associated with that passion and believe those guys are well driven in helping to push projects through that might get neglected if it were left solely to the musicians and bands.”

Call To Mind: “I’m thinking back almost a year ago, just as things were building up to the announcement that we’d be joining Olive Grove, it was very exciting, especially since we’d been talking about releasing a record with Halina and Lloyd for some time.

“Within our band, we knew about the folks already on the Olive Grove roster – lots of favourites, hidden gems and songs we loved.

“The common denominator with both Halina and Lloyd is their absolute passion for all things relating to new music: whether its talking about bands, gigs, new sounds – you can’t help but be infected by their enthusiasm.

“They’re really personable people, often an overlooked trait I feel, and that was a big attraction for us really wanting to do something with Olive Grove.

“I’ve always found them both to be really encouraging and engaged when it comes to our own stuff, certainly for a time when as a band we were slightly rudderless in what we were doing, I can point to a few instances, whether it was a chat at a chance meeting in town or an email, where some positive words resonated and made me think.

“They probably don’t know that, but even very little things can help to cast aside any doubts that folk have in them from time to time.”

“They are both a valued soundboard for ideas and things too (nobody wears green T-shirts!), a lot of the gig slots and festivals we managed to play over the summer have squarely been thanks to them chipping away for us, which has been amazing.

“When we’ve had good write-ups in the press or little bits of airplay here and there, I like to think we’re making in-roads to paying them back, helping push the Olive Grove label name where we can too.”

The State Broadcasters: “We were really delighted when Lloyd and Halina agreed to work with us, I’d become aware of them through the blogs and through their work with Randolph’s Leap and really admired their commitment to the music they loved.

“This commitment hasn’t waned over the last few years either, and the way Lloyd is able to get through an almost superhuman to-do list (with the label, Randolph’s Leap, being a family man and having a complicated job that I don’t understand) is testament to that.

“It has been wonderful being part of a label alongside such great musicians and people too, the label has fostered a lovely community spirit – the fact we love playing gigs together, guesting on each others’ projects, going to each others’ gigs, it really feels special.

“I just hope Lloyd and Halina like our next album – I don’t think any other label would be both charming and as indulgent of our glacial pace of activity!”

Words: Iain Dawson