Tag Archives: The Narcissist Cookbook

The Narcissist Cookbook – ‘In Which an Allegation is Made’

I first encountered The Narcissist Cookbookwhen I listened to the very excellent compilation album Swamp Day by The Death Collective.

The NC song on the record was called “A Song About a Band Called Nirvana” and was hilarious as it was catchy, that is to say, it was hilarious and catchy.

I would put it on periodically to ease its ringing around my head; the first time I heard it I was cycling home and it was making me laugh on the road; it didn’t take me long to learn the chorus and to be fall in love with its ability to be jaw-droppingly weird and unusual whilst remaining toe-tappingly accessible and enjoyable.

Needless to say, I was excited when the opportunity arose to review The Narcissist Cookbook’s new single “In Which an Allegation is Made”.

I was also, needless to say, annoyed when I found out it was the same song, re-recorded with a different title.

When I hear a demo, or an early release, and very much enjoy it, it is always a complex experience to hear it re-recorded as a single or in an album, which I’m sure many people can relate to.

It’s a bit like when you read the book and then see the film, the latter is always marred by the perceptions and presuppositions you have formed already of a different form of the same thing.

There’s a propensity to greet about it, pick holes in it and – above all – be a wank about it, rather than to be able to take it for what it is.

With that in mind, I recommend The Narcissist Cookbook, the artist is quite unique and is in clear possession of ideas, displaying good taste and capacity in terms of following them through.

Kieran Hughes, who was the first to record the track for Swamp Day. once told me that he and a collection of other artists were left dumbfounded, flabbergasted and gobsmacked (dumflabbersmacked) when The Narcissist Cookbook burst in and recorded the song in one take, having never heard the artist’s music before.

I was left with similar impressions when I heard it.

Listen to the single and to Swamp Day, I think that The Narcissist Cookbook has a lot of music to make and I want to hear it all.

I’ve just started on Moth, TNC’s album – it’s really broad and dense and good, check it out.

Words: Paul Aitken

Swamp Day Compilation [Death Collective]

Comprising a record with an apparently unintentional emphasis on death, Death Collective’s compilation Swamp Day was recorded by Kieran Hughes at his home studio at the Tollbooth in Stirling.

Truly an achievement, the album brings together a range of artists from across the country to revel in collective creativity.

Over the course of a week off, twenty or so artists passed through the studio, collaborating to create the album, which hangs together with the remarkable consistency that only a spontaneous, semi-improvised cooperative between such artists could.

A lot of compilation albums lack the thread to sew together the various and eclectic elements, but that is not the case here – perhaps on account of the fact that the various recording artists helped each other out and featured on each others tracks.

Without wishing to go on about it, I find it exceptionally encouraging that Death Collective were able to put together something so unique, professional and persistently enjoyable over such a short space of time; and that so many talented artists – whom you could potentially be browsing the reduced section of the supermarket with and not realise – can work together in such close collaboration.

There is a tangible sense of comfort and friendship echoing through the album, as if all of the contributors are saying the same words in different voices, getting at the same problems in different ways.

Track by track, we start with Gilleon Blamford singing “Separate Ways”; a harmonious and simple track adorned with licks of maraca.

The song is short, sweet and full of love.

The track has a lazy feel to it, but the good kind of lazy that you feel on a sunny afternoon rather than when you’re still in bed at four in the afternoon.

This is followed by Lefthand, whose profound understanding of the guitar is self-evident.

The restrained vocals, the well-placed wind instrumentals and the aforementioned guitar work culminates in an emotional and powerful track.

Clarinet plays over the top towards the end, adding a little seasoning to this already tasty tune.

Brazil Exists lay easily apprehended and poetic lyrics over an elegant instrumental structure to maximise the effect of ‘Victorian Values’, a romantic and endearing ballad.

It presents information in a unique way, I’m curious to hear more from this artist.

That leads us into December 91’s ‘Death Song’, which is replete with the frank lyrics, crafted musicianship and well placed harmonics that the artist is coming to be known for.

Death Bed takes things to a darker place than the collection has gone so far, thankfully, they do this in a very meaningful way.

The baritone vocal work, discomforting lyrics, sublime musicality and unusual structure of this track make it memorable and respectable to a high degree.

The artist tells me how grateful he is that Peter Russell happened to be there with his clarinet on the day, and that the track wouldn’t be what it is without it, I don’t know about that, but the clarinet is certainly sublime.

Thrumpy’s ‘Drunken Adventures’ raises the mood and the bar as the album moves into its second act.

Certainly the most active song on the collection, ‘Drunken Adventures’ utilises a creative and unusual blend of styles to make something truly wonderful.

Kieran Hughes – the engineer – offers us ‘First Time That You Die’, and avoids the temptation to make his own tune sound better than everyone else’s.

That’s not to say that it sounds worse because it definitely doesn’t, the track stays classy and old-timey whilst injecting a sense of modernity into its structure.

In a sense it captures the heart of the collection, a light hearted and welcoming exploration of death – with some more of that wonderful clarinet music.

The only purely instrumental track on the album – and a fine, well placed and heartening one at that – Scott William Urquhart’s ‘Wren (Part 2)’ fills the listener again with the sense of community and openness that it seems this album is based around.

Employing guitar only, there isn’t much to say about this track except that it makes for a lovely listen.

Jason Riddell’s ‘Had Enough of That, Baby (early version)’ begins and ends with studio chatter – this fact, and the fact that the track is listed with an un-capitalised (early version) speaks of the perfectionism that this artist strives for.

The vocal and instrumental tracks are on different paths, but meanderingly intersect often; this opposition and unification of elements keep the track interesting and endearing from start to finish, it is structurally unique with a lot going on, particularly for an (early version).

Next up is, ‘A Story About A Band Called Nirvana’ by The Narcissist Cookbook.

It seems to me rare to find a song that makes you laugh out loud whilst simultaneously taking you aback with its structure and melodies.

It’s an idiots guide to paranoid nihilism in the guise of a great acoustic sing-a-long; I don’t think I’ve heard anything quite like it before.

Jamie Flynn manages to follow this up with ‘Live. Die Young’, an airy and introspective song with emotionally powerful harmonies and some beautifully effected music.

This is one of the sadder tracks on the album and is therefore well placed.

As the album progresses, it does a good job of moving subtly between emotions, tones and atmospheres.

I can imagine that working on this release must have been very memorable.

Next up is Norrie McCulloch – the most Scottish sounding artist by far – whose offering is a slow, poignant track underpinned by a nuanced but familiar sounding voice.

It is structurally predictable and repetitive, but it isn’t trying to be anything but.

The song boasts a certain Americana that seems so prevalent in Scottish music these days.

It works very well on its own and in the context of the album.

Niamh Baker’s ‘Sailor’ is a particularly subtle, organic sounding and beautiful song; it is unpredictable and unusual, going in strange directions without losing its integrity or sense of purpose.

With a variety of aspects and approaches involved, this is truly an excellent piece of music.

Trenchfoot’s haunting ‘Little Drones’ follows it up, showing the darker side of death that the compilation has thus far managed to avoid.

Unsettling, disturbing, thought-provoking, well put together and evocative, this cautionary track sings songs of desolation; it’s some laugh.

This wonderful album is wrapped up in style by Constant Follower’s ‘On Old Shorelines’ an evolving, abstract effort that wraps powerful vocal work around some exquisite guitar work.

It really invokes an image of sea-faring with the wallowing waves of reverb and the gentle kindling of percussion – this is all strung together through the hook of a repetitive acoustic element.

I caught up with Hughes, he said that maybe the death stuff arose unconsciously out of a discomfort with writing love songs this weather, claiming there to be no intentional theme of death.

The process sounds stressful, not only did Hughes need to maintain and run the studio for a litany of different artists, but – since it was his home – he felt responsible for keeping it together and entertaining the musicians not in recording.

A particular highlight for Hughes was The Narcissist Cookbook’s performance, which was recorded in a single take, with none of the present party having heard the artist’s solo work before.

They were left flabbergasted – as was I when I listened to it.

As far as the importance of the project, Hughes could only speak personally, saying that it satisfied some artistic impulses of his – it’s great that recording artists out there feel compelled to create beyond their own limitations.

Having really enjoyed the whole process – which included a number of meals being made and interesting conversations being had – I can only hope that this isn’t the last we hear from the Death Collective.

I think this is a great record, and what is more it is a milestone and fine historical record of the burgeoning music scene here in Scotland.

The music is fine, polished, sensitive, professionally produced and thoughtful, it should be held in high regard for a number of reasons.

Words: Paul Aitken

Strange Behaviours at Tolbooth, 25-26/11/16

Tolbooth’s Strange Behaviours has two-day festival returns to Stirling for a third triumphant year.

With 18 acts to choose from, the event is a musical smorgasbord with a genre to please even the pickiest of music fans.

Living up to the events name, this year’s chosen aesthetics are just that – strange; broken and decorated mannequins are placed around the venue – some splashed with paint and one covered entirely in multi-coloured feathers.

A projector had also been set up in the Attic Stage showing scenes from Charlie Brown as well as footage of cakes being iced on a loop and other random background imagery.

Stock Manager kick off proceedings in the Attic Stage – having the most daunting slot on the bill being responsible for setting the tone for the rest of the night.

And they didn’t disappoint, they’re just a proper good rock band – complete with the behaviour (no pun intended) to match the sound.

Whether it be rocking out on the floor, knee slides as they jam together or knocking over parts of their set (sometimes accidently –but we’ll pretend it’s all part of their plan), the rock band persona oozes out of them.

Their music is complete with heavy riffs drops that are worthy of a good head-bang.

A new element has been added to the acts playing in the venue’s Gallery Stage this year – a versus battle but not like you know it.
First to put it to the test on Friday night is Chrissy Barnacle and December ’91.

Barnacle provides us with brutally honest tales of her own love life, filling the gaps between songs with quirky anecdotes and the history behind her tracks.

The personality that poured from her makes her entirely relatable – with a very 21st century view of love and relationships it is almost empowering to hear someone talk so openly about it and put it so eloquently to beautiful acoustic music.

Plus, anyone who can use a Tina Turner reference – “what’s love got to do with it?” – so effortlessly in her set is a hero in my eyes.

Once Barnacle had finished playing a few tracks, the audience had to shuffle through to the adjoining room – where Craig Ferrie aka December ’91 is set up with his guitar. Admitting that he’s not as good with the chat in between songs, he simply lets his music do the talking.

His songs run through a similar theme to Barnacle’s, with love and relationships being the key topic to both acts’ music.

Be Charlotte is up next on the Auditorium Stage – making the wee town of Stirling the last stop on her recent tour around South Asia.

A vision of the 90s in her sheer fluorescent top, oversized glasses and topknot bun, she showcases brand new unnamed material as well as live set staples such as ‘Machines That Breathe’.

Her flawless vocals flow effortlessly from rapping to singing without any backing music – stunning her audience into silence.

Don’t be fooled by her petite appearance, her vocals can encapsulate an entire room and she’s not afraid to call you out for talking through her performance either!

The band I have been looking forward to seeing on the Friday night are The Pale Kids and their set is filled with banter, with frontman Josh declaring “that’s close enough” whilst tuning his guitar for their performance.

Their angsty lyrics and heavy distorted guitars engulf the intimate room; The Pale Kids are definitely a band made for a big stage, it’s impossible not to want mosh along to their music – you should come out of their gig with a headache.

A good headache, like getting brain freeze from eating ice cream.

Closing Friday night’s event is critically renowned guitarist (and occasional singer) RM Hubbert.

The Auditorium Stage becomes a calm haven with Hubby up on the stage sat on a chair with just his guitar and the audience mirror his set up by taking a seat on the floor to enjoy his performance as he captures their imagination with his heartfelt and soulful lyricism.

Never afraid to touch on dark taboo topics like suicide, the sometimes melancholic music contrasts with his personality as he chats openly and honestly with his audience between tracks therefore stopping his performance from getting too heavy – it is a Friday night after all.

Eugene Twist kicks off Saturday night on the Auditorium Stage, bringing his jazzy alt-rock to Stirling.

Twist is regularly compared to the likes of Bob Dylan for his vocal talent (I must admit, his appearance is slightly Dylan-esque as well), however he’s definitely a musician in his own right as he packs his songs with sophisticated lyrics and smooth melodies.

He treats his audience to a special stripped down version of ‘Halloween Drama Queen’ as well as new material to be featured on his upcoming album due in January.

Saturday night sees another versus set take place in the Gallery Stage, this time round it is C R P N T R and The Narcissist Cookbook.

At first look, you’d maybe be confused as to why these two acts had been paired together, but after a few tracks, it’s clear to see that they share a common theme.

As well as both being Stirling locals, their music shows them both to be lyrical wordsmiths.

If you squint a little and ignore the Scottish accent, you could mistake The Narcissist Cookbook for Ed Sheeran; either way, he’s definitely got the same level of talent.

At times, he resembled a one-man-band alternating between guitar and tambourine, whilst using the loop pedal to create a vocal backing track.

Although I can’t empathise with his feelings of distain towards coffee (portrayed through track ‘Sugar In My Coffee’), I have to admit I did find myself singing along to it days after the gig; he just makes damn good catchy music.

Moving through to the next room to watch C R P N T R’s (aka. Owen Sutcliffe) counter-performance, we are greeted by Sutcliffe and his companion donning a walrus mask.

An entirely bizarre set up, but Sutcliffe choses not to be restricted by his stage set up and brings his performance into the crowd as he energetically stomps around the room whilst professing about conundrums surrounding Tesco chicken Caesar wraps.

Sutcliffe creates an entirely immersive performance showing he won’t be kept back by boundaries – both literally and creatively.

Alt-folk musician and visual artist Sarah J. Stanley – playing under alias HQFU – brings the party vibes to the Attic Stage on Saturday night, bringing an end to the acts playing in the intimate stage at the top of the Tolbooth.

Stanley fuses her alt-folk roots with electro pop to create hazy, grungy dance music that’s perfect for a Saturday slot, a home-grown Alice Glass meets Jamie XX – Stanley is definitely one to look up if you like your electronic synth-heavy music.

The Tolbooth never fails to highlight the best Scotland has to offer and they do it best with their Strange Behaviours festival.

If you don’t leave after the two nights with a list of some new favourite artists then you haven’t taken full advantage of the great acts on offer to you.

After three successful years, Strange Behaviours doesn’t show any signs of slowing.

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Words: Laura Imrie