Al Nero appeared mysteriously from the mists of the horizon of our network, a silent secret kept in Guangdong from Glasgow. Just a couple of emails to find out he was for real, and he knew his craft, and we got this, the music x-ray of his label.
Armellodie Records is an independent label born out of Glasgow. It was originally conceived in 2007 by me, Al Nero, and my wiser, older, uglier friend Scott Maple. The sole purpose in the beginning was to stick a name on a couple of 7” singles by our own band, Le Reno Amps. After that there were no intentions to take the label any further, probably because we thought we’d be too busy with our new lavish lifestyles as Scotland’s biggest musical export since The Proclaimers. Something went wrong.
However, being an active DIY touring act, we started to meet like-minded individuals making some pretty great music that we wanted to get behind. We got clued up on how to release records a little more properly and we figured out how to record stuff that little bit better. So armed with a plethora of musical bum-chums and a big bag of chutzpah we started “doing it” and we’ve been kicking down the door of obscurity ever since.
Nowadays Armellodie is an all-singing, all-dancing affair, a thriving little work-machine, full-time hours between full-time jobs with an eclectic roster of musical wonderment.
Last year I actually relocated to Foshan, Guangdong, China to try my hand at teaching out here so it gives me an extra sense of satisfaction to be able to introduce Armellodie to Layabozi and its astute readership.
Without further ado here are ten of my favourite songs that Armellodie has released, in no particular order. We do not believe in muso-class structure here at Armellodie. Everyone is saddled at the Bottom of the Pops.
1. CUDDLY SHARK – “The Punisher of IV30” (Taken from the band’s 2009 debut album Cuddly Shark)
It’s no understatement to say that Armellodie upped its game upon the release of Cuddly Shark’s debut album. Prior to that the label had only released the aforementioned Le Reno Amps 7” singles, some Cuddly Shark singles and a Kill the Captains EP. All of which having lent themselves to a steep learning curve!
Cuddly Shark’s debut album was a real labour of love, for the band, for Scott Maple (co-founder of Armellodie) who mixed and mastered the album and for me, who was assigned the task of getting it “out there”. We had a crazy time of it but I’m grateful to have been a part of that record. Other than the fact it’s a beast of Rock album – big dumb fun from start to finish – it cemented my interests in making a go of it with the label.
Cuddly Shark have a new album out now called The Road To Ugly, it’s full of poppy goodness and is testament to the band’s ear for anti-melodies, but the debut album and in particular, “The Punisher of IV30” will always be a staple of the Armellodie canon for me.
2. SUPER ADVENTURE CLUB – “Pick Up Sticks” (Taken from 2010’s Avoid Zombies)
Twisting and turning like a shaolin monk, throwing melodies and riffary like deadly throwing stars, matching each digression with zen-like focus on memorable hooks, Super Adventure Club are our spazz-jazz ninjas in residence.
Back in our salad days, Neil Warrack, the drummer in SAC, and I used to play in rival bands in the local circuit. I say “rival” but it was a love-in really, I say “circuit” but it was Aberdeen, Scotland so that particular circuit only housed three venues. Anyways, we’ve known each other a long time.
The opportunity arose to release Avoid Zombies, Super Adventure Club’s second album – subsequently we re-released their first, Chalk Horror! – and you could say the rest is history.
I’ve had more fun times watching this band and listening to this band than I care to remember. They almost bit the dust a while back but I am pleased to say they didn’t. Even better news is they’re back in the studio working on their long-awaited third album now. Holy toot!
3. THE SCOTTISH ENLIGHTENMENT – “Taxidermy of Love” (Taken from 2010’s St. Thomas)
The Scottish Enlightenment are quiet, but like a falling bomb is quiet, like an embryo is quiet, like the sibilant steam drifting ominously above a silent caldera. They hummmmmm melodiously like a microwave, slowly incubating their songs with the full time dedication and care of a placenta.
On touring with my own band Le Reno Amps, we played an instore show with The Scottish Enlightenment many moons ago, 2007 I think it was, at the back of a record shop called Fopp. Subsequently we played some proper shows – I say “proper”… there was a stage, there were lights, there were big speakers, and there was still no audience! – However, even back then I thought The Scottish Enlightenment were pretty special. They were scrappy, they looked like a bag of nerves but the songs were getting there and they had a real innocence to them that appealed.
Years later I heard some tracks the band had been working on and swiftly met up with David Moyes – the main man behind the Enlightenment – to quiz him over his release plans. Luckily for me, he didn’t have any. So I stepped in and made him believe I knew what I was talking about and he agreed to the band joining the ranks of Armellodie.
So far we’ve released two EPs, Pascal and Little Sleep, both limited to 100 copies, individually handmade (now sold out!) and the debut album St. Thomas which has already seen a re-press or two. It’s my wife’s favourite album on the label and not just because she had a hand in designing the cover. St. Thomas is a terrifying record, brutally honest, powerful and evocative. For those of us who have lived any kind of life with all its misgivings, moral dilemmas, emotional crossroads, regrets, and loves it is a record that should be cherished.
4. SOMETHING BEGINNING WITH L – “Overcoat” (Taken from 2011’s Beautiful Ground)
Something Beginning With L are a bewitching trio made up of Lucy Parnell (Vocals, Guitar), Jen Macro (Vocals, Guitar) and Jon Clayton (Bass, Keys). The band juxtaposes scuzzy electric guitars and buzzing synthesizers with acoustic fragility and electro-beats, guided into the light by the salient crystalline vocals of Lucy Parnell and Jen Macro who offer bliss-out close harmonies, melancholy and absorbing into the band’s encapsulating dream-pop.
There’s a long dreary story behind this record which resulted in it sitting on the shelf for a long time. The band having to work-out some legal wrangling with another label before Armellodie was free to foist it upon the world. But sorted it was, delighted we were, and foisted we did.
“Overcoat” is a good representation of the band, awash with atmosphere their songs tend to be subtle and develop layer upon layer of absorbing melancholy.
I’m still trying to convince the band to make a follow-up album, but they’re a busy bunch, Jen and Lucy play in Graham Coxon’s touring band, and Jen has recently been spotted tinkling the sonic-ivories with My Bloody Valentine. I wouldn’t call that an excuse though, would you?
5. CHRIS DEVOTION & THE EXPECTATIONS – “A Modest Refusal” (Taken from 2012’s Amalgamation & Capital)
Chris Devotion & The Expectations – or CD/EX if urgency is your prerogative – are fond of a little savage rock’n’roll and a pert frolic with the classic pop song. Coming together in perfect harmonious, lyrical and mathematical order for an approximate running time of 2 and a half minutes, their songs have the power to align planets. Part swaggering hubris, part relationship-confessional the band’s songs remind you of the joyful existence of your reproductive organs, while at the same time the bitter knowledge that you’ve been dumped.
Chris has been a good friend of ours since the label was founded and after a long while skirting round the issue we offered to release a couple of singles by his band. Not long after that he delivered their debut album, Amalgamation & Capital and we were completely blown away to say the least. Not because we didn’t think it would be good, we just didn’t realise it would be so good.
Originally the running order of the album had, “A Modest Refusal” closing the record but after some arm-twisting Chris agreed to sticking right up front. Sometimes a song can glue you to a spot, the first time I heard ‘A Modest Refusal’ was one of those moments for me. I couldn’t budge, jaw on the floor, a total anthem if ever I heard one.
6. THE PURE CONJECTURE – “1st Time I Saw U” (Taken from 2012’s Courgettes)
Fusing an arsenal of expensive chords with sly self-deprecation and unpredictable lyrical left-turns, The Pure Conjecture posses a charming individuality which is both at odds with and wholly impervious to current musical trends. There are not many groups – in the UK, at least – genuinely mining the same seam that gave us Solomon Burke’s “Don’t Give Up On Me”, and the Daptone label, for instance.
Matt Eaton, front-man and song-writer behind The Pure Conjecture has a touch of the mad-genius about him. I first met him whilst touring. He was manning the merchandise stall for Brakes, an awesome band that Le Reno Amps have toured with on several occasions. I can safely say we hit it off straight away, a shared love of skewed pop, and a sense of humour to go with it.
Since then Matt has sent me a lot of music he’s been working on – I’ve learned like all great artists he’s always working on something – sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t, but when The Pure Conjecture album, Courgettes dropped in my box I knew we had to give it a proper good go. It’s an individual record, recorded pretty much live, it’s funny, world weary and poignant. All the things I love about Matt really.
The follow up album, Gendres, is set for release later this year.
7. THE DOUGLAS FIRS – “Alone” (Taken from 2012’s The Furious Sound)
The Douglas Firs play the mystique card better than anyone on the label. They rarely play shows; my God they don’t even have a presence on Facebook or Twitter. What in the world!? Their debut album, Happy as a Windless Flag was about delusion, loss of senses, blindness, loss of youth, death and rebirth. Their most recent record, The Furious Sound is loosely based around the East Lothian witch trials of 1590. Needless to say they’re not always an easy listen but to my mind their resolute vision is part of their appeal.
“Alone” is one of their more straight-ahead songs for lack of better description. It’s a gem though. Armellodie released The Furious Sound just before Christmas last year, and it subsequently sound-tracked the festive period for me. The creepiest Christmas I’ve ever known.
8. GALOSHINS – “Dehydrated Sun” (Taken from 2013’s EP2)
With their furiously buoyant whirlwind of psych, prog, freakbeat, aggro-pop, whatever-it-is, Galoshins originally came to the attention of Armellodie Records in 2010 and were invited to perform at the label’s own Barmellodie monthly residency club night in Glasgow, Scotland. The ball was set in motion for Armellodie to release a double-whammy of EPs earlier this year, documenting 11 of the group’s sonic adventures to date. There are plans afoot for more EPs in the future and if we’re lucky we might even get a debut long-player out of the guys too.
I can’t remember having to chase a band as much as I did with Galoshins. I think they were hesitant – and rightly so – about handing over the reins to someone else to plug their wares. A few false starts pursued but eventually we got there.
Moving from wonderfully jarring dischordia to sublime poppiness – sometimes in the same song – Mark Macphail’s whirring organ and stream of lyrical musings pepper the EPs like slippery eels, just eluding you but leaving traces of goo in your ears. “Dehydrated Sun” is one of the band’s more slow-burning efforts but it’s a real stand-out track for me.
9. THIRTY POUNDS OF BONE – “The Ballad of Cootehill” (Taken from 2013’s I Cannot Sing You Here But For Songs of Where)
Johny Lamb is Thirty Pounds of Bone. Throughout his songs, Johny adopts, appropriates and abuses forms of traditional music. In the true account of attempting to visit his mother’s childhood home in “The Ballad of Cootehill”, only to find it long since demolished, he sings, ‘But I am not the man to say that we are from Cootehill.’ This song furthers the sense of dislocation in the familiar folk song theme of Irish migration, from a sense of missing home, to the sense of never having seen it in the first place.
Johny is a dear friend and makes a strong case for being the most talented person I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. Much of his output is achingly beautiful, and almost always thought provoking. Like most of the acts on Armellodie our relationship blossomed organically, having toured together on several occasions, sharing a drink or two, and generally talking shite well into the early hours.
Thirty Pounds of Bone’s new album, I Cannot Sing You Here But For Songs Of Where was just released in May and you’d be a fool to let it slip under your radar.
10. KILL THE CAPTAINS – “Disco Nazi” (Taken from the forthcoming album, Sounds Mean, out on Monday 12th August 2013)
Kill The Captains were the second band to sign on the Armellodie line and we went onto release their self-titled EP in 2008 and their debut album, Fun Anxiety in 2010. The band have recently re-grouped and recorded Sounds Mean, their second full-length album due for release in August this year. You can Pre-order the album now on lush heavy-weight vinyl if you should so desire.
Sounds Mean has got us very excited at Armellodie HQ and sees the band ramp up their brand of new-wave pop and suspense-filled rock’n’roll with shout-along choruses, fizzing dual-guitars and propulsive rhythmic skulduggery.
The album’s lead single, “Disco Nazi”, is a bass-driven stomper with an insistent beat that will get even the rhythmically challenged amongst us grooving. Sometimes whatever you do is never quite enough to satisfy the dance floor puppet masters, with their dance-floor dictatorships, sending out dictats to a room full of bodies who would happily dance without the extra encouragement. As the beats pump and the grooves swell, the tail grows like a Nokia snake chomping an unending supply of pixels.
To use a well-worn analogy I often describe Armellodie Records neapolitan style… a chocolate slab of leftfield rock, a strawberry layer of ice-cold indie and a vanilla scoop of the avant garde. There’s no prerequisite in terms of sound that we look for perse, we just have to have our ears tickled. I do hope that the playlist above has tickled some ears, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to put it together. Thanks for your time.