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Scatter - The Mountain Announces

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Artist: Scatter

Album: The Mountain Announces

Label: Blank Tapes

Review date: Oct. 1, 2006

Scatter’s The Mountain Announces is a skewed, refreshingly loose look at traditional music pumped full of the energy of avant youth. Organically matching different styles from Scots folk through to hijacked oriental melodies, this is a notch up from their 2004 debut, Surprising Sing Stupendous Love. Out of the seven tracks here, three are lifted from traditional sources providing a direct link to the past for them to revitalize and revise. Their original efforts sit comfortably alongside these ‘covers,’ showing their interpretative powers are as highly tuned as their compositional ones.

Oliver Neilson and Hanna Tuulikki handle the vocals and both are interesting, if unconventional vocalists. Tuulikki comes over as a ragged Lou Rhodes/Bjork experiment, confidently redefining the traditional “She Moves Through the Fayre.” Having once been famously pillaged by Simple Minds, this places the song firmly back in a folk context; it’s as if “Belfast Child” never happened. Her sweet uilleann tones, able to easily skip through notes, can seem initially a little warbling but her startling vocal style just takes a little settling into. This is an ambitious regenerative take on the better-known versions that eventually smolders out like overnight embers. This is such a solid group effort that even Tuulikki’s wonderful vocals don’t steal the limelight.

This 10-strong collective seem to have connected some thread between this music and the more modern takes on drone and improv. The opening “O Death” isn’t even two minutes old before it’s revealed itself as a ramshackle glorious 30-color rainbow. The piece’s warm organ drone creates brightly layered harmonies that rattle along with ragged toothed edges of percussion. Alex Neilson’s jangling bells and punchy beat shakes every corner of the kit through the swells of melody.

The title track pulls together a scramble of influences like funk guitar, dense lyrical imagery (via megaphone) and a great layering of beats joining together with sharp accented strings. I don’t know whether Oliver Neilson would take this as a compliment (it’s meant as one), but at times he’s a vocal spitting double for Chumbawamba’s Dunstan. His Leeds accented phone line vocal on “Blackout Years” could be another in the line of disturbing album answerphone messages in the tradition of Charalambides “Think About” and Coil’s “Who'll Fall?” His morning-after-the-wake soliloquy rolls off the tongue of a person in mental distress, sick bored and tired with the world.

Scatter’s ability to tackle old material and place it alongside its own first-rate efforts, diminishing neither, is the sign of an indisputable talent.

By Scott McKeating

Other Reviews of Scatter

Surprising Sing Stupendous Love

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Find out more about Blank Tapes

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