Dismal days Aberdeen’s alright, actually: A defence of the city’s musical heritage

After being voted ‘the most dismal in Scotland’, Euan L Davidson bigs up all Aberdeen has to offer in bands and venues.

Today, Aberdonians found out that their city had been voted ‘the most dismal in Scotland’ by the Carbuncle Awards, an annual celebration of kicking a city to death by virtue of its architecture and sights. To add to this, Aberdeen has the (unfair) reputation of providing next to nothing in terms of culture, especially compared to cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh. Below, Euan L Davidson explains why that’s a load of rubbish and that, in terms of music, the Granite City is well worth checking out.

Sure, the architecture’s grey, and when it rains, Aberdeen can look like a Dante-esque nightmare, but there’s so much going on here that the below round-up barely scratches the surface. Support your local scene, go to gigs in buildings deemed ‘uninspiring’ by national publications, and laud the hard-working people in your community, making music, or making music happen. Aberdeen punches well above its weight in terms of a music scene, and while it’s being hammered as a city for its looks, it has a music scene to be proud of.

Aberdeen’s Best Artists

Lockah

The production moniker of Tom Banks (formerly of Aberdeen favourites 10 Easy Wishes), Lockah’s sound is indebted to Miami Bass and a bright hip-hop sound that’s led to worthy comparisons to Hudson Mohawke and Rustie. The well-received ‘Yahoo or the Highway’ LP last year joined a back-catalogue that includes releases through Activia Benz and Diplo’s Mad Decent label. Now based in Brighton, Lockah left the Aberdeen scene in a healthy state – after cofounding the Tuff Wax label, artists like Bones & Money, TAM, Zubuntu and Grobbie help to illuminate the city’s underground electronic landscape, as well as releasing music by Dolfinz.

Min Diesel

A crashing, beautiful noise that fits somewhere between Dinosaur Jr. and Stapleton, Min Diesel are a trio with a wealth of gigging experience and a stalwart in everything Aberdeen. As well as providing their talents to splits with Pinact and the wonderful ‘Now That’s What I Call Music 666’ tape by Fuzzkill Records (Glasgow), the band have the Cool Your Jets company, for gigs and releases, with a roster that includes The Shithawks and Grubs (featuring members of Joanna Gruesome).

Amanti

Chronically underrated electro-pop musician from neighbouring town Stonehaven, Amanti (formerly Tom) is a man capable of weaving expansive electronic soundscapes from brilliantly catchy melodies. His self-titled album is available for free on Bandcamp; fans of The Knife will surely approve.

Sea Starry

From the more inventive end of the post-rock/ambient spectrum, Seas, Starry are a monumental live act, and are clearly capable of repeating their intensity in the studio – their debut LP proper, ‘Tyto Alba’, is a brilliant, sweeping record, a mastery in spacing, timing and guitar tone. The band’s leaders Claire Harkins and Jan Stewart also run the fantastic Laika Come Home nights, which show off the sheer range of talent in Aberdeen (and beyond).

Copy Haho

Now sadly missed, Copy Haho were one of the best bands in the UK, having supported the likes of Sebadoh and Los Campesinos!, as well as touring extensively in their own right. Their debut LP is an under-estimated gem, an indie-rock-pop-whatever record which encapsulated Joe Hearty’s fantastic song-writing, Stuart McIntosh’s snaking guitar lines and a formidable rhythm section in Rikki Will and Richard Scott. Even if they aren’t making music any more as Copy Haho (they’re still working away as members of Talkbook, The Yawns and Battery Face), Aberdeenshire can still boast having had this band as one of its own.

The Xcerts

Sure, they’ve been out of the city for a while, but the Xcerts were Aberdeen’s first. Having met in school and providing tracks for local organisations like Fat Hippy, the trio have had incredible success, putting albums out with Xtra Mile and making friends out of Brand New, Manchester Orchestra and Taking Back Sunday, as well as charting with albums, including last year’s ‘There Is Only You’.

Aberdeen’s Best Label:

Black Lake

Captained by the ridiculously hard-working Ewan Cameron, Black Lake has helped to invigorate the punk and hardcore scene in Aberdeen. Not content with bringing bands like Rolo Tomassi up to the North-East, BL has put out records by the likes of The World Is a Beautiful Place and I am No Longer Afraid to Die, Thin Privilege and DIRTDRINKER. With a ridiculous range of merch, constantly available at a range of shows in Aberdeen, the presence of Black Lake has been a great thing for DIY in Aberdeen.

Aberdeen’s Best Promoters:

Headache

One of the most reliable and exciting promotion outfits in Scotland, Headache has brought a wealth of talent to Aberdeen, as well as championing local acts by putting bands on bills with the cream of Scottish underground talent. Poor Things, Pinact, Algernon Doll, 100 Onces, Carson Wells, Kaddish and a bunch of others have played packed-out nights with the aid of Headache, and their posters are amongst the best in the UK. New club night ‘Louder than Bombs’ is set to start as monthly party, celebrating zine culture, local DJs and artists of musical and visual renowned.

Tags: Copy Haho, Features

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