Tickling My Fancy:  Alasdair Roberts And Robin Robertson,  Eat Lights Become Lights.



Eat Lights Become Lights  ‘Dead Formats EP’  – Available via Bandcamp now

Back in September the Monolith gave the cosmic backpackers, Eat Lights Become Lights, Modular Living LP a joyful reception, describing them and their impressive long player thus:

‘A band of two halves so to speak, the recorded version almost totally helmed and written by the group’s Neil Rudd, and the live version which swells to a concomitant quartet (that greedily includes two drummers), follow the investigative footsteps of those that precede them; riffing and then locking down into the pulsing rhythm of an idealised Dusseldorf, Berlin and Cologne landscape of the early to late 70s. Though many thousands have trodden this pathway already, the Lights manage to navigate a subtler passage of veneration for the likes of Klaus Dinger, Michael Rothar and Roedelius; honing the halcyon dappled structures and beatific synth-textured symphonies of Cluster, Harmonia and Kraftwerk to produce something quite majestic.’

Vapourously drifting over glacier plains, the latest EP to drop from the self-proclaimed ‘neo-krautrock’ outfit, takes the trans-alpine express across a stirring, nee celestial, landscape. Split into two eponymous train rides of discovery, and a bonus track, entitled I believe after the Austrian town of Selesen, Dead Format pays homage to Cluster, Eno, Rothar and co. again.

‘Dead Format’ chimes, stirs and slowly surveys the lie of the land, building towards and opening out with a tightened Dinger style drum roll and flailing guitar noise. ‘Dead Format 2 (Live)’ is a more transcendent vibe, recalling the Tangerine Dream and palatial, church like soundtracks of Popol Vuh – a deft, haunting but ethereal piano is struck in the background as sighing synths gently caress an ambient melody.

Bonus, ‘Selesen 11’, is an expansive shivering tribal space vista that moves like liquid in its search beyond the summits of Earth.

Hardly a giant leap into the unknown or untethered from the ELBL moorings, this diaphanous, and unheralded, released on the sly, EP does take the group’s sound into more ambient territory; relying more upon synth textures and nuanced changes, and cutting back on the guitar and drums.

Alasdair Roberts And Robin Robertson  ‘Hirta Songs’  (Stone Tape Recordings)  –  11th November 2013

Hewed and beaten into topographical shape by the tumultuous rage of the crosswinds and driving Atlantic seas, the secluded, almost recondite, St Kilda archipelago is the most remote spot in the British Isles. A thriving sanctuary – and the life force of the islands – for seabird colonies (from Puffins to Gannets) the series of exposed islands and the determined, earnest people that once inhabited them, prove fertile material for both romantic myth and serious study.

The largest of these hostile environments, Hirta, is brought to life in song and poetry by the collaborative Scottish duo of folk musician Alasdair Roberts and poet Robin Robertson.

A loose conceptual peregrination based around the atavistic lyrical prose of Robertson and the meditative, pondered soundtrack of Roberts, Hirta Songs attentively follows the fortunes of an isolated people whose daily toil for survival remained unchanged for centuries – inhabited for at least two thousand years (though there are Neolithic sites also to be found) by various visitors, including the Normans.

Originally visiting the long abandoned islands in 2007, Robertson on his return penned the inspired eulogies, ‘Leaving St Kilda’ and ‘The Well Of Youth’. Both poems would of course inform and act as the backbone for the eventual Hirta Songs collection, six years later.

That uninterrupted travail through the imposing landmarks, Leaving St Kilda, seats the listener in the weather-battered boat, handing over the oars, as the narrator’s gripping burr describes an, “Atlantic flat as steel”, and the foreboding cliffs (with names as grand and opaque as the White Summit), clefts (Cleft Of The Seal), stacks (Stack of Doom!) and nature-formed monuments (the Lovers Stone) that have been shaped by it. Inhospitable to nearly all but the most hardened, Hirta’s main food staple, the local abundance of Manx, Fulmar and Petrels, lie perched in the most precarious of places. The men unable to fish in the treacherous seas have had to adapt to scaling the coastline in search of their prey or starve; all rituals adhered to in a poised and mournfully respectful manner by Robertson.

Its concomitant partner, The Well Of Youth, uses only a few expressive verses to convey tragedy; plaintively addressing the death of a young girl – every passing a seismic-event I would have thought in such a small community, where everyone has their integral part to play, and as this song alludes, a future betrothed partner. Sparse and raw, even though the backing is minimal and delicate, Robertson’s tone and words are forlorn: “She came to me, her eyes were on me/ And her eyes were dead.”

The lion’s share of this gentle, articulate set is made-up of Robert’s Gaelic permeated folk and Incredible String Band-esque (no coincidence that the group’s Robin Williamson makes a guest appearance) wordplay. The scene is set by ‘A Fall Of Sleet’ and continues to drift through the dulcet harp (played majestically by Corrina Hewat) bookended vignettes, ‘Laoidh Fhionnlaigh Oig’ and ‘Tuireadh nan Hiortach’, before reaching a natural conclusion with ‘Exodus’ – the final abandonment at the request of the people of Hirta; evacuated to Morvern on the Scottish mainland in 1930.

Casting a longing gaze, the sagacious pairing of Roberts and Robertson produces a fitting testament to the heritage of a time and place since forgotten.

Playlists –

Monolith Cocktail’s ‘choice’ tracks from 2013, part II.

A polygenesis mix if twisted one at times of inane wilderness dwelling loons (The Chewers), epic Spanish psychedelic dance music (The Suicide Of Western Culture), Mali desert bluesmen (Samba Touré, Bassekou Kouyate), awkward jerking snot rock’n’roll (Yuppies, Parquet Courts) and plaintive Canadian anthems (The Besnard Lakes). All genres, sexes, generations, and a hell of a lot of countries, are included, from Bowie to the Cyclopean.

Coppe ‘Only U!’

//Fiocz ‘Subtyping’

The Gaslamp Killer ‘In The Dark’

Here Is Your Temple ‘So High’

Letters To Fiesta ‘Stay Young’

Malkovich ‘Lies’

Irmin Schmidt ‘Villa Wunderbar’


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