Iain Carnegie Reviews
Alex Tronic Records ~ ATRCD083 ~ 6th October 08
It’s immediately noticeable that Iain Carnegie has flirted with film and television composition, such is the atmospheric swathe of the opening 15-minute Rise. on this, his debut album. The clever cover art further adds to Carnegie’s seemingly effortless depiction of musical isolationism.
Opening any album with a quarter-hour soundtrack segment is boldness personified whichever way you look at it, although. As with many artists who add composition to film, when the images are removed you are often left with a linear aural experience that is hard to conceptualise unless it’s a purely ambient piece.
In contrast to that, Carnegie keeps his lengthy opener moving, changing its micro-themes via piano, vocals, short drum breaks and even prog-rock elements, before moving on to a more traditional album format for the remaining 9 tracks.
From here on, Carnegie keeps Rise flowing with equal diversity, from the maudlin organs of Oiseau VIIIA, to the dreamy electronica of Bevatten, complete with saxophone segments and futuristically-treated female vocals. The deathly horror-flick keyboard motifs present on Warm Cold Feeling are particularly John Carpenter-like, but Carnegie takes a David Lean break in the middle – ushering us into a surreal ulterior landscape, an example of his capability to, on occasion, successfully lure the listener and realise his vision.
it’s almost as if the album is a CV for further film or television work - a project rather than an album. However, there is undoubted talent at work here – the classical piano on the remote yet emotive To The Vanishing Arctic is splendidly effective, although polar to that comes the new-age keys of the faintly obnoxious BongScatMusic. Meanwhile, the closing For Nick Drake sounds more like a post-bloodshed ode to John Rambo rather than an ode to one of England’s finest singer/songwriters.
Overall, a real mixed bag of an electronic album, exposing Carnegies considerable skills as a keyboard player and producer.
Barcode Magazine 7.3/10
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Escape Artist : An Interview With Keser
Who are Keser and what are they all about?
Keser is primarily the work of myself (Kevan Whitley). I write and record the songs. I can play solo for live shows or draft in a bass player if necessary. David Reid played a few shows in the past and played bass in the studiofor most of the tracks on 'Esoteric Escape'. I used to play in guitar bands for a while before going solo, I wanted to mix guitar-orientated music with electronica and see what happened.
What are the main influences that helped create Keser sound?
I've always been a big fan of guitar bands and more recently electronica artists. It seemed natural for 'post rock' to progress further into various different routes and mixing it with electronica has achieved an interesting cross-over. The plan from the outset was to create reflective,futuristic music with abalance of analogue and digital sounds... I guess my main influences wouldbe Mogwai, Aereogramme, Arab Strap, Low, Stafraenn Hakon, Boards ofCanada, M83, Fourtet and many more.
Your new album "Esoteric Escape" has just been released, you describedtheproduction as a "steep learning curve". What did you learn?
Paul Croan (Alex Tronic Records Label Manager) and I recorded and mixed the majority of the album. I had no previous experience of the process and I learned as I went along - the production process, software, using the mixing desk, editing tracks etc. I learned a lot in a short time (Paul is an excellent mentor and fantastic producer) and it was extremely satisfying to do the entire album independently.
The first few tracks were recorded at Hidden Channel in Glasgow by a good friend, Gavin Dick. He's very talented as well so I'm privileged to learn from these guys. Geoff Allen from CaVa also lent his experience, his input at the mastering stage was class. He had great stories of working with bands I have great respect for. I had no idea what input he had on the bands' recordings but, for example, if you listen to 'Solemn Thirsty' by Malcom Middleton... At the end when the guitar melody comes through prior to the vocal melody and sets it up brilliantly...that was Geoff's idea. Small details like thatare so important on a record!
The obvious input from Geoff for us was on 'Destination:Destiny' when it gets damn heavy! Similarly, Paul has great ideas for the production and whatsounds best where, the experience he offers is priceless. To achieve the sounds and atmosphere wedid was incredible to see taking shape. The focus and effort from Paul andI had to be relentles, but we're extremely happy with the outcome.
Is there anything you would change about it now?
Not a thing. I would have preferred another couple of tracks we had recorded were on there but it would have been too long. But it's a snapshot of where the music was at, at the time, and it's a busy, vibrant picture!.
Mogwai claim their song titles are taken from magazines such as The National Enquirer, how does Keser come up with their song titles?.
Anything I see or like the sound of at the time can become a song title. "FM Rocker" is taken from an Aerosmith biography for example. 'Rolling' was just a working title in the song's early days as I thought the middle section sounded like a RollingStones song! We are Closed on Every Tuesday is a sign on the door of my favourite Chinese Take Away. They have a great Happy Hour price but, for one reason or another,they are closed on every Tuesday.
Most bands hate to be pigeonholed, what is your take on genre's such as post-rock?
Laziness. Some people need to be told what bands are like without finding out and forming their own opinions. Summing up a band into a couple of words is ludicrous. The best thing is to do is hear them for yourself. We'll sometimes use the term 'post rock electronica' as we feel we fit into this genre, it has sufficiently vast connotations so as not to be too 'pigeon-holed' but at the same time appealing to a niche musical genre.
Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) recently expressed concern about websites such as Myspace'influence over the music world, in terms of development of bands. What is your take on this?
I have not seen this so I can't comment. Myspace seems to be an excellent medium for music at present though.
Many bands develop over the years, what do you see as Keser strengths at themoment, and what weaknesses (if any) would you like to improve on?
I guess our main strength is our hard-working ethos, from the band and label. You can always improve, though.
Back to the album, Is there any significant meaning in the title "Esoteric Escape"
Yes. It's about striving to achieve truth about our lives, escaping the mysticism of why we are all here, why anything is here and seeing a bigger perspective. It was a theme of many of the songs so it was an apt summation. I am surprised that there is not a lot of focus on this in general when it is easily the single most important thing.
Your record was released on Edinburgh based label Alex Tronic. What is this label all about and what other bands are on it?
Alex Tronic Records is an Edinburgh-based indie label and studio run by Paul Croan. Alex Tronic Records has four artists so far on the label, Pockets of Resistance, Åsa, Keser and Alex Tronic himself (Paul Croan). Alex Tronic has released and licenced music to many labels notably Koyote/Peyote Records and Cherry Red Records. He has also dabbled in scoring the music for film and TV. The label has a stall at theupcoming Spectrum Festival at the Queen's Hall on Sunday October 22nd alongside other labels such as Benbecula Records. This will prove to be excellent exposure for a relatively new and underground label.
What is your favourite track from "Esoteric Escape".
"4_Cycles". This song was unique in that it wasn't written before entering the studio, it happened as we went along. Paul let me have free reign for a couple of hours, at one point he heard the guitar riff, put his paper down and said "that's it! let's go" and we started from there. Most of that song is first takes throughout and was completed in a few hours, we're both extremely happy with it and it's an enjoyable song to do live.
Your set up involves a drum machine, would you consider using live drums in the future?
Yes, there were even plans for using live drums in "Esoteric Escape " so it should happen at some point.
What is Edinburgh's music scene like. Is there any bands I should check out(apart from Keser) the next time I'm there.
It's doing well despite some of the recent closure of venues.......... 'This is Music' (www.myspace.com/thisismusicedinburgh), 'New Found Sound'(www.myspace.com/nfspromos), andTaylorMadeMusic (www.taylormademusic) do extremely well to promote the live scene, as do Bannerman's (www.myspace.com/bannermans) to name a few. There's a lot of great bands here, I'll have to forward you some links.
Many 'critics' have lamented the poor state of the music scene in the UK. Do you agree?
Wholeheartedly. The scene that we hear and read about anyway. There is so much more to the scene that sadly does not receive as much recognition as the established and hyped acts, but this has been the case for a long time. I found recently an old article in my old room at home from 1995. It was aboutRadiohead, 'Britain's Best Kept Secret' the headline read. The press should have been ashamed. They attracted little and dismissive attention in the early days and that headline summed it up..then the UK press realised how good they were but were too late. They covered themselves by proclaiming Radiohead to be 'the best band in the world' after OK Computer, this was obviously dertrimental to the band's state of mind at the time. I digress.
Are you for or against the use of file-sharing networks such as Soulseek and Limewire?
I prefer having the records physically, the album sleeves, lyrics and notes etc and a good quality recording over anything else.
There are some pictures on the web of Keser partying with Mogwai. Are the mighty 'Gwai fans of your or are they more like a big brother?
I don't know if they are fans but Barry has the album at least! I have met them at various gigs and know them a bit from that. The picture is from the ICA in London, they had just finished the last day of a 5 day residency. It was a great show and was attended by the likes of Alan McGee and legend Martin O' Neill. Martin gave them a pep talk in the dressing room before the show, I guess after that you have to play well!.
What records could you not live without?
There are far too many to list!
OK, Have you any thoughts on an album of the year yet or is it too early?
"Hmmm. Everyone else is pretty much screwed when Mogwai have a release! It has to be "Mr Beast"!
What is the best gig you have ever attended?
Cecil at The Works, Aberdeen in 1997. They became Voy, then disappeared!They were amazing so it's a shame.
The record is out now. So what is next for Keser?
Touring is next up, the focus will be abroad as well as the UK. The release date is still delayed for the shops, there will be launch gigs when it is announced as well. Then it's back to the studio for the next album.