January 31st, 2009


Songs from Scotland's knee

I don't usually do gig plugs here on Click Opera, but if you're in Glasgow tonight, go and see Wounded Knee at 8pm at Nice ’N’ Sleazy (421 Sauchiehall Street).

Wounded Knee is Drew Wright, who's from Edinburgh. On his MySpace page he describes himself as a "future primitive" and "happy amateur" using "lapsed electronics". In fact, all he uses is vocals and a delay pedal. The results sound like early Animal Collective, Bjork's acapella album Medulla, Gaelic hymn singing, and -- just a teensy bit, though he'll probably hate me for saying it -- The Proclaimers.

A friend sent me the latest Wounded Knee CD, Shimmering Vistas (Benbecula Records), and I was impressed, especially by twenty minute epic The Sublime Frequencies. Have a listen to opening track My Wooden Cupboard, with its odd, infectious rhythms. You can download early Wounded Knee recordings or read his (neglected but spiritual) blog, in which you'll learn that he supports Hibs and reads John Pilger. The older recordings feature more instrumentation, though -- abstract and distorted Black Dice-style electronics -- and sound, to me, less seductive and fresh than the new stuff.

Apart from contributing a track to one of The Wire's Tapper CDs, Drew has put out at least seven Wounded Knee CDs on his own label Shazzblat, with brilliant titles like Mycology is Better Than Yours, Star Wars Minus the Shite, and The Epistemic Murk. I'm intrigued by the sound of a song called Green Tea Ceremony, "34 minutes of improvised chanting that develops into a multi-layered heap of sound that retains a droning core".

Some critics have suggested that Drew should introduce other instruments or develop his song structures more, but I think the drone-chant element, shamanic and hippyish and completely non-pop, is the greatest strength of Wounded Knee recordings. A bit like Tomomi Adachi's Royal Chorus (a Japanese Fluxus choir I love), Drew knows just how much or how little to add to keep a track interesting. On the new album there are interesting lyrics and wild cries, and the compositions shift gradually from motif to motif, riff to riff, pumped ever forward by the delay pedal. Some will say this is too close to Here Comes The Indian for comfort, but I like it better than anything Animal Collective have done. If it's a Scottish copy of the Baltimore Beatniks, it's one that somehow manages to sound more pure and more original than the original.

There you go, Drew, that'll be £5, please.