Release Date: Jul 21, 2014
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
King Creosote, the stage name of Kenny Anderson, is a musical wunderkind, having released over 40 albums in less than 16 years from his home in Fife, Scotland. Considering his roots, it only seems fitting he is involved in this media project. From Scotland With Love is not a traditional album, but an original soundtrack to a BBC2 documentary film of the same name which has been deemed by most critics as marvellous.
Released to coincide with the July 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, From Scotland with Love is more than another pet project by prolific Scottish indie folksinger King Creosote (Kenny Anderson). Commissioned by the BBC and arts initiative Creative Scotland, it is a unique collaborative work with filmmaker Virginia Heath where Anderson provides a sort of conceptual soundtrack to Heath's moving documentary comprised entirely of archival footage depicting Scottish history. The film offers no interviews or voice-overs, relying instead on Anderson's poetic songs to tell the story and embellish flickering scenes of political strife, social uprisings, industry, war, and bucolic country life in the early 20th century.
If you've spent recent weeks gagging on cloying sports montage music, here's an uplifting alternative. Fife-based King Creosote wrote this record to accompany a documentary of archive footage released to coincide with Glasgow's Commonwealth Games, but more concerned with providing an unsentimentalised vision of Scottish history. These songs respond beautifully to the pathos and drama of their subject, summoning a mood with subtle musical shifts but knowing when to deploy the grand gesture.
Kenny Anderson's latest long player has the unenviable task of following 2011's masterpiece, Diamond Mine. This is unfair. Not least because the latter album drew from over 20 years worth of King Creosote material, but also because it enlisted the help of knob twiddler par excellence, John Hopkins. So it was with bated breath yet with diluted expectations that I approached From Scotland with Love.
The world of music isn’t spared the Scottish independence debate. While David Bowie confessed his support of the Union in his BRIT Awards statement, Mogwai profess their vehement desire for a ‘Yes’ vote. The latest record from King Creosote, then, while not a direct support or rejection in itself, feels quite appropriately timed. ‘From Scotland With Love’ is awash with Alba pride, from glorious patriotic soundscapes to Kenny Anderson’s distinct croon.
In 2011, electro wunderkind Jon Hopkins took Scottish folkie legend King Creosote by the hand and led him into a dark, ambient pastoral hinterland – and the pair garnered a Mercury Music Prize nomination for their stark and stunning ‘Diamond Mine’. Creosote’s first album since doesn’t have quite the same woozy charm, trading the lush and eerie textures for gentler, more traditional ditties, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still pleasures to be plundered. ‘Miserable Strangers’ is a bruised lament that’s been chapped-and-cracked by loneliness and ‘For One Night Only’ has the same soaring euphoria as British Sea Power, but the schoolkid-assisted sea shanty of ‘Bluebell, Cockleshell, 123’ feels like a backwards step after such innovation last time round.
As I sit in my office in Covent Garden, artificial air being pumped through a giant box just above my head, artificial light being created by the tubes on the ceiling, looking through my only window, which gives me a view of the interior of another part of the building, I do often find myself daydreaming, yearning, wishing desperately, of the outside world, and in particularly, the Scottish Highlands. So it’s unsurprising, when I read the blurb for King Creosote’s latest work, From Scotland with Love, that I learn it was recorded as a soundtrack to the film of the same name, a film with no dialogue or interviews, just archive-complied footage of places and people from the Bonnie land. On reflection then, perhaps reviewing this King Creosote album is somewhat of a masochist move, as opening track “Something To Believe” immediately transports the listener to the land of heather, thistles, and large bodies of water.
King Creosote — From Scotland With Love (Domino)King Creosote, the name under which Fife’s Kenny Anderson makes music, has a fondness for melancholic melodies and a work ethic that would put traditional ideas of “prolific” to shame. King Creosote’s 2012 collaboration with Jon Hopkins, Diamond Mine, took Anderson’s bittersweet songs and enhanced them, with the end result being an expansive, constantly shifting album. “Expansive” could also serve to describe King Creosote’s new solo album, From Scotland With Love, albeit in an entirely different way.