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Marcia Blaine School For Girls + Black Affair + Erstlaub @ Peacock, 10th November

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As part of SOUND festival, interesting music promotions present:

MARCIA BLAINE SCHOOL FOR GIRLS + BLACK AFFAIR + ERSTLAUB

Saturday 10th November

Peacock Visual Arts, 21 Castle Street, Aberdeen, AB11 5BQ. (01224) 639539

Doors 8pm Entry 8

Tickets in advance subject to booking fee from One-Up (01224) 642682 or http://www.ticketweb.co.uk

http://www.peacockvisualarts.com

http://www.myspace.com/interestingmusic

http://www.sound-scotland.co.uk

MARCIA BLAINE SCHOOL FOR GIRLS

The Marcia Blaine School For Girls, Glasgow's mysterious trio, throw up smoke screens whenever anyone finds out too much, leaving a wake of rich and varied releases in their trail, from minimal drones through distorted hip-hop and detroit influenced techno.

a melange of incessant beats and warm thrumming - thats another thing, these tunes may be made by machines but this is human, warm, breathing music, and carving out a whole new genre for itself to boot. [iS THIS MUSIC?]

not only refreshingly unpredictable but also exudes humanity and warmth despite being thoroughly grounded in electronic production methods. The group's music might call to mind Boards of Canada or Autechre at one moment or another. [TEXTURA]

http://www.marciablaine.com

http://www.myspace.com/marciablaineindustries

BLACK AFFAIR

Steve Mason is something of an enigma. You know him as the frontman of the most original band to come out of Scotland in recent times we just aint allowed to repeat it. Black Affair is his new electro pop fashion outfit. Its tightly bound with digital lust and black gloves, sexual undertows and Issey Miyake. It conjures a midnight encounter with a man or woman, a secret moment known only to the couple, which will never be spoken of but will remain in their thoughts forever.

Striking, bewitching, wet and warm. Too busy looking good. Its simple. The crowd moves, people wink and smile. Its fun with a little tension. What could be better?

Timbaland in Kraftwerk's laboratory. Eerie horror-film synths meet with staccato percussion as Steve's distinctive, laconic vocals deliver an ambiguous spin on R&B raunch [THE GUARDIAN]

Specialising in knowing beatbox love jams and neon-noir torchsongs which recall Hot Chip at their most heart-rending, Black Affairs music is unnerving and addictive [FACT MAGAZINE]

http://www.myspace.com/blackaffair

ERSTLAUB

Erstlaub is the misanthropic doom-laden creation of Dave Fyans of Perth, Scotland. Working primarily in the field of brooding drones and gently abrasive textures, he draws on his inspiration from both man made and natural sounds from real life and deconstructs and rebuilds them in his own stark vision by means of modular synthesis.

http://www.myspace.com/erstlaub

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Nice article on Black Affair, plus free download, courtesy of Pitchfork

Pitchfork Forkcast: New Music: Black Affair [steve Mason of Beta Band]: "Tak! Attack!" [MP3/Stream]

Sometimes after a breakup, it's best to start over with a clean slate. Steve Mason was frontman for Scotland's Beta Band, whose generous, pastoral space-pop made for some of the turn-of-the-millennium's most exciting listening. Following the Beta Band's split in 2004, Mason revived his side project, King Biscuit Time, for last year's Black Gold. Then he disappeared.

Now, after the end of what he describes as a "destructive" relationship, Mason has returned with a new solo project, Black Affair. The bleak electro-soul of first single "Tak! Attack!" shows Mason waking up angry and ready to dance after the sleepy melancholia of King Biscuit Time's last effort. "You nothing lady," he spits. Mixed by Warp's Jimmy Edgar, the track put crisp 1980s house beats beneath Mason's vengeful croon, piling up enough retro-futuristic synths to keep the naked lyrics from killing unsuspecting clubgoers' buzz. His former bandmates have regrouped as Aliens, but it's Mason who sounds more alienated here. Like the life of the party.

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nice article from Scotland on Sunday our our next gig as part of the SOUND festival...

Scotland on Sunday - Review - Through the sound barrier

Through the sound barrier

SARAH URWIN JONES

ABERDEEN is famous for many things - oil, granite, oil, maybe helicopters - but contemporary music is not one of them. Asked to pinpoint the locale for a festival in which you can hear a man playing a Celtic war horn one night - the indomitable carnyx - and the Black Lips strutting their Southern punk stuff the next, a cutting-edge chamber ensemble in one hall and a man 'playing' a laptop in another, it's pretty safe to say you wouldn't pick Aberdeen. This, after all, is the city where orchestras touring from the central belt traditionally remove the 'contemporary' item from their programmes in favour of a 'safe' bit of Mozart.

But in the words of Kevin Costner, "if you build it, they will come," and right on cue, Aberdeen's contemporary music-curious audiences have been sidling out from their granite townhouses to their very own musical field of dreams, the Sound Festival.

Set up in 2004 as a four-day pilot, the brainchild of Mark Hope and Pete Stollery, two contemporary music nuts from Woodend Barn - the local arts centre run by the Woodend Arts Association in Banchory - and run part-time from home by director Fiona Robertson, Scotland's only dedicated contemporary music festival is flourishing.

"People have been surprisingly easy to convince, right from the start. We had James MacMillan up in 2005 doing a mad day workshop, and we co-commissioned Sally Beamish," says Robertson, who saw the festival expand to a month-long fiesta in its second year. Even the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Ilan Volkov will make an appearance. "Contemporary music is so difficult to get played, generally, that people are keen to have a new place to do it in. We're starting to get audiences not just from Aberdeen but all over. We even had a man who'd come especially from Australia. We'd been chuffed when we saw one girl had come up for a week from Dorset, but Australia really took us by surprise."

Ask someone on the street what contemporary music is, and you'll probably get a range of answers from 'popular beat combos' for hyperactive toddlers, to a bunch of intellectuals sitting in a room listening to a man scratching his fingernails down a blackboard for six hours. But neither Sound, nor contemporary music, is about pain or stereotype. Even Morton Feldman, the American contemporary composer whose compositions frequently lasted longer than the World Cup snooker final, was perfectly happy for his audiences to drift in and out during performances - the door, that is, not consciousness. The best contemporary music is, after all, about doing something new, creative and innovative.

"When we started, in 2004, it was mostly about electro acoustic and contemporary classical music, but we wanted to widen it out to bring in interesting music like Damon and Naomi, the Black Lips and Marcia Blaine School For Girls, for instance," says Robertson, referring latterly to the Glasgow-based electronic music trio who will play alongside Black Affair and Erstlaub.

"We're basically interested in anything contemporary, new or innovative, whatever the genre, so we give audiences a chance to 'cross over'. They may not like it, but at least they're taking the risk."

Some might say it's too wide-ranging, given the Aberdeenshire demographic, but Robertson thinks the opposite. "The way the festival is created is very organic, inviting guests, but also approaching local music groups or visiting orchestras and asking them to put on a piece of contemporary music in their programme in November. We're not trying to be your average contemporary or new music festival, we're not Triptych, we're not Huddersfield," she says. "Let's face it, Huddersfield isn't run part-time from home by a woman with a baby. We just have a lot of volunteers and very big mobile phone bills. We're trying to do something a bit different. Our next step is to make clusters out of some of the concerts, so there's more to see in any one week."

Mr McFall's Chamber, the innovative Edinburgh-based chamber group moonlighting from the ranks of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, among others, played their first Sound Festival concert last Wednesday. Mr McFall's, who have a strong following in the central belt, are less well known in Aberdeen, but founder Robert McFall is optimistic about the future. "There seems to be a lot beginning to happen, musically. The festival is terrific. They've got a wonderfully equipped, vibrant music faculty at Aberdeen University, and I think a lot of things are spinning off from there." Indeed, the Aberdeen Music Prize, set up in 2005 and unique in the world in awarding prizes to the composers of the future, will, next year, move its September judging to November to coincide with Sound.

Mr McFall's contribution was the first in a series of concerts organised by Bows Arts for the centenary of Grieg's death, inspired by an unfinished piano quintet by Grieg, which was then worked into a new piece soaked in contemporary Norwegian folk by Aberdeen-born composer James Clapperton, before rounding things off with a "trance-like" gamelan-inspired live electronics string piece by Thomas Stronen. "It's a bit like Steve Reich or Philip Glass," says McFall.

Steve Reich is also the inspiration for the very different Marcia Blaine School For Girls, the Glasgow trio named after the fictional school in The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie - Dave Donnelly, Bryan Kerr and Ruaridh Law - who run the Numbers club night in Glasgow, a mix of electronica and DJing. The band was formed while Kerr and Law were at Park Mains High School in Erskine, with Donnelly joining when the three met at Glasgow University. "We all studied music from a young age, and were exposed to classical and modern classical music, so we knew about Reich and Philip Glass. We were also discovering electronic music, so we decided to stick them together."

Marcia Blaine released their first album in January, Half Way Into The Woods. "We were thinking about calling it "Twelve years and this is all we've got to show for it," says Donnelly, on a tea break during a rehearsal for their Sound Festival gig. "We've been battling away for quite a while now. We were rubbish for five or six years, and that's not false modesty," he jokes. The band aim to make every gig different, and Aberdeen will be an audio-visual experience, constructed with the help of a friend from Numbers, the evocatively named Retina Glitch.

"It's our kind of festival really, more relaxed than something so time-limited as Connect. We're also going to improvise the first 20 or 25 minutes, which is a first for us," says Donnelly, chiming nicely with the innovative agenda of Sound. "We're writing individually right now, it'll be a total surprise. We're interested in doing something more spontaneous, looking towards our second album, which may be one continuous piece."

Very much like their peers in the contemporary classical world, Marcia Blaine know they have a niche market - so much so that they've all got day jobs too. Donnelly works for Glasgow council, Law is a manager at a food conglomerate, and London-based Kerr is a dentist. "He made the best choice. But these are just jobs to keep us playing music," he explains. But it's not all rock'n'roll in their spare time. "Marcia Blaine doesn't go out and drink 20 pints of beer and dance 'til you're sick, it's more chilled out than that. If we're DJing, we're a bit more hedonistic, but it's all very well being rock'n'roll - you've still got to be able to play."

Their worst gig was at Club 69 in Paisley. "A girl got on to our equipment and time-stretched her voice, droning 'gonnae-bring-the-fast-bit-back' over 20 seconds during a little ambient interlude. Some people don't get that we're not techno."

Their ideal gig is a sit-down concert, something they rarely get in Glasgow clubland. "The perfect gig would be much like the set-up in Aberdeen, where we can extract everything from our gigantic egos and let everyone hear it," Donnelly grins, then adds, "With Steve Reich on support." v

Marcia Blaine School For Girls, Black Affair and Erstlaub play Peacock Visual Arts, Aberdeen (01224 642682), Saturday, 8pm. Welcome to TicketWeb!, info@sound-scotland.co.uk. Mr McFall's Chamber will perform their Sound concert at Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow (0141-353 8000), tonight, 8pm s•o•u•n•d festival - 2007 - North East Scotland's festival of new music

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Scotsman article on Black Affair

http://living.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1654682007

ts17stevb.jpg

Past remastered

DAVID POLLOCK

IT WAS a pleasure to finally conduct the interview you're about to read. Having heard good things about Black Affair, the new project from former Beta Band singer Steve Mason, I contacted him via his MySpace page some months back in the hope of arranging a chat. "Sure," he promptly replied. "But, Black Affair has nothing to do with The Beta Band, King Biscuit Time or the name Steve Mason. None of these can be mentioned in the article. I want no connection with my past. This is new." Eager to please but doubtful of the credibility of such a feature, I was forced to tell him so - and heard nothing more.

Classic pop music has always thrived on its maverick spirit, and that's something artists can only earn for themselves. The true maverick - in the face of aggressive marketing strategies and the fleeting notoriety of racked-up column inches in the tabloids - will build a reputation both on the strength of their music and the dependability of their own personality. That's why, in recent years, people such as Morrissey, Ian Brown, Noel Gallagher and Bobby Gillespie have built fanbases who hang on their every word as much as they do their recorded releases.

As the above exchange perhaps helps demonstrate, we can also add Steve Mason to that list. The Fife-based singer's sporadic and largely unheralded musical presence since the split of his old band in 2004 hasn't dulled his followers' appetites, yet some of the more notable events of Mason's recent career haven't been of the amusing variety, nor have they been welcomed by the singer.

Last year, on the eve of a national tour with his post-Beta Band project King Biscuit Time (an alias he had, in fact, released under throughout the band's life), Mason cancelled all dates and announced on his MySpace page that he was quitting the music industry. Having been reported on by various news sites, this turn of events caused an outpouring of concern from fans, not least when it emerged that Mason was undergoing a particularly strong episode of the depression with which he has continually struggled.

Yet now - in an interview arranged by more traditional routes, now that he has a press officer - Mason seems cheerful and reinvigorated, and excited by the possibilities of his new project. "Things have happened over the last year for a lot of different reasons," he says, "but I've put a lot of work into myself mentally, and I had a lot of help from people. Yeah, I feel finally, after a few years, that I can say I'm happy, without seeing the devil bearing down over my shoulder with a huge pickaxe. I feel happy, and that's quite a big step for someone like me."

He's also, thankfully, happy to speak about his past musical lives, but does it make him feel frustrated or hemmed-in that people can't discuss his current work without making assumptions based on what he used to do?

"Not really," says Mason, "I think I've already established myself as the kind of artist that nobody knows what the f*** I'm going to do next. Even in that group [oddly, he doesn't once refer to The Beta Band by name] I was always trying to push sounds wherever they could go, we were always trying to do something different. So... I don't know, it just depends how narrow-minded the person is that you're talking to. If it's someone who really got what I've been doing all these years, I don't think they'd be particularly surprised that I'm back with something different again. But I don't really care, I just want to do something that's exciting to me and that feels kind of relevant now, that gets my juices flowing."

What, then, of King Biscuit Time, who released one critically admired album, Black Gold, before disbanding?

"I just felt that it was too close to what I'd done before," he says. "It felt like a very post-previous-band situation. I'm very proud of Black Gold, but I really wanted to do something totally different, to make myself excited about what I was doing again. It would have been very easy to rest on the King Biscuit Time thing, but I've never really wanted to do that. It's never been a job for me, it's always been an artistic pursuit, I've always wanted to stretch myself in a way I've never done before. I've never made purely electronic music before, and I've never gone all-out to make pop music either. That's what I'm doing now, electro-pop, and I'm finding it really exciting."

That excitement translates itself to the music and the live set. Naming the obscurist 1980s electro of Kleer, the currently undiscovered electro-funk of LA's J*Davey and the early-90s R'n'B of Jodeci and Montell Jordan as influences, Mason has created a minimal but richly dancefloor-friendly electro sound with Black Affair. The live version is similarly pared down - just Mason, his iPod and a live bassist (formerly Simon Jones until he "went back to his day job" with the newly reformed Verve, now Edinburgh musician Tom Nicol) - yet his charismatic and distinctively voiced, rhythmic delivery make it effortlessly entertaining.

Having played constantly but with a minimum of fanfare around the country over the last few months (including a few support dates for New Young Pony Club), Mason seems most inspired by the reaction he's been getting at club dates, particularly in London. "Definitely in this country," he says, "people go to clubs to dance, and if they go to a gig they go there to stand and watch the band. So I'm not sure a gig is really the best place for me. The crowd don't appreciate it any the less, I don't think, but I like to see people dance.

"Previous bands I've been in have tried to bring in that whole club aspect, DJs before we went on and all that, but I don't think everyone necessarily got it. Yet I'm deliberately trying not to use any references to things I've done in the past, because I'm kind of bored with all of that. To be honest, most of the people who are doing this kind of music nowadays, you've never heard of them anyway."

In this respect, Mason is united with his manager - Creation Records founder and sometime music industry revolutionary Alan McGee - in his love for the democratising of music by the internet.

"I've never really wanted to be what I've become," says Mason, "which is an underground, influential artist, who a lot of people know, but who has never crossed over. I always wanted to smash into the mainstream, to bring what I see as being some sort of relevance and realism into popular music.

"But, y'know, things have changed a lot over the last two or three years, and outlets that had the British music industry sewn up five years ago - Top of the Pops, Radio 1, the NME - just don't any more. MySpace and the blogs on the net, that's where people get their music now, so it's a lot easier for people like me to get music out there. It's almost like a revolution's taking place."

A revolution in which Mason is happy to be in the vanguard.

Black Affair play Peacock Visual Arts, Aberdeen, 10 November. The single Tak! Attack! is out on 22 October. The album Pleasure Pressure Point will be out in early 2008.

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