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Sunday, 8 May 2011

~Kitten Wine~#26: Life Without Buildings

I have to confess that this is not the article I sat down to write this evening.

No, my original item, 'humourously' entitled 'Hoots Mon, Where's Ma Heid' was to have been a celebration of some of my favourite songs by Scottish artists. Just a grab-bag of Caledonian alternative and traditional music that would have rounded off one Scotland's most fascinating, and indeed very much historic, weeks.
For you see, all you non-Picts out there, this was the week in which the Scottish National Party scored a gargantuan landslide victory in the local elections, sending a pretty stiff message to Westminster that we really don't want to be ruled by them any more.
As 100% of the ~Streetlamp~ team supported the SNP, this makes us very happy indeed. And so it was that I sat down to share some of my most cherished Scottish songs with you all here tonight....but somehow I got distracted by a lost love. A love that seeped into my life for a very short space of time indeed....and then were gone. A beautiful, vibrant tumescent love that went by the name of Life Without Buildings.
Life Without Buildings could easily be Scotland's greatest 'lost treasure'; a band that shone for one brilliant album(and a live album) and then simply disbanded without rhyme nor reason.
It's pretty safe to say that anyone who came into contact with the wondrous music created by Life Without Buildings were immediately smitten and formed a deep love for the band, a love which remains for many, undiminished.
LWB were formed in Glasgow in 1999, the band comprising mostly of like-minded souls who had met at the Glasgow School Of Art. The line-up of the band was Robert Johnston on guitar, Will Bradley on drums, Chris Evans on bass, and Sue Tompkins who provided the highly individualistic and idiosyncratic vocals.
Signing to Rough Trade affiliated Tugboat Records they released their debut single 'The Leanover':


I first heard 'The Leanover' on a local Radio show back in March of 2000(I apologise for my vagueness but I can't recall the name of the show or what station it was on), and was immediately drawn in by Sue's beguiling phrasing and woozily seductive tones. I tracked the single down almost immediately and practically nailed it to the Dansette.
I can't lie but I was totally seduced by Sue's breathy, crystal clear enunciation, and her curious way of delivering her lyrics in a disjointed, repetitive cut-up style. Coupled with the incredibly tight playing of the band who created a captivating hybrid of Post-Punk with louche Jazz time signatures.
When debut album 'Any Other City' was announced we whooped with joy, wondering "Could a whole album of this divine music REALLY deliver?" And, of course, it did.


'Any Other City' is exactly that! It's like taking a walk through a strange city, like entering into another world where, for 40 minutes or so, you are lost in a tableau of new experiences.
The band could be spiky, as on 'Young Offenders':


Sultry and downright sexy like the beautiful 'Sorrow':


Or simply a fantastic Pop Band as with 'Juno':


Sadly the band split in 2002 with nary an explanation to their heartbroken following. A few years later a live album 'Live At The Annandale Hotel' emerged, showing that the band were as tight and bewitching on stage as they were on record.
Sue Tompkins is now an artist who both paints and does visual performance art and has had exhibitions in both London and Oslo.


Life Without Buildings have remained almost purely a cult band, never quite achieving some great rediscovery which surely awaits them some day. Lazy comparisons might suggest a meeting of The Raincoats with early Altered Images, but for me there's always something a bit more otherworldly and completely unique about them.
If this is your first experience of them, I envy you greatly!

Enjoy!

~Gordon~


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