Review: Stephen Lopkin – The Haggis Trap (MOS Recordings)

With the referendum on Scottish independence now only a handful of days away I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the music that comes out of our little corner of the British isles. British electronic music has long been defined by its inability to be easily defined. Some countries have cracking scenes with superb music but Britain seems unable to rest with anything quite so prosaic and although the roots of so much of our output are imported it’s always been what we do with them that matters. Sure, the US was responsible for Acid House, but it is in Britain that the concept was given the reception that made it what it was, and this has happened time and time again: Acid, Rave, Bleeding edge scary arsed Techno, raw avant-garde futurism, Dubstep, Jungle, UK Bass, UK Garage – the list rolls on and on.

Scotland itself has never been a slouch when it comes to keeping up with the rest of the islands. The grand old statesmen of Scottish Electronica such as Vince Watson, Stephen Brown and Sparky continue to put out important and incredible music surrounded by young and hungry outfits like Golden Teacher, Lord of The Isles, Jasper James, Rustie and so many others it is all but impossible to keep up. The styles and influences are disparate but united in a sense of adventure and exploration of sound, often looking towards that point where the music fuses with art.

Stephen Lopkin was not a name I could claim to be familiar with until this EP appeared on my lists. The Glaswegian producer has been putting out music for a little while now, but it only seems to be this year that things have begun to come to fruition. Just in the nick of time if The Haggis Trap is any indication.

The Haggis Trap itself is a very Glasgow track. Taking its jumping off point from the scything acid line of Hot Hans Hula’s insane Hot Hands Lopkin pulls it apart and rebuilds it into a mirrored, metallic crawler that promises and delivers madness. It’s strong in the same sort of gleefully imagined electronic Americana that LFO once made their own. Never content with one idea, it pushes a whole records worth of invention into a few minutes before puttering out in the last seconds.

Catherine’s Track is even more expansive. A frankly huge tune, in fact. It would be too easy to say that it owes more than a little something to the shimmering futurism of Atkins or May but the glorious strings, wigged out synths and rolling, chromium bass render it impossible not to look towards Big Derrick at his most poetic. It’s a tune for an end of day session on Callisto, Head music to savour whilst the eyes drink in alien, impossible vistas. It’s one of the loveliest pieces I’ve heard in a long, long time – a perfect retort to any idiot out there that says machine music can have no soul.

Lets All Talk About Me is from the same space but is much more direct. Hammer-strike drums and sparking percussion erupt beneath a silver sky filled with fluttering melodies. It’s full-blooded but manages to never lose sight of its playful nature. It’s part jacker, part love letter to the possibilities of a simple groove to elicit emotion.

Mugs Alley is a darker note to end on, the sky surfing glories of the rest of the record reworked into a peak time wave-jumper that borders on Drexciyan territory but propelled by stampeding 4/4 kicks instead of aquatic breaks. The simple lead winds you up and lets you go, free to find your own way home. At seven minutes it’s not a short tune, but when it comes to an end doesn’t feel long enough.

I don’t know what going to happen in the next couple of weeks. I don’t know if by the 19th I’ll be writing this blog from Europe’s newest country. One thing I’m sure of, though, is that the music is in good hands. Nae danger.

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