Gargoyles by Big HoggRelease date: March 31, 2017
Label: Bad Elephant
The Canterbury Sound may be more remembered as a short lived scene during the early 70’s. The collision of English folk, jazz and prog creating a style of music which would become the cornerstone of acts such as The Soft Machine, Caravan and Hatfield And The North. A whimsical Englishness, suffused with technical playing, it was a world away from rock and roll.
It therefore seems strange to hear those sounds once again through Big Hogg’s music, more so for being from Glasgow which is a world of culture away from the genteel progressive sounds. Scotland has always had a knack for surprising though, and beneath the hard exterior lies a country which understands human emotions and is unafraid of embracing them. That Big Hogg take this and magnify it through the classic Canterbury Sound makes them all the more interesting and exciting.
Getting off to a sprightly start with ‘Solitary Way’, a song that owes as much to Belle & Sebastian as it does to Canterbury, it’s syncopated rhythm and playful flute sets out an adventurous path, albeit one which you can easily jump on, such is the delightful lilt of the vocals. Shared between Sophie Sexon and Justin Lumsden, the boy/girl dynamic becomes an important part of the music.
Brass also plays an important part too as Vegan Mothers Day’ demonstrates but it’s on the much deeper fare such as ‘Star Of The Show’ that you get an indication of hidden depths within this band. Beneath the slight, jaunty exterior lies a band willing to push at the edges of their music and find little avenues of digression which turn the song on its head. Take the simplicity of ‘Drunk On A Boat’ who’s sentimentality hides a woozy unease, matched by arch vocals which you never quite know what they really mean.
Perhaps the highlight is when they really cut loose on ‘The Beast’, a progressive and almost theatrical piece which switches from breathlessly urgent vocals to bombastic guitar, forever edging towards a climactic ending of which you are quite uncertain. It’s Big Hogg brimming with confidence in their music, unafraid to follow their own path, and it is this that makes us fall for them so much.
Maybe a bit too different for the usual prog fan, its hard to see where Big Hogg will find their niche, but by doing what they want to do, they will still find an audience. With the ability to cross over from breezy indie pop to prog they may have actually hit upon a wonderful formula. Either way, Gargoyles is a sublime piece of work which will keep the open-minded music fan happy for a long time. A complete joy, it is playful, deep and yes, whimsical. All the things that made the Canterbury Sound so wonderful in the first place.