Spirit Level is the new album from Scottish folk-pop collective Randolph’s Leap.
The titular ‘spirit level’ is a steady reference point over what had been an unsettled spell writing the album, with Adam Ross uprooting from a decade in Glasgow to a tauntingly lopsided house in rural Aberdeenshire, navigating his way through shifting phases in his well-being and happiness, and reflecting on the untimely death of two greatly admired acquaintances. That balancing act came in the form of music, in an optimistic, even celebratory, collection of songs.
The move to Aberdeenshire roots the album, with Let This Lie reflecting on mortality during a train journey along Scotland’s east coast, to the nostalgia of parts of a life left behind in Glasgow on Punchbag.
“I also had a weirdly contradictory feeling of wanting to get even further away – like maybe we weren’t remote enough and we should move to an island or something. It was just a classic “grass is always greener”
situation. A bit of existential boredom, maybe. Fantasising about a new life to distract myself from my current one.”
Recorded over a period of a year in Glasgow with keyboard player Pete MacDonald engineering, mixing and producing the sessions at home, the album went off to mastering in the nick of time: the following night
Pete’s flat went Up In Smoke in a massive fire, taking everything bar Pete (and his pet hedgehog, Frida) with it.
Album opener, Moment Passed, bursts into life with a whole band intro before we get introduced to the quirk that is Ross’s masterful grip on lyrical wit. There’s a joy in the minor key which sets the tone for the whole record.
Straight onto track two, ‘BMH’ with fast paced keyboards and a superb bass line with that signature vocals that boarder on a whine BMH
‘Let This Lie’ a slowed down internal perspective going through a lonesome train journey as the lyrics ponder on what went wrong with a relationship. Some of the best lyrics on this album feature in this track.
‘Serious’ brings the full band are back as the whole music refuses to sit in place and jumps all over with horns and strings and clashing of drums.
‘Ghost’ is less of the clashing of drums and more of a laid back jazz affair. Adam Ross sounds like no one else, and this album has some of his best vocal work. ‘Up In Smoke’ brings the minor key joy back with a full band collection of nosies that flow with the lyrics. With Ross giving a great vocal performance as a guitarist who has been left off the leash wanders all over the track. ‘Punchbag’ and ‘Helluva Summer’ both benefit from Ross’s whiney floating lilt as his voice soars in an un-majestic manner.
‘Lungs’ follows in the same vane with a full band performance with each member adding colour to the track. The album really shines because of this and some of the best moments are with the whole band sounding like they are having one hell of a fun jam together. Unfortunately the fun has to end. ‘Too Good’ signals the end of the fun as the love song is delivered with softly strummed guitar and starry keyboards. The rest of the band are there, just in muted tones.
Spirit Level is an album of life’s quirks and imperfections cleverly mapped out in Adam Ross’s unique signature songwriting full of quirks and imperfections. Luckily he is backed by band that have their own unique quirks. From simple compositions to full on band madness.
This is a very creative musical album and there is a lot gone into each song. Not content with just everyday song writing of guitar bass drums and piano. The music is just off the wall as the lyrical content. Horns blare as violins and guitars pop up bringing joy with them.
Check out album opener Moment Passed, below:
Order the album here