Album Review: Modern Studies – Swell To Great

It’s not that we ignored it – Its just that we completely missed September’s release of Modern Studies album Swell to Great, and as Matt H muses – more’s the pity.

Even in this day and age, with bands increasingly self-releasing their stuff online and at gigs, there’s still a place for a record labels. The best seem to build their own community of artists and actually make things happen, if only by being there. Edinburgh’s Song, By Toad is one of those. As well as a rather ace roster of regular acts (ranging from gentle folk to discordant weirdness) and a regular stream of living room-recorded sessions albums, they give room to some excellent collaborations.

A couple of years ago the Farewell, Bastard Mountain LP brought together musicians from 3 or 4 bands to rework and develop each other’s songs to lovely effect. This year some of the same artists (including Rob St John and cellist Pete Harvey) have teamed up with singer/songwriter Emily Scott as Modern Studies. Swell to Great is made up of stately folk-pop, inspired by the sounds made by a battered Victorian harmonium. The result is a dreamy collection of songs that fit together like a hoard unearthed from a dusty old trunk in the loft. There’s an understated beauty and sense of discovery to each that reward repeated listens.

And given the slightly antique ambience, it’s worth saying that the LP itself is a lovely thing, that would look right at home in the racks of a polytechnic library (for those who remember such things). Lovely.

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