Music review: Broken Chanter, Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh

To describe Broken Chanter as a side project of Edinburgh-based singer-songwriter David MacGregor is to not quite do justice to how developed a sound they bear in their own right, nor to pay enough respect to the effort the whole group are putting into their recent, self-titled album on Glasgow labels Last Night from Glasgow and Olive Grove, with tour dates around the country.

Broken Chanter is the solo project of David MacGregor of Kid Canaveral

Broken Chanter, Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh ***

MacGregor will be most well-known to fans of Scottish indie-pop of recent times as the lead singer of indie-pop powerhouse Kid Canaveral, who have built a cottage career of high quality and much love from their loyal band of fans over the last decade. A mainstay of Johnny ‘Pictish Trail’ Lynch’s Eigg-based Lost Map label, KC have gone on temporary hiatus at the request of MacGregor’s songwriting partner Kate Lazda; a break during which MacGregor’s own travels in the Highlands and on the Isle of Skye saw him write this more folk-influenced suite of songs.

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One of the elements which resonates most clearly throughout this short but well-formed set, however, was MacGregor’s continuing ability with a shining pop chorus. He writes inescapably catchy music, and not even a band make-up which was somewhat altered from that of Kid Canaveral could disguise that; the five-piece – which included sometime Hector Bizerk drummer Audrey Tait, who played on Broken Chanter’s original recordings in Co. Donegal – made use of fiddle throughout.

There’s a definite poignancy to the wistful Should We Be Dancing, a rolling anthem of too much drink on late night dates (it’s an unofficial tribute, says MacGregor, to Calton Road’s former Pivo bar), yet Wholesale bore a moody, synthesised drive and there’s an epic rock feeling to Free Psalm. MacGregor, bearded and plaid-shirted, appears to be moving his own sound away from the rustic authenticity of the landscape in which he created it and more towards the poignant electro-futurist folk of John Grant.

DAVID POLLOCK