New EP from Vic Galloway and Check Masses shines spotlight on Edinburgh mix maestros
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Comprised of ‘Philly’ Angelo Collins, Saleem Andrew McGroarty and BBC Radio Scotland DJ Vic Galloway, three local musicians who have helped shape the sound of the Capital for nearly three decades through underground gigs, club culture and broadcasting, Check Masses finds McGroarty on beats, samples, keyboards and programming, Galloway on backing vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion and programming, and Collins on vocals.
With a nod of his head, Galloway admits releasing a debut album in the middle of a global pandemic was always going to be a challenge.
He says, "All things considered, launching a new band as a global pandemic hit was never going to be good timing, but it went alright, however, as we've not been able to rehearse and record properly as a band since, we decided to get remixers in for an album later in the year, with all the tracks from Nightlife remixed in different styles."
A taster of what is to come is released later this month with the Moroccan Skies EP. Moroccan Skies is one of ten songs that have been reworked for the forthcoming Nightlife Remixed. The six-track EP takes that key track and twists it in five spectacular directions, along with the original album version.
Remixing the track are ground-breaking Leith producer Erik Tricity whose 'Bearo Remix' turns the song into a Prodigy versus Pendulum break-beat banger, and producer/songwriter Iain Campbell aka Ex Makina who transforms it with melancholy, cinematic electronics.
A remix by Edinburgh two-piece psychedelic rock band Man of Moon throbs and pulses while Great Ezcape, formed in the Capital in 2004 by Paul McKinna aka Vigilante and the city's finest hip hop export Profisee, ups the hip-hop with a low-slung rap.
There's also a final mix by legendary Killing Joke bassist and producer extraordinaire, Youth, who 'dubs it into infinity'.
Revealing how they picked their collaborators, Galloway explains, "We asked people we admired as musicians and producers. We are fans of their music and are lucky enough to be friends with all of them. When we asked, they all said yes, which was great.
"A lot of people choose Moroccan Skies as the song they wanted to remix. When we got a bunch back we thought, ‘These are great. Let's do an EP as a taster and a last hurrah for the album’.”
Each remix pulls on the disparate influences of the remixer concerned while reflecting facets of our ever-evolving city, the birthplace of Scottish Punk and the home of Young Fathers.
One of the remixers, Erik Tricity, formerly of The Psychic Vandals and frontman of Metaltech, says, "I've known Vic for a lot of years now and he'd let me listen to tracks from the album as he was working on them. I really liked what I heard and was equally impressed when they played live at the album launch. Knowing I like to dabble in my own recording studio, Vic asked whether I would be interested in remixing one of the tracks."
He continues, "The bassline from Moroccan Skies had always really grabbed me, so that's what I ran with, doubling the BPM with some nice, two step drum 'n' bass. It's a real honour to have my remix on a release with the other Edinburgh bands and the mighty Youth. It's great that Check Masses are helping showcase the remixing skills of local acts. I'm a particular fan of Man Of Moon, cracking band."
The album, Nightlife, has been described as 'flitting between the shadows, smudging the lines between cinematic hip-hop collages, expansive dub, wiry electronics, psychedelia and Lynchian unease across 10 superb tracks'. Nightlife Remixed promises to 'take you even further into Check Masses' shady but alluring world of psychedelic soul'.
Reflecting on the origins of Check Masses, Galloway recalls, "The three of us have all known each other for years but had never made music together. Saleem has been producing hip hop for almost three decades now, Philly is a soul singer with a tinge of reggae, acoustic psychedelic soul, and I'm more of a rock and roll guy from an indie punk background.
"Alexei Sayle was doing a stand up show and Saleem asked if I wanted to go. I said yes. Afterwards we went for a pizza and talk turned to collaboration, with six or seven songs completed we got Philly involved... We then ploughed on and when we had 15 tracks we knew we had something going on. We then put 10 of those tracks on the album."
And having collaborated with so many local musicians and bands on the remixes, Galloway believes Edinburgh's music scene is one of the most vital there is, "Edinburgh is a really exciting city for music because there isn't just one genre of music, you've got vibrant indie rock, vibrant singer/songwriters, the folk scene is vibrant, the jazz and blues scene is vibrant, you've also go hip hop and grime coming out of the city... creativity will never die. People will never stop making incredible music."
Subject to Covid-19 restrictions, there will also be an opportunity to catch Check Matches live at Sneaky Pete's on The Cowgate on October, 20, and at the Stag & Dagger Festival, Edinburgh, on November 14.
Check Masses, Moroccan Skies EP is released on July 23.
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