Review of Netsounds Unsigned Presents held at Hootananny and Mad Hatters, Inverness on the First of April, 2012. Written by Frank Finlayson. Photos by Frank Finlayson.

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5 bands over two floors, well a mix of solo artists and bands, although going by the names you could be confused. Let me explain. I Build Collapsible Mountains and Esperi, both have what sound like band names but are not bands but solo acts. Vladimir, is not as the name suggests a vodka laced Russian gangster but a four piece from Dundee.

Alex Wayt, sounds like a solo act and is a solo act. He does exactly what it says on the tin – singer/songwriter. It was Alex who kicked to night off before the last of the late afternoon drinkers and the first of the late night set. Alex took us through a set of his self-penned Americana tinged numbers with a turn in direction towards the end where he “gleed” it up a little with a medley of songs including ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ followed by Bryan Adam’s ‘Summer of ‘69’ before returning to his own material. A set full of vigour and professionalism, but ultimately more Johnny Foxes than Netsounds.

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A quick dash upstairs led to a sparsely populated Mad Hatters. With a bit of encouragement the folk downstairs were wooed up to see Luke Joyce aka I Build Collapsible Mountains. Luke was rather nonplussed when he started his set; I was concerned that he had given up before he had started due to the low turnout. But no, with a air of quiet assurance he lifted the room and also any potential gloom. There is a real warmth and depth of quality to his work, as it reached out to those that had taken the time to come upstairs. Touched with fragility, and with day dreamy qualities, his vocal floated effortlessly around the room. We are going to see and hear a lot more of this guy.

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Downstairs, Vladimir had set up, and announced their welcome in a less than fragile fashion, clearing out the last of the late, but by now very late, Sunday afternoon drinkers. Vladimir are relentless; why stop if you are on a good thing. Each track rolled into the next in a triumphant wave of noise breaking onto the floor of Hoots. With little let up, other than to point out their new single “Cold Winters Grasp”, singer Ross Murray at times looks disengaged with his audience, yet oozed an enigmatic charm. The set tirelessly whipped itself up to a frenzy as Ross rapt in the moment used the microphone as a piece of ligature as he screamed out his final utterances before heading out for a sly smoke, leaving the remaining three to grind the set into the deck.

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Unfortunately, due to the overlap of set times I only caught the very end of Esperi’s slot. Esperi, the name of Chris Lee-Marr’s project. If Esperi is a contrast to Vladimir, he very much complements the style and sentiment of I Build Collapsible Mountains. He is effectively a one man band. Not in the style of the bloke on the High Street who entertains both locals and tourists, but using a series of loops. That though, would only be part of the story. Esperi gently builds up a musical story using a collection of instruments that look like they’ve been pilfered from a children’s nursery. As he sat on the stage constructing his little composition it would not be difficult to imagine that this is what he does at home absorbed in this intricate world of detailed sound. Again, however, such a performance demands a listening crowd, something that you just don’t get in a bar these days. But to be fair, the background chatter he took in good humour. If only you could be in two places at one time….

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The final trip downstairs took us to the final act of the night, The Little Mill of Happiness. This was the first time that I’ve seen them this year. One local writer said that they were, in 2011 in terms of local acts, “head and shoulders above the rest”, so do they still have the edge? Well, a word, yes. But that doesn’t make a review.

What does make a review is watching a band full of intensity and purpose, something that Little Mill have bucket loads of. Tracks from their Capsized Sailors were interspersed throughout the set, but newer yet to be released, and in some cases to be titled songs, invaded our minds making them as memorable as those recorded. Steve Obern was in the zone tonight, with intense connection. This sense of purpose pervades the rest of the band as they shake the bar to its foundations. Direct, emotive and with no innuendo, Little Mill have an agenda, an agenda they are fulfilling. Tonight confirmed that they still sit at the top of the pile, at least in one writer’s opinion.

Further photos of the evening are here.

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A lifelong passion for music matched with a geeky fascination for social media and websites resulted in the creation of Inverness Gigs back in 2010. The aim of the site is to help promote, support and generally raise awareness of the local music scene.In fairness fifteen years of being a psychiatric nurse never prepared me for the experiences that we have had over the last few years and the evolution of Inverness Gigs has certainly been a steep learning curve.I currently write (less and less), edit and co-ordinate most of the Inverness Gigs activities.Occasionally seen on Twitter, and  LinkedIn, if you want get in touch you can contact me direct at chris@igi.gs