Still House Plants
The Wire 393
"When I first saw Still House Plants for the first time last year, they left me giddy with excitement. Four art school kids playing a curious mix of lo-fi indie and free jazz, with blissed out female vocals? This was everything I'd been looking for in a Glasgow guitar band and then some. There's a beautiful sense of adventure to their music, as if they're still surprising themselves with their capabilities. That's not to suggest they're shambling naifs; this young band have a strong sense of identity and purpose. Since they released their debut cassette in July, they've gigged at Cafe Oto and enjoyed late night BBC airplay.
Still House Plants' guitar minimalism invites comparison to 1990s slowcore groups such as Bedhead and Codeine, but while their like crawl in Slint's gloomy shadow, the Glasgow band trace an alternative history of post-rock that begins with Talk Talk's Laughing Stock. As a result, their sound is far warmer and jazz influenced, with Jessica Hickie-Kallenbach's Tracey Thorne meets Liz Fraser vocals unfolding over Finlay Clark's slow and deliberate Fender chords. On the opening track "Warm In The Car", that hypnotic approach might seem a little tentative, but it soon draws you in, so that by the time "Panels" rolls by, it sounds almost anthemic. At the start of "Obi/Lowe's" they attempt their own rickety form of free jazz, but their subtler engagement with the form on "The House Sound of Chicago" is ultimately more rewarding. As Clark holds down a lilting two-chord figure, David Kennedy's drums skip lightly over asymmetric time signatures. Hickie-Kallenbach and saxophonist Calum O'Connor float serenely on top; their lyrical melodies yielding a gorgeous piece of DIY harmolodic pop."
"Another inaugural release for a brand new label, this is the debut for Glaswegian band Still House Plants on GLARC (the Greater Lanarkshire Auricular Research Council). The quartet take a minimal approach to their songwriting without venturing into lifelessly clinical territory, maintaining the core of a romantically bent group of dreamers. The key elements of lush chords plucked from a guitar, cymbal-heavy washes of drums rhythms, and Jessica Hickie-Kallenbach’s contemplative soulful singing lock into a repetition and play out for as long as works, never getting overused or outstaying their welcome. ‘The House Sound Of Chicago’ has a jazzy TNT-era Tortoise like feel (perhaps the point of the title?) and introduces a wandering saxophone to duel with Hickie-Kallenbach for five glorious minutes. Final track ‘Obi/ Lowe's’ actually delves into some free jazz territory for a brief minute long introduction before settling into six minutes of imposingly quiet and meditative singing. The group’s consciously sparse use of their instruments within four simplistic repetitive songs is immensely satisfying, and the general tone is consistently soft and beautiful. To boot, it’s all somehow bathed in glorious light rather than Glaswegian damp and grey. Experimental songwriting is very rarely this successful or approachable, save perhaps the likes of Robert Wyatt’s ‘Sea Song’ or perhaps more pertinently, the Velvet Underground’s ‘Heroin’ - albeit with those soaring delusions of grandeur swapped for the simple paradise of one’s own living room."
"Special mention must go to support act Still House Plants, previously known as Your Hair Cut. It’s a while since I’ve had such a giddy reaction to a new Glasgow band. They aren’t quite the finished article yet, but there’s a beautiful spirit of adventure to this band, as if they’re still surprising themselves with what they come up with. I’ve seen too many bands who are content to rework hip reference points, but Still House Plants are genuinely alchemical, creating magic from unlikely elements. My companion likens them to slowcore indie-rockers Bedhead, and there’s certainly something of that minimalist guitar trance going on. But where slowcore broods in the shadows, Still House Plants embrace the light, with Jessica Hickie-Kallenbach’s dreamy, Liz Fraser-like vocals floating blissfully over a guitar and bass swell. Their closing number is a revelation. Bassist Calum switches to alto saxophone, unleashing melodic toots and squawks while guitarist Finlay Clarke scrubs ecstatically at his Fender like a DIY Sonny Sharrock. Drummer David Kennedy pushes and pulls against the pulse as Hickie-Kallenbach soars beatifically above it all. I’m put in mind of some rickety collision between Life Without Buildings and Ornette Coleman’s free-funk band Prime Time, but Still House Plants have a freedom and joy that is all their own."