Long Fin Killie are, to me at least, the great lost band of the 90s. Supple, subtle, and progressive, the Scottish post-rockers fired out three glorious records in three short years during the mid-90s, and then disintegrated. Bows was the next musical project embarked upon by their leader, Luke Sutherland, who sadly probably remains most famous for occasionally playing violin and guitar with Mogwai; his own bands are far more musically interesting to me. (He’s also written three novels, as if he didn’t have enough creative talent already.)
Where Long Fin Killie were a definite band in the classic four-piece mould – guitar, bass, drums, voice – even if what they did with those ingredients was well outside the spectrum of most guitar rock, Bows were something else; a loose collective, perhaps, an entity that people pass through and contribute to, Sutherland and friends experimenting and creating together, calling on whomever could help realise an idea best.
So Bows features singers Signe Høirup Wille-Jørgensen and Ruth Emond, former Long Fin Killie bassist Colin Greig, Duncan Brown (briefly of Stereolab), drummers Pete Flood and Howard Monk (from Billie Mahoney), and guitarist Debbie Smith (Curve, Echobelly, Snowpony) as well as Sutherland himself, who is credited as playing guitar, violin, 808, ‘Gizmo’, and ‘Machines’, whatever those last two mean.
The sound Bows make could be read, and dismissed, pretty easily as nothing more than post-trip-hop, with the shared, sensual sumptuous male-female vocals and dance-derived beats. But there’s an intense musicality and deep intelligence here, as there was with Long Fin Killie, which makes whatever it is they’re doing worth considerably more to my ears. The songs are impressionistic, eschewing easy choruses and obvious beats, instead favouring long builds and luxurious releases, swirling half-grooves that displace you and tease your senses.
“Cuban Welterweight Rumbles Hidden Hitmen” is nothing more than Signe’s voice and licks of Sutherland’s guitar, whilst “B Boy Blunt” takes a slew of DJ Shadow-esque beats and breathy, distracted vocals, and pulverises them beneath huge crunches of guitar. “Luftsang”, “Ali 4 Onassis” and “Man Fat” are luscious, brooding concoctions, with stabs of deep bass, waves of shimmering guitars, string loops and drums that could almost be jazz. “Wonderland” is almost a dub take on shoegaze, endlessly subdued rolls and shimmering horizons decorated with quasi-drum’n’bass fills.
I came to Bows through Cassidy after being obsessed with Long Fin Killie in the early 00s; like so many records I discovered at that time it was via fleeting mentions on I Love Music and follow-up research at AllMusic; I’d read up on things during quiet moments in the library during the morning, then rush into town and buy them during my lunchbreak, or download them in the evening if they were hard to find. I have little sense of what opinion is regarding Bows, or Cassidy in particular, in the outside world, and I don’t much care.
Cassidy is an incredibly indulgent, enveloping record. If some music is made for dancing, some for rioting, some for listening closely to and yet some more for singing along in the car with or doing the dishes to, then it’s quite possible that Bows made music for making love to. It certainly seems, like My Bloody Valentine, to capture a certain type of distracted sensuality. I don’t play it when I’m in the company of anybody but my wife.