An hour before sunrise, Fisherrow Harbour was still cloaked in shadow, pier lights shimmering against the full tide, a cacophony of gulls and waders in the background. Large flocks of herring gulls were roosting in the Firth of Forth several hundred metres beyond the harbour entrance. The more pale light infiltrating the skies from the direction of Fidra lighthouse due east, the more gulls would take flight until their silhouettes were swarming inland - seeking out full Scottish breakfasts in the bins of Musselburgh or the fields beyond.
Playlist: Unloved, Heartbreak (Heavenly, 2019)
Unloved, a trio who might loosely be described as 'alt-rock,' were instigated when Belfast-born composer David Holmes found himself in The Rotary Room on Santa Monica Boulevard in LA, at a jam night run by singer/songwriter Jade Vincent and her partner, musician/composer Keefus Ciancia.
Holmes, a long-time collaborator with film director Steve Soderburgh, created music for Out of Sight and the Ocean's trilogy, the soundtrack to Yan Demanges' gritty 'Troubles' movie '71, as well as TV series The Fall. He has also remixed albums for Jarvis Cocker, Orbital, Primal Scream, and U2, and co-written with Sinead O'Connor. Keefus Ciancia is an American composer who has collaborated with the Coen Brothers and played keyboards for both Iggy Pop and Elton John. Jade Vincent's sultry voice regularly mesmerised the bar's audience.
The threesome began discussing the possibilities of melding 60s girl-pop nostalgia with classic movie themes. Before dropping any music, they might have creaked under the strain of their component parts' hip collaborations and ultra-cool references. This could so easily have tipped into pretentiousness. Instead, what emerged were joyous and evocative soundscapes. Their debut album was Guilty of Love (Unloved, 2015), Vincent's dreamy vocals swirling over trip-hops beats, against an alluring psychedelic backdrop. These glorious sounds were showcased on the hit TV series Killing Eve.
The follow-up, Heartbreak (Heavenly 2019) sees Unloved continuing to pluck the heartstrings. The highly danceable 'Love' wears its 60s influences on its sleeve: "Mamas like to give it/Papa's gonna take it/and baby ooh/that's love." On 'Fail We May Sail We Must,' Vincent's vocal soars over an insistent rhythm. The mysterious 'Lee' commences with an ethereal choir-like refrain, rising to beautiful harmonies propelled by strings (including brooding cellos) and synths. 'Crash Boom Bang' exemplifies Unloved's bombastic dimension, wrenching the gears up from the chilled mood to invoke (IMHO) Steve McQueen zipping along West Coast freeways in his Highland Green 1968 Fort Mustang Bullitt GT!
The concluding tracks shift down again, 'Boy and Girl' reflecting on the potency of emotions: "I am here and you are there/and somewhere in between/tears like stars reflect upon/the deepest, darkest, sea," the poised beat leading to a glimmering keyboard refrain. By the closing number 'If,' Vincent's voice is dissolving into a trancelike lullaby. "If I loved you less I'd be a liar/if I loved you more I'd fade."
Cool movies inspire appropriate soundtracks (Pulp Fiction, The Graduate, Help!, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Trainspotting 2 ... the subjective list is endless). But if it happened the other way round, this wonderful album would inspire dazzling screenwriting.
Post-punk soundtracks: Visitors and Magazine
A post script. I saw The Fall at Clouds in Edinburgh in March 1981, supported by local groups The Prats and Visitors. The latter had progressed way beyond their punk origins as The Deleted and played extended pieces, sometimes reminiscent of cinematic soundtracks. Another enigmatic band from that era, Magazine, played the Astoria in Edinburgh (now student flats) the previous April. The futuristic Mancunians were ably supported by the up-and-coming Bauhaus, and local post-punkers Josef K, who were to sign with Postcard and become a major influence of, amongst others, Franz Ferdinand.
Magazine, starring Buzzcocks founder Howard Devoto conjured sophisticated sonic layers. John McGeoch's angular guitar lines, Barry Adamson's funktastic bass and Dave Formula's sparkling keyboards were perfect for covers including Sly and the Family Stone's Thank You (Faletinme Be Mice Elf Agin), Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band's 'I Love You, You Big Dummy,' and most notably in this context, the theme to Goldfinger.
Related blog: It's my heart again, that drives we wild - Pete Shelley RIP
Fusing film scores with effervescent 60s pop and cool reflection has long been a winning combination.
Video: David Holmes explains how Unloved created the soundtrack for Killing Eve.