BBC Radio Scotland – Tom Morton
XFM – Jim Gellatly
'Reverse the Hearse' is probably the best song about death that I've ever heard
“brilliant gig. twistit, mental an crushing aw et wanst!”
'Backwards is the New Forwards' Review - Bobby Motherwell - ravechild.co.uk
Dumb Instrument is Scotland’s best-kept secret.
Ploughing a meandering furrow between the world of tragic comedy and chamber cabaret, the inventive and infectious Ayrshire bunch have delivered us their new EP, regressively entitled Backwards Is the New Forward. A three track EP of heady substance, the interwoven and “smack in the face” humour of tracks like ‘Jaffa Baws’ and ‘Suffering From Scottishness’ yields to a dark, less obvious and more considered place.
In the opening and title track ‘Backwards Is The New Forwards’ we are immediately immersed in a dystopian landscape of existential desperation and resignation of a new insular reality. A gloriously malevolent backdrop of bass and keys punctuated by strings and brass, match the raw lyric describing the day-to-day monotony of common existence and car crash voyeurism. The song sleepwalks in a reversed structure with jarring strings reminding us that we are in no normal environment, all colluding to enhance the illusion of a life event running in reverse.
“At least I’ve found my way to get me through the challenge of each day” assures us that, although seemingly counter intuitive, moving backwards in this instance may indeed be progressive.
The black humour is ever-present as always and even a prophetic if reluctant sliver of advice to the ‘young team’ that “the backwards walk will come to them….” Is a stark reminder of what may lie in store. An anthem for the misfit, the outsider and every one of us who has need for escape from whatever it is that bears down on us; Dumb Instrument at their absolute best.
‘Blin Bobette’ on the other hand begins with a techno samba syncopated infused surrealism which drives the entire song, a very interesting departure from what we have become used to from DI. With spacey vocal and synth motifs deflecting from the driving heartbeat of the song, the emphasis here is one of dance/hip hop repetition, and suddenly I’m back in that old acid Jazz club in Brussels, which has so much to answer for. Someone had some fun with the synth here, and the lyrics too…. Or am I too blind to see?
‘Shug’ in many ways returns to the format we have become accustomed to from Dumb Instrument, a formal if not conventional narrative, we return to where we were when I was when we were introduced to them all those years ago. Sparse and with a pinpoint accuracy, they manage to punctuate note, voice and beat impeccably, with humour and pathos the recurring theme; and just for good measure, the twist in the tale or the crushing anti-climax.
Our best-kept secret indeed; there is a place out there waiting for Dumb Instrument, it’s called universal acclaim.
When eventually they collide backwards into each other and we all sit up and listen, I will cheer that the secret is out as enthusiastically as I will begrudgingly relinquish my misplaced sense of ownership.
'Boxes of Santas' Review - Mark Barton - God Is In The TV Zine
Dumb Instrument ‘Boxes of Santas’ EP (Bad Tool). Again another record to which we’ll put our hands up in admitting we mislaid much to our own stupidity though we’ve happily made amends since discovering it cowering under a pile of CD’s given its been something of a permanent feature on the losing today dansette player these last few days.
This dusty vision of a Christmas past comes wrapped up in red and green tartan wrapping paper and features three dinkily dimpled demurring slices of twinkling treasures that to these ears sound as though they’ve somehow along the way uprooted and left behind them some cosy toed magical paradise of fairy tale enchantment to embark on an expedition that hopefully should be completed in the re-assuring knowledge that the loving embrace of a record buying home has offered safe shelter and an affectionate misty eyed appreciation for them.
The work of an Ayrshire based trio – Tom Murray, Kieron Rossi and Mikey Grant who gathered together have crafted perhaps the defining release of the season that’s all at once mellowing, humbling and utterly disarming. ‘Boxes of Santa’ offers up some rarefied Victoriana treats, the fuzzily glowed ‘dear Santa’ opens the set festooned with an up tempo cantering wintry accent, a Dickensian picture card carousel populated by the Broons and lovingly brushed with a classical touch that sees the coalescing soft centred fondant caress of sleigh bells, twinkle some keys and peek-a-booing wind arrangements endowing the landscape with a radiant picture book glow through which whose spell bound intimacy and timeless tonality the gentle drift of Vernon Elliott, Oddfellows Casino and L‘Augmentation tenderly intoxicate and warm the still chilled air spaces all the time bitter sweetly at odds or so it seems to the piping of an Ivor Cutler styled dour steely realism which grittily manifests at the close wherein the peace is shattered by the mention of domestic violence.
Flip the disc for ’Boxes’ and its extended half cousin ’big boxes’ – a decidedly worrying fascination manifesting into a crooked overture to the delights of er – boxes, as daft and concerning as it may first appear it’s a bit of sweetie really, dainty and delicate, quietly alluring in a kind of clock working charm motif noir nursery room lullaby like way and admittedly contagiously catchy. Apparently there’s a whole album of the stuff entitled ‘no-one knows what its like to be me’ to be had which has been elevated to the top of our wants list.
'The Silent Beard' Review – Blabber 'n' Smoke
A couple of idiosyncratic Scottish releases here which run the gamut from pauky, almost gallows, humour to broad pastiche. Dumb Instrument are an Ayrshire troupe who apply a wonderful kaleidoscopic background to Tom Murray’s defiantly Scots voice which veers more towards King Creosote than The Proclaimers. Deadpan, insouciant, Murray almost croons his way through the songs which capture the dogged, world worn, stoical and “get it up ye” spirit of the West of Scotland male. Be it the presumed perennial question of Buckfast Vs. Hash, The battle Continues with its lounge jazz louche or the song proposed by the Daily Record as an alternative anthem, Suffering From Scottishness, which has a glorious widespread musical vista with sweeping piano and winsome harmonica as Murray paints a picture as vivid and gritty as a James Kelman novel. Elsewhere Remember Now opens with a lengthy instrumental passage with some fine keening pedal steel and spritely mandolin before Murray launches into a portrait of a lustful lass in her finery. Jealous Of The Junkies transports Tom Waits to somewhere like Coatbridge ( and apologies to Coatbridge here, ’twas the first name that cropped up) while The Savoy Cabbage Murderer is an absurdist look at vegetarianism and No-One Knows what It’s Like To be Me stomps along like a Caledonian Harry Nilsson. A favourite of ours is the fairground themed Five against One but the real deal is on the heart rending Missing Grannies where Murray is supported by a female harmony on a tender and nostalgic window into the past, almost like an Oscar Marzaroli picture set to music. The Silent Beard is an album that reflects such luminaries as Michael Marra, Ivor Cutler and much of the Fence Collective. It’s drenched in a Scottishness that discards kailyard nonsense and joins forces with the current revaluation of the nation in a sense. Aside from that it’s a great listen.
'Songs Ya Bass Vol 1' Review – Fatea-records
The first word that springs to mind is quirky, followed in rapid succession by unconventional and shrewdly observed. One of the easiest ways to raise the impact of an idea is to hide it's first blow in humour. Grab the attention in the punchline, make people think. "What If Cliff" is a fantastic satire, any song that features the line "What If Cliff, Would You Be Miffed, If Death Is Not Cured By Facelifts?" Sheer magic. Dumb Instruments have a true sense of satire, satire enhanced by the quality of the performance. The folksy jazzy approach gives the whole project a kudos it would have lacked in a comedy style.
'Songs Ya Bass Vol 1' Review – Toxic Pete
Different, very different. That's cool! Dumb Instrument comprise Tom Murray (vocals), Mickey Grant (piano), Alex McCutcheon (bass) and Matt Harvey (fiddle)and together they sound like a cleverly comic, Scottish version of Tom Waits; strong songs put to impressively simplistic music, observational lyrics with a humorous slant, dark, mysterious sounding instrumentation that enhances rather than clutters. A touch of Nick Cave meets Gilbert O'Sullivan, if you will!
Murray's soft Scottish accent adds a distinct, natural warmth to the, not to be missed, lyrics. Grant's embellishing and vibrant piano work is exquisite and perfectly poised to enhance the sentiment of the words while McCutcheon provides the solid but sparse bass lines with Harvey providing beautiful fiddle fills at just the right moments. All-in-all, 'Songs Ya Bass Vol 1' is a magnificently put together piece of contemporary, musical story telling to enjoy at any time and in any place.
Live Review – Lickmag.com - Oran Mor 22nd March
Tonight I find myself stood within the heart of Glasgow's West End for Dumb Instrument's "Song Ya Bass" single launch . Having done a bit of groundwork on an act I was unfamiliar with, and finding myself presented with music that wasn't exactly my cup of tea, I entertain no big hopes of really enjoying the show.
Luckily however, the band thoroughly surprise me. Everything about them is unique, from the way they grace the stage, to the way in which their songs tread a fine line between ample tunesmithery and short social commentary. Covering topics ranging from Oor Wullie to Wheelie bins, and Death to Cliff Richard (a song so good they play it twice!) they manage to have the crowd listening intently one second then laughing at singer Tom Murray’s dry wit the next. There's little in the way of banter, and you get the feeling that Mr Murray isn’t entirely comfortable on stage , but the songs more than make up for that. The set draws sadly to a close only for the crowd to demand an encore which is albeit hesitantly obliged. After this the band politely offer a reminder that there is a single available to buy and exit stage to a rapturous applause. I walk away from Oran Mor feeling happy that my pre-conceptions about Dumb Instrument were entirely wrong. Having thoroughly enjoyed their melancholy yet upbeat set, I would recommend that anyone who has the chance to see them on their upcoming tour should take advantage of the opportunity.
T break heats 2006 – The Skinny
A suitable curtain-raiser then for the superb Dumb Instrument (4/5), who, by the luck of the draw, deservedly close proceedings. Doing what any showcasers should do with only 20 minutes to communicate to an audience, these ragtag, folky Ayrshire balladeers leave me wanting to hear a lot more. Their grey bearded singer’s soft Scottish burr conjures novelistic impressions of modern west-coast Scotland, alternately hilarious and genuinely poignant. A definite victory for the beards over the “bands”.
Live Review – Last Night From Glasgow Indie Eyespy
Really glad I made it down in time to see Dumb Instrument, as they were AMAZING. A stripped-down trio with piano and no drums would not normally be my cup of chai. These guys did not attempt the boring balladry initial impressions might have suggested, instead making an interesting bass-driven jazz noise with some truly beautiful singing from their hirsute frontman. This on its own would have been pretty unusual within the confines of the 13th Note, but their lyrics were absolutely stunning too. Like a more playful and poetic Aidan Moffat, Tom Murray's words seemed to be describing the most tortured depths of his own soul, I noticed him wiping tears away at the end of a few songs. They were given added poignance by the casual sprinkling of Glasgow vernacular to describe the tragedy of roadside flower tributes or the demise of friends...indeed, their single on Hackpen Records is entitled 'Songs Ya Bass', which is neddy shorthand for 'Songs for Illegitimate Children' in case you didn't know.
So aye, Dumb Instrument. Check them out, I'll definitely go and see them next time they come to Glasgow.