17 March 2018
Out Lines' lyrics be the blade, their sound the sinister twisting wrist.
Published in Crash
The Dissection Room at the former Dick Vet School — the now metamorphosed Summerhall culture hub — plays host to the freezing evening’s offerings. A fitting locale given the acts’ proficiency with splicing open humanity and examining with poetic precision the way it bleeds.
Lomond Campbell — a man and his trusted steel string — emerges from the black into a pool of purple luminescence. He squints into the darkness to decipher the shapes and mass of the congregation he gives pre-thanks to before commencing with his pared-down set of tracks from his debut LP Black River Promise. Despite the absence of the album’s backing band, Campbell’s folky vocality and adroitness with his guitar permeate the space with a rich resonance. The tonality and tempo of his tracks carry with them a sense of progression and reflection that would perfectly suit the soundtrack for a road movie.
His affability shines when he politely threatens to utilise his hardened temperament from four years as a builder to quell a clamorous cluster at the back of the hall. The set’s bookends, respectively, The Misery Bell and Coal Daughter showcase the prime pairing of his prowess — a hushed voice and finger-pickin’ goodness. But the true diamond is Acharacle. An impassioned instrumental that fluctuates between benevolence and malevolence with an eerie ease. The final note rings out like a hypnotising chime, entrancing us all until a lone clapper breaks us free. From a ripple to a swell we follow suit.
By way of the harmonium’s inherent melancholy and a mammoth, warping synth Out Lines introduce us to their world of woe with Buried Guns. Lured in from the outset are we by every note, lyric and brow furrow that the Scottish alt-folk heavy hitters emit. The trio’s union was formed to act as a vicarious voice of the vulnerable biding in Glasgow’s East End. From conversations with the denizens, an insight into the hardships they face was gained and debut album Conflats was forged.
With this at the forefront of thought, the weight of the words vocalists James Graham and Kathryn Joseph voice can be crushing. Never are they contrived, never are they bombastic, always are they honest, pained and lyrical. The emotion behind every syllable Graham utters during If You Love Me Will You Lie is projected wholly on his face as he mines further and further into his mind. Seldom do we see behind those eyelids of his, but when we are offered a glimpse they are directed skyward as though the answers to his questions lie only in the heavens.
God be damned, the vocal collision of Joseph’s fragility and Graham’s defiance proves that if two particles can smash together once to create beauty, it can be done again. There Is a Saved Place is where the pair oscillate between one another, deep depths and soaring summits, singing and spoken word with no eyes batted or beats skipped. In tandem, Joseph’s relentless and haunting keys build through the verse and erupt for the chorus, bringing with it a tempestuous tide of goosebumps.
The duo’s volleying at the vanguard monopolises our attention so greatly that Marcus Mackay gets almost forgotten behind his sprawl of tech and toms. But where the lyrics be the knife, the instrumentation be the sinister twisting of the wrist. The soundscapes Mackay creates are often menacing and consistently absorbing. His stark drum beats and synthetic surges — as well as subtleties — provide the bedrock upon which their battlements stand.
All this being said, the set is not without levity. The patter from the stage is persistent and their true friendship is evident in every interlude. Graham foolishly lets slip that he can fit the Fresh Prince theme into the melody of There Is a Saved Place, a fact that the audience cannot let him walk away from. He refuses outrightly on account of the inevitable Youtube pride wounding. Joseph quickly whips back onto the piano and begins twinkling again to coax her compadre. Begrudgingly, he obliges and the result is not without merit. Eternal shall this moment live on the interweb.
‘The Covers Section,’ as Graham refers to it, features a track from his own enterprise The Twilight Sad, It Never Was the Same, and Joseph’s The Why, What Baby? and in order to inject a dose of novelty into the mix they sing each other’s tracks, with sprinkled harmonies. However, it is their rendition of ABBA’s Lay All Your Love On Me that causes the biggest stir with the crowd on account of its absent irony and descent into doom.
These Three Desire Lines serves as the set’s denouement. Sonically, with thanks to Joseph’s harmonium, their songs conjure the atmosphere of a battle’s aftermath, where the survivors are grateful for the air in their lungs but are burdened by the reality that what was once will never be again. It is on this climactic number, however, where they manage to rouse the spirits of those left alive with a sonic ascension and colossal vocals that, despite the heavy losses, glint with a radiant hope like the rising of a new day’s sun.