Turning Plates self released debut album “The Shouting Cave” was released September 22nd 2014. Part funded by Creative Scotland, the rock quintet portray metaphors of a scenic beauty throughout their album inspired by Scotland’s landscape. The idea behind “The Shouting Cave” is how the internet has made a vast change to our society. Combining alternative with classical elements, soft vocals and metaphorical lyrics, Turning Cave are difficult to pinpoint exactly. The band is made up of Duncan Sutherland (vocals & guitar), Jason Matthews (piano, clarinet, synth & bass), Jackie Baxter (cello), Tom Smith (trombone, violin) and Stephen Coleman (drums, percussion).
The idea for the creation of the band all began in 2011 with an ad Duncan posted on Gumtree. Sutherland assembled everything. Both Duncan and Jason remain the only original members of Turning Plates. After a guitarist and drummer left, the pair chose to maneuver a different sound. Strings and trombone were introduced. Their first single released in 2011 is titled “The Tin Man“. It went on to win Playmusic Magazine’s Award for Best Production of 2011. Their 2012 EP “Escapism“, another great achievement, was listed no. thirteen in The Herald’s Top Fifty Albums of 2012.
“The Shouting Cave” opens with a gradual build up from a trombone in “Avatar”. The trombone compliments gentle vocals leading to the enhancement of a whimsical like sound. Vocals are amplified just a little as a guitar melody replaces the trombone in the background. Guitar, trombone and vocals are then combined to progressively create an elaboration of sound. Elaboration spirals downwards until “Avatar” comes to a close with “That you’re some sort of superhero” sang ever so gently and a trombone becoming fainter in the distance. The musical and emotional flow of “Avatar” are forever in peaceful harmony with one another.
“Havoc” is continuously up tempo and includes two sets of vocals. One male, one female. “Some lost, lonely girl. For herself must fend” places emphasis and extends the word “lonely”, portraying someone whom is consumed by the “havoc” surrounding them. The most captivating aspect of “Falling Lives” is the genuinely powerful soundscape overall. We become hopelessly lost in Turning Plates cinematic style with the added achievement of memorable lyrics like “Dark, demonic dances slowly gather pace”. “Wild Roots” separates the first half of “The Shouting Cave” from the second half. This is a well thought out process. It is the shortest track of the album and is instrumental only. Some alluring piano pieces are included in “Evil Man” and “Witches”. Whereas, in “Evil Man”, piano is quite mellow, “Witches” captures a more vibrant sound. “The Human Isle” portrays an unknown landscape and argues that the internet is the purest reflection of humanity, a world built entirely of our own thoughts, emotions and desires. It is ultimately “a sea to float our dreams”.
“Things Grow” brings “The Shouting Cave” to a close. There is a similar format to the beginning and ending of the album. Musical components and structure are carefully thought out. Like “Avatar”, “Things Grow” is gradual. Vocals are introduced after a slow soundscape is combined with a piano piece. “Things Grow” are the only two words repeated with “grow” drawn out. Music intensifies towards the end of the track.
Tales of wilderness, discovery and isolation are stories of metaphors used to explore the underlying concept of significant changes brought about to our society through the internet. Every song falls under the same theme and are the equivalent to novels sung to us by Turning Plates. The music, an epitome of beauty. For fans of Bon Iver, Sigur Ros and Sufjan Stevens, Turning Plates offer beautiful soundscapes, a cinematic style and an array of classical instruments. This week The Circular was fortunate to interview Duncan Sutherland, lead singer of Turning Plates:
Who makes up Turning Plates and where are you from?
“We are: Duncan Sutherland (vocals & guitar), Jason Matthews (piano, clarinet, synth & bass), Jackie Baxter (cello),Tom Smith (trombone & violin) and Stephen Coleman (drums & percussion). Duncan is from Dunblane, Stephen from Cumbernauld and Tom is from Glasgow. Jackie and Jason are coincidently both from Guildford in Surrey.”
Can you tell us a bit about your backgrounds?
“We’re probably the most middle class band ever! Most of us studied classical music in some guise from a young age but now we do all sorts of things for our day jobs from teaching to working in Tech Start-up organisations.”
How did Turning Plates begin?
“Duncan assembled the entire band through Gumtree! We’ve been pretty lucky considering some of the horror stories you hear about ‘musicians’ found on that site. The band’s now in its second guise with only Duncan and Jason remaining from its first iteration. When our first drummer and other guitarist left we had a big think about our direction and that started by choosing a slightly different instrumentation with strings and trombone.”
Where did you all graduate from with music degrees? Were you all in different colleges?
“Jackie and Tom both attended what is now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Jason studied at the Royal Northern College of music then the Royal Academy of Music in London. Stephen and Duncan sadly have to live without music degrees although Duncan is currently in the 4th year of a PhD looking at Tidal Turbines.”
Is it true that each of you are behind a theme for a specific song from “The Shouting Cave” album? Who is behind each song?
“Not quite. Musically Duncan comes up with the base material and then we all work on it together to develop it into the final work. Thematically we did have discussions early on about different stories we wanted to include but I don’t think any of them were hugely personal to one member.”
Does the landscape and scenic beauty of Glasgow highly influence the album?
“Maybe not Glasgow but since wilderness is a big theme of the album the Scottish landscape definitely played a part in the imagery we wanted to create.”
Why is it Turning Plates decided to go their own way and not sign on with a label?
“Well it is tough and there was a lot of mming and ahhing about it. We certainly couldn’t have done it ourselves without the support of Creative Scotland who granted us money for the album through their ‘quality production’ scheme. There’s also a special mention to R. John Williams from the American band Faded Paper Figures who gave us a lot of advice about going it alone and helped us feel more comfortable with it.”
What is the concept behind “The Shouting Cave”?
“The Shouting Cave is a concept album that explores the effect of the Internet on Society. It can be argued that the Internet is the purest reflection of humanity, as it is a world built entirely of our own thoughts, emotions and desires – “a sea to float our dreams”, as we describe it in the album track ‘The Human Isle’. We’re trying to encourage people to reflect on the way we interact with the internet and each other through it. The album explores this by portraying the Internet as a new wilderness into which we are born, telling individual stories within the overarching theme.”
Who are your influences?
“Musically, Sigur Ros, Bon Iver, Radiohead, Mogwai, Feist, Balmorhea, Arvo Pärt and Ólafur Arnalds were/are people we listen to in the build up to writing this. Arguably Charlie Brooker’s ‘Black Mirror’ was one of the big things that influenced the thematic material.”
What can we expect from the upcoming album?
“Hopefully something a little bit different and thought provoking! We’ve tried to get that feeling of wilderness and isolation mixed with a little chaos that portrays the online world as we saw it. There’re some very big moments and some very fragile ones and a whole range of instruments from a Trombone Quartet to a Bass Clarinet and even a Dulcimer so the soundscapes should be pretty varied. Above everything else we just hope people find some beauty in it.”
“More epic beauty and textural richness than the vast majority of 2012’s albums”- The Sunday Herald, Top 50 Albums of 2012