Scotland Uncovered #1: Salad Culture

Scotland Uncovered #1: Salad Culture

It’d be an absolute groaner to say something like “inspiration comes from the strangest places!” and to be surprised that music like Salad Culture’s could possibly come from the fishing town of Inverbervie in Aberdeenshire in the age of the internet and the death of the geographic “scene”.

So, let’s start as we mean to go on, and in a style befitting Owen McAllister’s heady mix of Warp-influenced post-dubstep, happy hardcore and funk – cliché free and celebratory.

“Vic Galloway said it was ‘cute but horny’, so jot that down”.

Debut effort “Gone Fishin“ is a joyous, bubbling snippet of McAllister’s potential as a solo artist (Owen was one half of the wonderful Chuchoter, an Edinburgh-based electro-pop duo), mixing trappy, Dirty South hi-hats and rollercoaster-stomach synth bass with a middle-eight that sounds akin to tumbling down an argon, PS1 graphic wormhole. Carrying on a lineage in Scottish music that unironically embraces happy hardcore within more contemporary sonic pastures, it’s a tantalising taste of what’s to come, and it arrives at a personal apex, as Owen has come to find a sound that’s home. “What I’m always trying to chase is music that sounds like itself. It’s a phrase I always come back to. I struggled to build a sense of identity and making music that sounds like itself means making music that sounds like me.”

McAllister mines from the feelings evoked by Trotskyist choral folk music (well, why not) as well as Chicago drill that “you could tell was made in a bedroom”, early-2000s R&B samples (“I love drums. I love drumming and drummers. A lot of what I do is chase that infectious drumming energy”), UKG, Grime and “massive bass energy… it’s a social need materialised as a technical decision. Stuff that’s specifically mixed with the intention of a club night and a massive system, where people will go like “oh fuck! My guts!”.

However, with Scotland acting much like the wee Midwestern town in Footloose, there is a ban on music in public venues because of the global health pandemic. We’ve had to change our ideas about music in terms of context without the gigs and the clubs, and perhaps a genre that suffers most from a perceived notion of context-dependent enjoyment is dance music. Maybe, if anything, this landscape is an opportunity.

“As much as there is this social assumption about it, people still want to love dance music. I was recently involved in this Almost Ghosts showcase on a Saturday night, and we were all sitting on the group chat and on Twitch; people were doing 45-minute DJ sets in their bedrooms with lights they’d set up and visuals they’d made themselves. It’s taught me that it’s still there, people absolutely adore it and will still do that at home. I have classic dance records I listen to on the bus.”

There’s also a key visual component to Salad Culture; McAllister has learned about animation during the lockdown. “I love to study… I wanted to do something that didn’t come instinctively, something hard that I didn’t naturally fall into. I spent ages learning to articulate an idea and stick with it.”

With “Gone Fishin’’ netting airplay on BBC Radio Scotland and a well-received remix of Livingston post-punks Gravelle’s ‘Disappear’ already out, our aching Hell World is surely ready for more greens.

[Euan Davidson]

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