The Burns Unit - Scottish/Canadian supergroup - debut album Side Show

8 Piece Scottish/Canadian supergroup, The Burns Unit to release debut album Side Show

The Burns Unit

The Burns Unit are an 8-piece Scottish-Canadian "supergroup" whose multi-faceted sound can be described as "indie pop meets carnival rock." Their debut album Side Show will be released on Proper Records on 23 August 2010.

The Burns Unit - Side Show

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The Burns Unit features: award-winning folk singer Karine Polwart; alt-folk royalty King Creosote and indie queen Emma Pollock plus Indo-Caledonian pop artist Future Pilot AKA; elegant multi-instrumentalist Kim Edgar; drummer/producer Mattie Foulds; energetic piano-man Michael Johnston (both from Canada) and virtuosic rapper MC Soom T.

Their debut CD, Side Show, released by The Burns Unit through Proper Music Distribution was produced by the band's drummer Mattie Foulds, was mixed with Paul Savage (Franz Ferdinand) and mastered by Jon Astley (Tears For Fears, The Who, Norah Jones).

They will play a handful of dates in support of their new CD as follows:

Sat July 31/Sun Aug 1 Cambridge Folk Festival

Wed August 4 2010 Glasgow ABC

Mon August 9 2010 Edinburgh Queen's Hall

Side Show is an exhilarating album, both theatrical and intimate. Featuring no less than six lead vocalists, it is nevertheless a cohesive and emotionally resonant recording. Incorporating elements of cabaret, dub, synth-pop, folk and underground rock, the ten songs on Side Show are anthemic and organic.

"We may be the world's first accidental big band," says Johnston. The Burns Unit formed out of a one-week songwriting retreat - called "Burnsong" - held in rural Scotland in December 2006. Each musician arrived with virtually no connections to or knowledge of one another.

"Together, we're such a mish-mash of personalities and styles", says Johnston, "We had no right to have gotten along as well as we did, let alone form a band and make an album! We often joke that we're the band nobody asked to be a member of."

With each of the ten songs co-written by at least 2 members of the band, the collaborative sound on Side Show is furthered by interweaving vocal parts like Kim Edgar and Karine Polwart's mesmerizing chant on "Send Them Kids To War" underscoring Soom T's urgent politically-charged lyrics.

There are several duets, including the spellbinding opening track "Since We've Fallen Out", featuring King Creosote and Polwart and "You Need Me To Need This" delivered by Emma Pollock and Michael Johnston. The unique and bold sound of Side Show includes retro synths, accordion, shruti box and tamboura alongside guitars, piano, drums and bass.

Lyrically, some songs draw upon members' shared experiences, including alcohol on "Sorrys" and parenthood "Helpless To Turn". Others look outward, tackling politics on "What Is Life?", nature On "Majesty of Decay" and murder on "Blood, Ice and Ashes".

Many of these songs were previewed at The Burns Unit's only two shows to date. The first was the band's official debut at the 2009 Celtic Connections Festival to a sold-out crowd of 1200 at ABC 1 in downtown Glasgow. The second was an appearance at Fence Records' annual celebration, Homegame in April 2009, where, in addition to their full-band set, members of the Burns Unit recorded a session for BBC, and sat in with KT Tunstall for her surprise acoustic set.


Karine Polwart (vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion, shruti box)

Twice winner of "Best Original Song" at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Karine Polwart has released four acclaimed solo albums, 'This Earthly Spell', 'Scribbled In Chalk', 'The Fairest Floo'er' and 'Faultlines'. Karine has appeared as a live guest with both the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and dub-reggae legends Sly and Robbie.

Emma Pollock (vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, piano)

Mercury-prize-nominee and founding member of Scottish indie quartet The Delgados (who released eight albums between 1996 - 2006), Emma Pollock's 2007 debut, 'Watch The Fireworks', was released on 4AD worldwide. Emma released her 2010 recording, "The Law of Large Numbers", through Chemikal Underground, a label she runs with her ex-Delgados bandmates.

Future Pilot AKA (bass, atmospherics)

Future Pilot AKA is the nom de plume of Sushil Dade - an Indo-Scottish musical legend. Sushil was a member of The Soup Dragons, BMX Bandits and Telstar Ponies before releasing four albums under the name Future Pilot AKA. These recordings feature collaborations with Philip Glass, Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Stuart Murdoch (Belle & Sebastian) and Teenage Fanclub.

Kim Edgar (vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, piano, accordion, organ)

Kim Edgar's debut album, 'butterflies and broken glass' (produced by Mattie Foulds) was released in 2008. It was named Album Of The Week on BBC Radio Scotland, and received a five-star review in Scotland On Sunday. Kim also accompanies several Scottish songwriters, including Karine Polwart and Dean Owens.

King Creosote (vocals, acoustic guitar, accordion, keyboards)

Kenny Anderson (aka King Creosote) has released over 40 recordings, primarily through his own label, Fence. Celebrity fans include Elton John and author Ian Rankin (who contributed liner notes to his 2005 Warner debut, 'KC Rules OK'). He has toured the UK supporting Squeeze and former bandmate (from the Skuobhie Dubh Orchestra) KT Tunstall. His 2009 release, 'Flick the Vs.' was released on Domino Records.

Exclusive: King Creosote interview

Mattie Foulds (drums, percussion)

Born and raised in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, Mattie has recorded and performed with Canadian legends Gordie Sampson (with whom he formed his first band as a teenager), Natalie MacMaster, and Ashley McIsaac. Since relocating to Scotland in 2003, Mattie has been active as a producer, working with his wife Karine Polwart, and establishing his new portable recording studio, Mobile With A Home.

MC Soom T (vocals)

MC Soom T has written hundreds of politically charged reggae/dub/punk/hiphop songs showcasing a highly developed rhythmic, percussive and virtuosic vocal style. She has collaborated with an eclectic array of acts such as The Orb, The Bug, Senser and ADF. Her latest project includes a release with leading DLR label 'Jahtari'.

Michael Johnston (vocals, piano, accordion, synth, percussion)

Canadian singer-songwriter/pianist/producer Michael Johnston combines infectious and inclusive on and off-stage enthusiasm with personal storytelling and timeless melodies. Currently based in Toronto, Ontario, Johnston has toured and recorded with legendary Canadian group Skydiggers since 2006. Michael co-wrote and produced the late Taylor Mitchell's release, 'For Your Consideration' which has received international recognition and praise since her untimely passing in October 2009.

"...rarely will you witness eight musicians so evidently delighted to be sharing a stage...they drew boldly but sure-handedly on influences as diverse as 1980s electro-pop, barrelhouse blues, bhangra rap, Weimar cabaret and brash guitar rock. The six singers in the line-up provided for seemingly infinite variety in the swapping about of lead and harmony roles, with nearly as much switching between instrumentation that included piano, electric and acoustic guitars, synth, accordion and melodica. Yet while every number sounded entirely different from the last, there was nothing remotely scattershot or sprawling about the set: not only had the band clearly put in plenty of rehearsal time, but they were just as palpably united in, and inspired by, their shared creative purpose. Now roll on that album. . . ." - Highlands and Islands Arts Journal

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