Shooglenifty is one of Scotland’s most unique exports. This six-piece band is credited for being the originators of ‘acid-croft,’ a fiery and infectious blend of Celtic traditional music and dance grooves that band members describe as “hypno-folkadelic ambient trad.” While their mainly instrumental sound is difficult to put into words audiences from around the world have fallen under their musical spell.
Many people think the name Shooglenifty has deep Scottish meaning but it was in fact a flash of inspiration that guitarist Malcolm Crosbie had in a Madrid tapas bar during one of the band’s early busking periods. Shoogle is a Scottish word for shake agitate move around and ‘nifty’ means dextrous.
Shooglenifty released their first album Venus in Tweeds in 1994. Since then the band has gone from strength to strength breaking down musical boundaries between the mainstream and folk music.
The band’s past recording credits include three highly acclaimed albums including a live record released on Peter Gabriel’s Real World label. They have also been joined onstage by Prime Minister Tony Blair who was seen in a photo in papers around the world holding up the Shoogles studio release A Whisky Kiss and delightedly proclaiming “Buy this CD!” They’ve performed in front of the Prince of Wales who was seen clapping along to their infectious beat alongside Robin Cook and Nelson Mandela. The band also appeared at The Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle, USA in 1997, as part of a line up that included Cornershop and Beck.
Solar Shears was Shooglenifty’s first U.S. release (Compass Records). Featured on the album are Angus Grant on fiddle” Garry Finlayson on banjo Conrad Ivitsky on bass Iain McCleod on mandolin, James MackIntosh on drums/percussion and Malcolm Crosbie on guitar. On Solar Shears” the band makes liberal use of distortion pedals and effects boxes in addition to pillaging DJ’s techniques working in all types of looped beats scratching, electro-atmospherics and sampled ‘discovered sounds’ from industrial clanks and rumbles to snatches of telephone conversation and recorded pelican-crossing announcements.
Bassist Conrad Ivitsky describes the recording process for Solar Shears. “The album was produced by Jim Sutherland” like our last two albums in his studio above Edinburgh’s Bongo Club which is great because that’s where we rehearse and do occasional gigs. Jim is a total audio pervert: if he can fry a sound he will. He goes through every single plug processor and file available and spends hours trying different permutations. You’ve got those thousands of dollars worth of equipment but Jim is very into unorthodox approaches to get whatever sound he is looking for.
He has a whole array of toys and he tends to play with all of them. His favorite things at the moment are a small Tandy mike worth very little and a little cheap plastic red speaker. On the track Igor he recorded all the drums through it and then used various compressors processors and equalizers to get a fat juicy sound.
As far as the recording process itself we came in with our live arrangements and Jim ripped them apart. They get multi-tracked then deconstructed and shredded down. The album is typical of Sutherland touches notably lots of sampled ‘found sounds’ such as The Shipol Airport and Berne Railway Station which are dropped into the mix.”
The Arms Dealer’s Daughter was released in 2003. The CD Radical Mestizo was recorded live at the band’s concerts at the Teatro de la Ciudad de Mexico and Celtic Connections in Glasgow.
Shooglenifty’s sixth studio album is Troots released in 26. Recorded between tours of Australia Europe and the US the new album features several new unique compositions plus the extraordinary vocals of North American Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq Gillis.In 2007 the band included Tasmania’s Luke Plumb (mandolin/banjo) and bassist Quee Macarthur alongside original members Angus Grant (fiddle) Garry Finlayson (banjo/banjax) Malcolm Crosbie (guitars) and James Mackintosh (percussion).
The Untied Knot was released in July 2015 on Shoogle Records. The recording features Gaelic vocalist Kaela Rowan and new mandolinist Ewan MacPherson along with connections with the music of Rajasthan (India).
Angus R Grant, one of the founders of Shooglenifty died in 2016. He was 49.
Venus in Tweeds (Greentrax, 1994)
A Whisky Kiss (Greentrax, 1996)
Live at Selwyn Hall (WOMAD, 1996)
Solar Shears (Compass Records, 2001)
The Arms Dealer’s Daughter (Compass Records, 2003)
Radical Mestizo (Compass Records, 2005)
Troots (Shoogle, 2007)
Murmichan (Shoogle, 2009)
The Untied Knot (Shoogle, 2015)
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel is also co-founder of the Transglobal World Music Chart.
Angel has also produced and remastered world music studio albums and compilations for labels such as Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, and Music of the World.