Hamish Hawk – Heavy Elevator: Album Review

Hamish Hawk releases an incredible new album, that marks the emergence of a supremely gifted musician, singer and writer.

Release date: 17th September 2021

Label: Assai Recordings 

Format: CD / Vinyl / Dinked Edition Vinyl / Digital

Edinburgh musician Hamish Hawk has produced, with his album Heavy Elevator, an incredible suite of songs and performances, that seem to evoke a courageous post-alternative musical journey, to connect memories, emotions, place, and cultural reference points. It makes for a deeper level of engagement with the music and words, and signposts a new and significant artist.

On the album, Hamish has written with Andrew Pearson (guitars) and Stefan Maurice (keyboards and drums), who form the core of his excellent band, which also includes  Alex Duthie (bass) and John Cashman (keyboards). 

Vivian Comma opens the album, with a subtle electronica backing, that evokes Nico’s expressionist, harmonium and voice, musical sketches. The gently floating keyboards, guitar, and electronics provide a dream-like prism, through which Hamish’s wanderlust vocal, traverses seasons, art, and an indefinable sense of longing. The musical bar for the rest of the album is set high.

The Mauritian Badminton Doubles Champion, 1973, is the signature song on the album, imbued as it is with conceptual innovation and invention. Inspired by a visit to St Paul’s Cathedral, and admiration for the imagination of Christopher Wren, in designing and seeing it completed, in his lifetime. The song is wonderfully resonant of both The Smiths and The Cure, with a driven chiming guitar figure, and pulsating rhythm, courtesy of Andrew Pearson’s sterling guitar work, and Stefan Maurice’s sympathetic drumming. Lyrically, an upright piano “in a Glaswegian chapel or a Parisian library” is juxtaposed with swimming pools, cemeteries, and the persona of Christopher Wren, as Hamish reflects on life’s aspirations, artistic endeavour, family and loss. His voice takes on a moving empathic timbre, that conveys in the most irresistible of ways, a sense of both seeking and wonderment. The song is an extraordinary artistic achievement.

Caterpillar is Hamish’s post-punk masterpiece, where Magazine’s progressive punk fabulously meets the spiky angularity of the Delta 5.  The song has a very edgy energy, with Hamish’s call and response vocal, curling around the music.  The sense of latent menace is brought out in the syncopated rhythm of the lyrics:  

“Impatience on a postcard/ All the parts of me that snarl and smirk/ easily find work on Mean Street” 

Calls To Tiree plays out to a musical soundtrack, of clipped guitar riffs and a very soulful Hammond organ, broken down by a distorted guitar solo, in the final instrumental coda. Hamish’s voice is at its most expressive, lamenting a world of disappointment closing in, with a call upon John Lennon and Edith Piaf, to help articulate the stark imagery.

New Rhododendrons closes the album, in the form of a heart-rendering ballad. Post-rock provides the soaring musical accompaniment, as the song rises and falls with the emotions described and felt. The lyrical couplet, “Can’t quite stand the sight/of Edinburgh Castle/Can’t quite finish a beer”, compellingly conveys a railing desperation. 

This is an album that quite rightly demands your attention to all its facets: the musical arrangements, the imagery and intriguing connections in the lyrics, and of course Hamish’s voice, with its sublime musicality, poetic tone, and pitch-perfect timing. There are so many other highlights and layers to this album. Seek it out, listen, and be prepared for the lyrical and musical excellence that is Hamish Hawk.

Watch the video for Caterpillar (Live for The Great Escape) here: 

Hamish is also playing a series of gigs across the UK in October and November, more details can be found online here.

Hamish Hawk:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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