Following 2018’s Experience Essential, Kevin P. Gilday and Ralph Hector have honed their craft to create a fully realised and articulated vision of what they’re about: an unpretentious look at the world around them put to poetry.
A Sensitive Man – the album’s lead single – is a sublime combination of Gilday’s rhyming couplets and sagacious insights over the forceful Krautrock of Hector’s perfectly balanced guitars and driving beat. It’s the album in miniature, a litmus test for how you’re likely to feel about the other nine tracks.
It’d be criminally negligent not to mention Arab Strap in a review of Pure Concrete. The album’s opener Unclosed Basket is, at a surface level, prime Moffat/Middleton material – distorted spoken word in a thick Glasgow timbre over a Casio beat and ominous synths is unapologetically arabstrapesque. Where the bands diverge is the song’s progression into a distinctly Glaswegian cyberpunk cacophony. Often KPG&TGC’s differentiating trait is the ambition of their arrangements; from post-punk guitars to minimalist electroacoustic soundscapes via vintage 80s synths make pigeonholing their sound, from a musical perspective, a fool’s errand.
Lyrically the album invites the daws to peck at. Gilday is unflinchingly, and, at times, uncomfortably, honest in his prose – which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with his work on the poetry and spoken word circuit. His word choice and poet’s cadence imbibe new significance when paired with Hector’s earnest compositions. It’s the sound of a thousand thoughts over records remembered from a nostalgic adolescence; an homage to the musicians and poets who shaped the journey leading to Pure Concrete’s release. Gilday pulls this off with a wit and crude eloquence that prevents the album from being overtly dour.
Occasionally the album does dip into the slightly overwrought. Sex vs Death’s repeated refrain of “fucking under the Kingston Bridge won’t make you any less depressed” follows five minutes of thirsty vocals and unobtrusive instrumentation that ultimately doesn’t add much to the album experience. Elsewhere, the stilted pronunciation of “Scotland” in the chorus of The Sickest Man in Scotland – which has a “Scottish actor who has lived in Hollywood for twenty years suddenly has to do an interview on STV” inflection – is entirely out of place next to the glottal verses.
Pure Concrete soars when Gilday and Hector channel their diverse influences, let loose on the production and simply make beautiful noise. Content Creator, with its 21st century New Romantic synths and reverb-laden drums, is the perfect encapsulation of Hector’s expansive production and showcases Gilday’s powerful voice with neither overshadowing the other. Similarly, Ashes’ bleak saw synths and subtle, mechanical percussion carry Gilday’s resonant vocals through Twin Peaks via a dank Glasgow alley.
Pure Concrete is Glasgow in a nutshell; diverse, boozy, unshrinking, occasionally crude, and often hilarious.