EDINBURGH may be home to the world’s largest arts festival but its native music scene has long struggled in the face of closing venues and restrictive noise regulations. In 2015 a study by Edinburgh University found that almost half the musicians surveyed said their gigs had been affected by noise issues, with researchers concluding the rules were a “handbrake” on the city’s music scene.

In recent years, a cadre of musicians and promoters with grit and spark to spare have shown this neither means there’s a dearth of musical creativity, nor a lack of appetite for it.

But while the likes of Neu! Reekie! the cross-arts collective run by Michael Pedersen and Kevin Williamson, Nothing Ever Happens Here, the valiantly programmed live music events at Summerhall and indie labels such as Song, By Toad and Gerry Loves Records have never but impressed, Edinburgh electronica apparently long packed up its synths, cables and contraptions. That two hooded figures purporting to be shadowy local heroes Boards Of Canada once played a massive gig at St John’s Church on Princes Street while city label Benbecula was putting out consistently excellent releases by the likes of Frog Pocket, Reverbaphon and Christ.seems a long time ago.

Loading article content

It is: almost 15 years, with Benbecula sadly closing up shop in 2009.

“For a long time, Edinburgh has seemed very quiet,” says David Miller. “It seemed like there wasn’t a scene at all. But there was. And so we hope that this is just the start of things happening.”

The “this” Miller – a founding member of long-serving dance pioneers FiniTribe – is specifically referring to is Bonnie Tropical 2, the most vital, ear-stretching collection of electronica to come out of Scotland since – well, since its predecessor Bonnie Tropical was released twelve months ago on Paradise Palms, the label recently birthed by the vegetarian eaterie, bar, record shop and venue of the same name.

And Paradise Palms is the “it” in the wider sense too. Sitting in the flat above the idiosyncratic venue, the neon Paradise Palms logos on the kitchen’s windows glowing to Lothian Street below, this team helm no workaday label. Set up by Trystan O’brien and Aaron Main last year, the intention from the start was to encourage musicians as well as showcase them.

“It was a pretty broad idea initially,” says Main. “There were a few niche labels but we wanted to nurture the musicians and DJs that were playing downstairs, give them a bigger platform.”

The National:

As well as helping to foster future collaborative working, allying more established names with emerging talent helps introduce audiences to artists they may have not sought out themselves. So just as Bonnie Tropical 1 included tracks by the likes of Le Thug and Happy Meals alongside newer acts Sweet Dieter and Glamour Muscle, its successor features relative newbies Eyes Of Others, Jacuzzi General, above, and Edinburgh Leisure as well as the more familiar Total Leatherette, Pussy Mothers and the incomparable hausfrau aka Glasgow-based artist and musician Claudia Nova, below (Phorograph: Cj Monk).

The National:

Similar to a radio show sequenced by a canny superfan, a good compilation’s joy is in being taken to unexpected places. When someone else – someone who knows the terrain well – is at the wheel, you can enjoy the view. And from its fluttering Prelude by Aberdeen’s Dead Hand to the exotic exuberance of closer IRN BRU by London’s Not Sorry – the only act here not currently based in Scotland – Bonnie Tropical 2 is a delight that’ll have you flipping the vinyl over and over.

“We’d already narrowed it down to about 20 tracks and batted them about a bit, honed it down to something that maybe had more of a theme or a feel,” says Miller. “The idea was to make it sound like an album in its own right, something you’d listen to all the way through rather than a track here and there.”

“The first one incorporates a lot of different stuff, many different styles and sounds,” agrees Main, before talking about plans for the near future of the label, which has already had a prolific year with releases from Parisian duo Hey Mother Death and M.O.T.O aka Canada-based musician Baz Tembo.

These include launching a singles club with releases planned from Tom Blips and Justin Robertson and working with a local filmmaker on a video for Eyes Of Others’s I See You In The Shrubs, a hypnotic chug set to be remixed by moustachioed master Andrew Weatherall.

For now there’s Bonnie Tropical 2’s launch party on September 16, which will see Total Leatherette, Jacuzzi General, Eyes Of Others (aka John Bryden, below), hausfrau and The Magic City play live at a special late night opening of the Talbot Rice Gallery.The National:

The party will then move a street or so away to the Paradise Palms mothership for DJ sets, including that from Donald Dust, helmsman of the venue’s long-running Other Thumpers night.

“What we want to do in the future is to look at three or four artists and help develop them,” says O’brien. “It’s really about encouraging people, helping these bedroom musicians to have the confidence to step out of that and realise that yes, their music is important and it should be recorded properly and put out there.”

Edinburgh’s electronic music scene wasn’t in the wilderness, it was hidden away in the city’s bedsits and vast, shared flats. Country-wide, the potential may be vast.

“Palms is one of the few places that actively encourages electronic musicians,” says Miller. “There’s not the venues or the producers willing to do that sort of work. And it can be a lot of work. But it does feel like a kind of community and we want that to continue and grow.”

As we chat, the ideas and projects – both mooted and in the offing – continue to flow. Team Palms may have an air of friendly, easy nonchalance, but there’s little complacency here.

“We still haven’t got there in terms of a Scottish balance, it’s mainly people from the central belt,” continues Miller. “That’s part of our ethos, to try and represent as many people from as many areas as possible. We’re still looking.”

The National:

September 16, Playfair Library, Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, 7pm, tickets will be launched via www.facebook.com/edinburghpalms in the coming few days

Bonnie Tropical 2 is out on vinyl on September 25 with a digital release the following week

theparadisepalms.com