Modern Studies’ first record Swell to Great was released by Song, by Toad Records in September 2016.
You can get hold of a copy in independent record shops: Monorail and Love Music in Glasgow, VoxBox and Coda in Edinburgh, Rough Trade East in London, Friendly Records in Bristol, Resident in Brighton, and Drift Records in Totnes.
Tracks from the record have been played throughout 2016 on BBC6 Music by Stuart Maconie, Tom Ravenscroft, Steve Lamacq, Tom Robinson’s ‘Fresh on the Net’, Radcliffe & Maconie and Gideon Coe; on the BBC 6 Music ‘Recommends’ Playlist; and on BBC Radio Scotland by Vic Galloway and Roddy Hart (where Swell to Great was Record of the Week).
It was named the 19th best LP of 2016 by MOJO Magazine, and one of the 12 best LPs of 2016 by The Herald. Modern Studies were placed at #74 in The List Magazine’s ‘Hot 100’ of Scottish cultural figures for 2016.
there is a calmness in its melancholy, a beauty in its blues. These are songs that see the mystical beyond the material, abstracted folk ballads awash in memory
**** MOJO (Sept 2016)
a gorgeous sound which lands somewhere between Belle & Sebastian at their most icily wistful, and Fairport Convention’s autumnal folk-rock
a gorgeous collection of elemental psalms with a wheezing old harmonium at their heart. Quietly musing on memory, nature, shades of blue and bodies of water, Swell to Great is gorgeous, warm and melancholic
an understated joy building into a magical climax of quirky brilliance… we predict it will be a contender for next year’s Scottish Album of the Year Award
this is a treasure trove of songs that embrace, and transcend, place and time
I heard Pete Harvey, Scotland’s go to cellist and arranger, describe his new project as ‘hanging all sorts of things on the keys of an old harmonium.’ Not half, for the Victorian pedals and bellows fairly creak and wheeze to create the atmosphere of a fully-loaded musical ship
their elegant sound, which blurs boundaries with jazz and the smoother end of progressive rock in subtle ways, uses an exquisite palette of bass, drums, cello, xylophone and a harmonium over which Emily Scott’s assured alto provides the soothing finish
an impressionistic mix of sea shanty post-rock and chamber pop. Like Rachel’s with vocals, it’s a gentle delight
the quartet present a rich tapestry of antiquated craft across their beautiful new album… a compelling and graceful meander
listening to the finished record, it’s clear that this is something that’s been brought to life with a great deal of care and attention. It welcomes you to sit a while and take it in, which is an invitation well worth taking up.
the band’s DIY, folk aesthetic is embodied in the interplay between narrative and poetic fragments, carried along by the intricate tributaries of its string and vocal melodies, which eventually soar out into oceans of sound: crashing drums, aching harmonium – Modern Studies can only be destined for more greatness.
a subtle and haunting record with a distinct understated sound, quiet experimental soundscapes with potent and obscure lyrics. Swell to Great is definitely a stand out release on the Song, by Toad label. The band is touring throughout 2016 and listeners should not miss the opportunity to witness the record performed live. If even a fraction of the magic of the record is reproduced on stage, then the shows will be unique and noteworthy experiences.
in the hands of a lesser band, the combination of double bass, cello, and a Victorian harmonium might seem excessive. With Modern Studies, each note is a study in graceful elegance, and the result is nothing short of perfect.
a song that seems written as a soundtrack to the various conjugations of to begin. Begin, began, will begin, beginning. The piano spells out a future and then the handclaps make it present; we follow, dawning, along Emily Scott’s pronouncements. Lines about horses and their tumbling riders, death and love, or falling suitors. The “sun’s a pale bystander” and it’s a “one-leap-wide meander”, the rhymes like handmade coins or tokens, pieces to leave upon the train-rails.