Named after a particularly scenic spot on the River Findhorn, Randolph’s Leap started life over a decade ago as a vehicle for the solo songwriting of Adam Ross. Now expanded to an eight-strong collective, the Glasgow-based project have gone on to release a host of albums, live recordings and singles across labels like Lost Map, Fence Collective and Olive Grove Recordings. Adam has, like many of us, spent 2020 largely indoors and at home, releasing around 40 home-recorded songs via Bandcamp and Patreon as a creative response to Covid-19 restrictions, as well as sharing an album of country-pop music under the pseudonym A.R. Pinewood. Despite having plenty to keep him busy, he’s also found time to record a brand-new Randolph’s Leap album, Spirit Level, which will arrive in February on the band’s new home, Fika Recordings. The band recently shared the first single from that record, Up In Smoke, the accompanying video for which we’re premiering here today.
Discussing the track, Adam is quick to acknowledge it predates this year’s events, despite it’s oddly prescient, and delightfully danceable, repeated refrain, “it all went up in smoke”. As he explains, “the song was written over a year ago and was inspired by small, personal failures but the sentiment has become weirdly relevant and anthemic in 2020. Pete’s flat where we recorded the album burned down, for one thing, but there’s also the universal feeling of plans and aspirations going completely up in smoke this year”.
Musically, the track is probably the most obviously collective affair that Randolph’s Leap have shared to date, with a wonderful abundance of instruments and clattering noise. The whole thing has a slight runaway train feel, like a snowball of small moments building into a full blown avalanche. While that might sound destructive, there’s an almost joyous feeling to it as well, a cathartic blast of everything falling to pieces and providing the blank canvas on which to rebuild. That feeling is particularly evident in the sparkling outro, where a cornucopia of horns, twitching electronics and the grounding presence of the drum rhythms seem to propel the song, kicking and screaming off into the distance.
The accompanying video is equally liberating, as Adam dances around a ruggedly beautiful piece of the Scottish coastline, at times looking in some danger of being washed away, although thankfully managing to stay largely on dry land. A spirited return, this feels like a big step up for Randolph’s Leap, and one that suggests Spirit Level might just be one of 2021’s first great albums.