LABEL PROFILE Lost Map’s Island Family By Will Ainsley · March 18, 2024

To understand Lost Map Records, you first have to understand the Scottish island of Eigg (/ɛɡ/). Eigg is tiny, just 12 miles square with a population of roughly 110. In 1997, thanks in part to an anonymous donor, the residents of Eigg bought the island and then set about turning it into a creative hub powered almost completely by renewable energy. One of these residents was Johnny Lynch—aka Pictish Trail—who, together with Kate Lazda, started Lost Map out of his caravan on Eigg. He runs “mainland operations” from Edinburgh—Lynch says, “I think the postman on Eigg would hate me if I ran the webshop from Eigg!”

Lost Map grew out of Fence Records, based in Fife on the east coast of Scotland, which folded in 2013. Although Lynch and Lazda continued working with some of the roster they’d built at Fence (Rozi Plain, Seamus Fogarty, Kid Canaveral, Lynch’s Pictish Trail project) they soon started incorporating a range of exciting new artists. Since then, Lost Map Records has become more than a record label, also hosting artist residencies on Eigg, running a podcast, a record club, and organizing a festival.

It’s interesting to note that, like migratory seabirds, Lost Map’s artists often return in one way or another. Whether they release more music, perform at the festival, or feature on the podcast, these repeat collaborations show what a beloved institution it is. These relationships are more than just transactional. During Lost Map’s artist residencies, artists are invited to stay for a week and provided with recording equipment and space. Lost Map then release the music made as part of a project called V I S I T ▲ T I O N S. There have been nine EPs released so far and each is, like Eigg, small but perfectly formed. Highlights include Alliyah Enyo’s thrumming sound carpets of treated vocals, and Free Love’s Joe Meek-esque collection of alien pop ditties.

Sounding enjoyably like a Victorian ailment or a particularly ripe cask ale, Howlin’ Fling is Lost Map’s biannual festival. The inaugural Howlin’ Fling in 2014 featured Steve Mason, Beth Orton, Rozi Plain, and Pictish Trail, and was held on—where else—Eigg. Past festivals have featured such luminaries as KT Tunstall, Jon Hopkins, Sea Power, and Blanck Mass. As well as being a celebration of Lost Map, Howlin’ Fling is also a celebration of the island it calls home, its rolling hills, glowering coastline, and tiny population. Perhaps this is why Lost Map is so special: its people, its place, its art are all bound up with each other, feeding holistically into one another. Lost Map Records is a genuine—to reclaim an overused word—community.


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The music released on Lost Map, at least in the beginning, was often small-scale and domestic, but Monoganon’s second album (and first for Lost Map) is a different beast, with its wide-open grooves and churning guitars. The Scottish quartet (featuring Lost Map alumnus Susan Bear on bass) deal in pain, yes, but also catharsis. For every dour chord change there’s a sunny melody; for every post-rock cut, there’s a chugging, art rock banger.

“Quick Crescent Moon” is one highlight. It’s a Neil Young-esque slice of gothic Americana with muffled drums, bluesy guitar, and country music harmonies. “Best Pals” sounds like what The Modern Lovers might have come up with if they’d listened to more emo and were signed to Postcard Records. F A M I L Y features an eclectic mixture that very much set the tone for the genre-hopping verve of Lost Map’s catalog.

Seamus Fogarty
God Damn You Mountain

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Seamus Fogarty is a Lost Map mainstay. The Irish musician has released a few things for the label, including the gorgeous Ducks and Drakes EP, but the reissue of his seminal debut God Damn You Mountain might just be the highlight.

What God Damn You Mountain does well is blend folk, electronica, and sound art into one seamless whole, where percussion loops sit flush with acoustic guitars, and gauzy synth drones sound as natural as a banjo. Rather than being the focal point of this album, Fogarty’s voice merely punctuates it, often letting the instrumental section roll on then accenting emotional peaks with his powerful alto. The result is something that bristles with life.

Rozi Plain

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Like Fogarty, Rozi Plain is a Lost Map lynchpin, having (so far) released the V I S I T ▲ T I O N S EP, a 7-inch single, a compilation of remixes and live recordings, and Friend, her third album. Released in 2015, Friend encapsulates everything excellent about Plain. These songs are intricate, but never overbearingly so. Indeed, it’s easy to miss the quicksilver guitar lines and strange rhythmic shifts. Despite having since moved to the Memphis Industries label, her work stands as some of the most special in Lost Map’s discography.

On Friend you’ll find understated guitars bouncing off ticking drum machines and twinkling synths. Plain has a clipped delivery that suits the pared-back arrangements perfectly. She doesn’t sound uninterested, just a little spaced out, the words spooling forth like a ticker tape of daydreams. “Jogalong” is one of the highlights, a propulsive Bruce Springsteen track rendered in miniature with a dreamy synth refrain and shyly anthemic vocals. Just excellent.


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On the weirder (though no less wonderful) end of Lost Map’s discography is Japan-born, Bristol-based musician and instrument-maker ICHI. ICHI’s third album Maru is a nine-song joke shop of sonic odds ‘n’ ends that was somehow all recorded onto one four-track tape recorder; fans of Bobby Frank Brown aka “the Universal One Man Orchestra” will find something in Maru to enjoy.

Each track on Maru is a feast for the ears, a barrage of high-definition organic textures that have been lovingly sculpted into an intricate music box. Perhaps Maru is the kind of thing Beefheart would have been making in the 21st century: oblique, perhaps; challenging, a little; but with real heart and soul if you scrape off the dermal layer of weirdness. It’s no wonder ICHI counts David Byrne and Deerhoof as fans.

Bas Jan
Baby U Know

Bas Jan are a London-based quartet composed of Serafina Steer, Emma Smith (who plays in Seamus Fogarty’s band), Rachel Horwood (of Trash Kit, whose singer Rachel Aggs has recorded a V I S I T ▲ T I O N S EP), and Charlie Stock. Infectious, distinctive, and often very funny, their second album, Baby U Know, was one of 2022’s best post-punk albums.

Opener “Progressive Causes” fuses airplane safety voiceover-style vocals with a loose disco rhythm and a bassline you might hear on an ESG record. As well as the twitchy post-punk of tracks like “All Forgotten” and “Vision of Change,” there’s a vein of acid-folk running through “Shopping In A New City” and “’My Incantations, Herbs & Art Have Abandoned Me’” that shows Steer and company pushing their sound towards even more interesting and vital territories. Get 2 know them now.

Pictish Trail
Island Family

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Island Family is the fifth album by Pictish Trail, aka Johnny Lynch, aka Lost Map’s head honcho. The whole thing sounds like something Marc Bolan might have dreamed up if he was given access to a few noise machines and the selected works of Fever Ray, Animal Collective, and The Flaming Lips. Released in 2022, Island Family stands as Pictish Trail’s most fully-realized artistic statement to date.

The best thing about Pictish Trail’s music is how full it sounds. It’s urgent, always in motion, and jam-packed with tactile textures and unpredictable instrument allegiances. The title track trades in drum machines and snarled vocals, distorted synth bass and hammering beats, while “Nuclear Sunflower Swamp” fuses Auto-Tuned vocals and cavernous drums. Although the flesh of Island Family can feel almost chemically mangled, there’s always a skeleton of real songcraft.

Susan Bear

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Susan Bear’s Alter is one of the most perfect bedroom pop albums ever created. This is a bold claim, but Bear’s elegant songs and beautiful (there’s no other word for it) top-line melodies have created an album of simple majesty. Alter is a masterclass in how to pack emotion into small-scale music. In the same way that Nick Drake could create bottomless desolation and almost cosmic introspection with just his voice and a guitar, Bear achieves similar results with few wonky synthesizers; Auto-Tune; hints of piano and guitar; and austere drum machines.

“M6” exists in a fugue of melancholy; the repetition of the line “the world’s been altering and shifting but I’m just stayin’ dead still” is quietly devastating. “Mario Golf 2” combines a slinky groove with some totally addictive melodies—actually, that’s the best word for this album: it’s addictive. There are so many excellent things put out by Lost Map, but Alter has my heart.

Amy May Ellis
Over Ling And Bell

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Lost Map are helping to keep Britain’s proud tradition of folk music alive through albums such as Amy May Ellis’s debut album Over Ling And Bell. The record might initially seem carefree, with bustling, roots-y arrangements and joyous harmonies, but darkness is never far from creeping in; a few tracks possess the bright-eyed malevolence of the Wicker Man soundtrack. (There are lyrics about the supernatural, wildness, and gamboling children.)

Ellis wrote Over Ling And Bell in a “secluded farmhouse,” and it’s easy to hear these environs reflected in the music: it’s sparse and woody, with a certain organic ambience. “RLS” and “Matador” share Susan Bear’s ability to imbue mellifluous singing and gentle grooves with real power. Like Seamus Fogarty, though, Ellis also takes folk down new and weirder paths. “Miner Farmer,” with its electronic percussion loops and singsong vocals, recalls Liverpudlian art rockers Clinic. The future of Lost Map Records is clearly in good hands.

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