Sunday, 27 November 2011

A Ghost EP

This week I recorded an EP. I wrote and recorded a song a day. I used pretty lo-fi equipment: everything was recorded on a Samson C01U usb mic, and then things were tweaked, spliced and reversed in Reaper. But mostly what you hear was recorded in one take, then layered, reverbed and panned.

I decided to leave in some mistakes etc. Partly because this was such a time-constrained project, and partly because I wanted them there. This EP is a lot about unease and I want the listener to feel uneasy. So it's not exactly the prettiest production. But it's not meant to be.


This was a lot of fun to do. Also I managed to get a lot of things into these songs that I've been thinking about for a while and I don't think I could have done with a more considered, precise recording process. Although that process is good for other things.

I'll upload this to Bandcamp as well in a bit.

Here are some lyrics (for the songs which have lyrics):

1. A Ghost


2. The City Rain

3. A Ghost To Sleep

Save a space for me
While I lay a ghost to sleep

4. The Kitchen Floor

Over time my roots grew thorns around my foot
Strangling my steps, and promises.

Sleeping off the booze, I dream of rocket boots
On the kitchen floor.

Ghost, don't come no more.

5. A Ghost In Me

6. The Ghosts I Know

Three small boys are stood on the corner,
My old man has a different face,
My mother talks to her lost daughter,
Hands held, waits for the light to change,

And I wait, wait, wait
Forever and a day

(For ghosts I know)

Three schoolboys are stood on the corner,
My old man has a wrinkled face.
My mother sobs for her lost daughter,
Hands held, waits for the light to change.

I hope you like this EP. Please download it and listen to it, it's free. Because of the way it's been recorded and mixed, it will sound best on headphones or stereo speakers. Then you'll also be able to appreciate the panning. It won't sound that good on your laptop.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

All The Lovers

I wrote and recorded this song today in about 6 hours. It's a bit scrappy, and the lyrics are potentially a bit cringey, but I got everything I wanted out of it, which was mainly just to experiment with some new sounds and vocal techniques. Anyway, here it is. Consider this one from the sketchbook.


Hmmm. Maybe do another one tomorrow.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

And so, we start again.

Making a new record. Demos started. Also going on tour. Info to follow.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Stable #3 (Tiny Frog)

More adventures in lo-fi from your favourite stable-dweller. This time I was suffering from a particularly bad hangover after a night out in Lancaster. Beautiful town.

Also, I saw this frog earlier when I went for a walk. Can anybody tell me why this frog is so small? Why is this frog so small? I put a 2p coin next to it for scale. Have you ever seen such a small frog? When I noticed it, it was doing breaststroke across a puddle. Seriously, click on the photo to enlarge it, and then check this frog out. He is tiny.

Why is this frog so small? I want to know. Email me.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Thursday, 28 July 2011

⁄Stable #1 - Moped Fall

I fell off my moped, and it sparked an interest in the possibilities of lo-fi digital recording, loops and reversals. If only all epiphanies could be so badass.

I'm interested in using sound that isn't cleaned up too much, in which the method of recording (cheap usb microphone) is clearly audible, and colours the sound. Best listened on headphones. There will be more abstract pieces.

Monday, 11 July 2011

The Promenade at The Water Rats, King's Cross, 6th July 2011

The Promenade played a really cool set in King's Cross, this time unhindered by technical difficulties! The venue was pretty nice too. There was a woman playing called Kristeen Young, who had a kind of melodramatic, vaguely Broadway, piano-rock synth thing going on, and an incredible range in her voice. While she seemed to divide opinions among the punters out front, especially the ones who had gone so far out front they were literally outside, I thought she was pretty cool, and so, apparently, do Tony Visconti, her producer, and Morrissey, who's taking her on tour. I spoke to her afterwards and picked up one of her EPs, and she said that there are plans for a full band at some point, which would sound great with some of the cool chord changes she's got going on. All her stuff is really well constructed, I recommend it.

I have a soft spot for her kind of avant-garde or highly self-conscious performance, it's interesting to watch a performer so clearly performing, as a lot of the bands you see on the unknown circuit shamble apologetically through some onstage banter and say hello to their friends in the audience (audiences on this circuit are usually exclusively composed of friends of the bands), before looking at the necks of their guitars for the duration of their songs, apart from the singer who will unfailingly over-pronunciate his terrible lyrics, give the audience knowing looks as they realise how brilliant he is, and generally look really proud of himself after every song. And the songs are all crappy, sub-blues, sub-everything knockoffs.

That's one type of band you see a lot anyway, in the back rooms of pubs, and especially with younger guys, but older guys do it as well. I always feel like saying to them, have you not listened to any music recently? Do you not realise you're doing a half-arsed rehash of everything that's come before? But they enjoy it, I suppose. It just seems a bit weird to have all these venues full of amateur bands who are mostly playing to themselves and the couple of friends they manage to drag along, who are there for their friends rather than the music. That's fine, and they and their friends enjoy it, but I often find myself wishing that people would stop just playing in these lazy bands because they want a hobby, and start writing honest songs about their own lives that people might actually want to listen to, or feel that they can get something out of. But very few people are good at that, or even have the intelligence to try to get good at it. So what we have are a load of crap bands populated by people who shouldn't really play in bands because they're not really any good at it, but they like to do it as a hobby. I feel it shouldn't really be a hobby. You should either do it with your heart in it, or don't do it.

In other news, I went out for my brother's birthday last night. The 500 capacity club was completely empty, apart from about 20 people, but we made some friends in the smoking area:

Monday, 4 July 2011

Nausicaa's Leaving Party, June 23rd 2011

[Thanks for the photo Helen Mackreath]

Kiss My Brass at The Pioneer, Feb 12th 2011 [Video]

Benji put this together out of gig footage along with one of our old recordings - "Free Your Radio". I wish we'd known more about recording techniques and harmony back then, but it's all a process... The chants of "KMB" at the end make me kind of nostalgic, but there are only so many times you can pull off a reunion before it starts corroding what was good about the band in the first place - being young, being unschooled, being together.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Train Journey from Cambridge to Norwich Feb 3rd 2011

[On my way to play a show. Copied out from a notebook.]

Black, black soil of the Fens. Ely where I once took my girlfriend to look at the cathedral. Pretty canal boats on the river. Endless flatness. Electricity pylons fading into ghostly distance for a hundred miles in a long straight string. Ditches gleaming with steely water, reflecting the blue-grey, endless wash of sky, punctuated by small black clouds kissed pink by the first setting rays of sun. Screens of trees in tall neat rows. Tractors and farm machines. Dead trees and reeds fluffy with seed-heads. Banks and channels, and stillness and sometimes black birds. But all grey, scrubbed green, ochre or the colour of dead wood. Sometimes black wetland birds in ragged ticker-tape formations. Train scrapes, rattles and creaks. Electrical buzz and squeak of plastic, and rubber and metal. Now telegraph posts serve a little farm. There are thick bushes now and trees obscuring the horizon. The horizon shows a slow and gentle hill. Three metal sheds painted blue and weathered. Next stop Brandon. Derelict buildings, old station-house of brick and flint with boarded windows. Old man gets off, stoops. Behind a fence, a digger shifts aggregate in a yard. Three jets fly overhead in formation. Squat houses back onto the tracks. Sheds, pipes, huge warehouses and apparatus, and the encroaching weeds finding the gaps in concrete. Doors sing and slide shut, there is silence, but for the beat of music piped through headphones somewhere in the carriage. Now moving onward, and a forest of dark conifers. Dark and low, trees clustered tight. And now taller trees, on both sides, dark and tall, and the train running through clearings. Now a farm and some fields fenced with rope, now more trees. It is colder in the train. Car headlights flash through forest gaps. A road runs along a ridge. We break out into fields before plunging back into the forest, and cars go back and forth along a ridge on a low hill. Lights on in estate windows. This is Thetford. Next stop Thetford. Allotments and, beyond, ugly squat towerblocks of offices. A scarecrow stands stupidly and watches the train leave. Another reclines in a wooden chair, hat over his face of sackcloth. Some kids play in a field with a climbing frame among rows of grey and red brick houses. Thetford passes quickly and the conductor comes round again to check tickets. Now the landscape rolls with hills again, darkened by forest. A field of pig pens, with a few pale pigs outdoors. More blocks of dark forest. Fields of chocolate earth lined by the plow. The train groans and whines. It strains to speed up. Clouds of flickering black birds alight from distant trees. The forest closes back around the windows. Sometimes we break out into fields left fallow, or ploughed, or home to muddy pigs. It is getting darker. Then the forest ends. Cows stand in a circle round a feeding trough with their backsides stuck out. On the crest of a hill, tractor floodlights shine like a low evening star. Pigs and sometimes houses. Murky patches of deciduous forest, some logged and stripped, pale limbs piled in corkscrew stacks. Texts to reply to from my brother and Sam Killin. Stop at Attleborough. Farm machinery and a green for playing bowls. Sky is deep grey-blue, electric lights gleam through the coming gloom. Two more stops, Wymondham and Norwich, to see Ollie, Ollie, Will and play a show. Good to be moving. Good to be out of Cambridge for a while. Even ten miles out, I could feel the weight lifting. Almost dark now. Rows of houses are clusters of light. This is Wymondham. Nest stop Wymondham. Refreshment room and restaurant. David Turner Pianos (Tuning, Servicing, Repairs) and orange platform lights. This is the half-light, all the lamps point down, and cast triangle glows against the sides of metal warehouses. Above, the sky is solid, cloudless blue, darkening to indigo. A phone mast shows two red lights for low-flying planes. The scenery now is all black, with cars streaks of light, and my reflection getting clearer in the window. Trees are silhouettes. I roll down my sleeves, put my long coat on again. My blurry reflection looks back at me from behind the sharp, upturned collar. Houses are chimneys and lit windows. I get my holdall down from the luggage rack, and put it next to my guitar, resting on the seat next to me. Tall buildings lit like Christmas trees begin to punctuate the sky. Ladies and gentlemen, we will shortly be arriving in Norwich. Norwich is your next and final station stop. Thank you.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

The Square Project at UEA, June 14th 2011

So I boarded my train at Cambridge station and returned to Norwich, to the University of East Anglia, to play at an outdoor concert to celebrate summer and the end of exams. It was a hot day and as I waited to change trains at Ely there was a thick shimmer of heat-haze along the tracks both ways. I was worried that I might be late to start, as I'd missed the fast train, but I got to Norwich in time and I was greeted with a sizeable crowd:

The gig itself took place at the bottom of an amphitheatre-style arrangement of steps, known as the square. Hence the square project. The gig itself went pretty well. It's nice to play on a summer day to an audience who are happy to just sit and listen in the sunshine. Also, one guy got very excited about my cover of 'Girl Of The North Country', and when I saw him again later that day, after we'd both had a few beers, he spent about half an hour trying to play it to me, whilst wearing school uniform.

Here's a picture of Blance Ellis playing:

She was really good! Here's a demo recording of hers:

As well as music, there was a giant inflatable assault course, which I went on with Howlin' Wolffe, Tim Salmon and Matt -- needless to say, four grown men attempting a kids' inflatable assault course in competition with one another is a brutal spectacle, and everyone got horribly injured. So injured that they deflated the course after we'd run it, just because they couldn't bear to watch a second display of such violence:

After licking our wounds, and watching Blanche Ellis' last song, and building this engineering masterpiece:

We decided it was time to stock up on more Biere Specialé (that's 'Special Beer' au Francais) and some disposable barbecues to smoke some meat down in the UEA parkland, behind which the campus rises like some kind of science-fiction cityscape:

Sometime later, we went back up to the Square which was now full of people dressed in school uniform for the 'School Disco' themed evening. School disco nights have made a killing ever since wily promoters realised that you could sexualise nostalgia and combine two of the strongest human impulses to help you sell Vodka Kick. Anyway it seemed quite good. We sat outside drinking Biere Specialé until the bouncers left about 1am and we could get in for free. The lights were on, and the floor was so sticky that the maximum walking speed was 2.3 mph (I quickly worked this out on a napkin). But still, we had a wonderful time, and all went our separate ways to various beds.

The next day, all of the students and school-discoers woke up in their various beds in their various parts of Norwich with various degrees of hangover. At Howlin' Wolffe's house, we spent the afternoon in the sitting room watching David Attenborough documentaries. Then, of course, we had another barbecue.

I don't think I ate a single thing in Norwich that wasn't cooked on some kind of open coal fire. That can only ever be a good thing. Later on I bade my fond farewells to the boys and headed back to Cambridge. I have had some really good music-related times in Norwich, and it's a shame to think that I will probably never go back to play at UEA, because most people I know there are about to graduate. I got the train back to Cambridge. When I got back I went straight to a party, and almost fell asleep, but the hostess demanded I drank a pint of Pepsi to keep myself awake. She even went to the lengths of pouring away my glass of water. It worked, and I danced all night to various indie classics in a bedroom with a suspiciously wobbly floor, constantly in fear of my life being swiftly extinguished halfway through a Libertines song, as the entire room went crashing through the floorboards.

Also, at one point, this happened:


Saturday, 11 June 2011

The Promenade at The Hoxton Pony, June 9th 2011

The Promenade is a band featuring my brother, Will, and two good friends from growing up in St. Albans, Jack Ridley and Remi Bumstead. Here's one of their tracks:

The Hoxton Pony was fairly full. A lot of people turned up, and whooped and cheered and helped hand out flyers. After coming down on the train and eating a terrible Subway with Sam Killin and his sister Lorna we took full advantage of the fact that every drink was half price and encouraged our enthusiasm with a few pints of Asahi (Hoxton! So trendy!). The Hoxton Pony is a nice looking place, modern and sleek, and they give you your change in a little silver dish. My change was usually about 25p so I felt this might be kind of unnecessary, but perhaps they usually get people paying for one drink with £50 notes and asking for their change in coppers. Anyway, the show was for the second-round of The Music League competition. Enough people turned up for The Promenade that they got through the second round, and they're playing Winterwell festival next week, a gig which is the final of the competition. I'm glad they got through, they've got some really good songs. The track above is the only one they have recorded so far, but more are on the way and I think I'm gonna contribute some trombone to one of them.

I got a lift back from the show in my mate's car. I've always liked driving through London at night, since I was a kid coming back from visiting family, half asleep in my dad's car, marvelling at all the lights, to the times when Kiss My Brass had gigs in Islington, Upstairs at The Garage or a tiny bar called Leonard's EC1 (both promoted by the kind of guy who "loves your music"), and we got hopelessly lost on the way back, giggling and swigging energy drinks to stay awake, and being high from playing a great set and being lost so late in London, driving right through the West End and even Kensington if I remember rightly, getting stuck in perpetual one-way systems and marvelling at the city that went on and on, and shouting out to people on the pavement when we got stuck in traffic, and when we pulled up at a red light and a young, drunk couple were kissing next to us, we wound down the windows and clapped them.

This time, though, we stopped at a late-night kebab shop, my mate, his brother and I, called something like Holloway's Best Kebab, and went in to get something to eat. The shop was mostly empty and was probably about to close. There were maybe three customers in there, a couple at a table and a drunk guy at the counter who left shortly after. We ordered some kebabs, and sat down at a table with some cans of coke and some chips to eat while we were waiting for the meat to cook, and I started feeling pretty sober. On the table next to us there was a woman and a man, both the other side of 40, eating kebabs. The woman was wearing some black dress and the man was wearing a mismatched tracksuit with white trainers. I went to the bathroom and when I came back the woman turned to us and said,

"Do you know who Emily Wilding Davidson is?" She was a little drunk.

"I don't think so," I said, I'd forgotten.

"The Suffragette," she said.

"Ah yeah, I remember," I said, "she was the one who threw herself in front of a horse."

"Yes! That's right." The woman said.

"But people say she wasn't sure that she wanted to do it," I said, but the woman had stopped listening. I guess she only wanted to prove a point to the man she was with. We went back to talking and eating the chips.

When I looked up again the woman was crying. She wasn't making any noise but a tear dropped down her cheek and she was looking far away. The man was looking at her from across the table. Just then the shop owner called us up to the counter to ask what salad we wanted on our food, and we got up to tell him. The woman was still crying. The man with her had grey hair and it was obvious that there was nothing he could do except fetch her a few napkins. He came up to the counter and asked the owner for them. After that we had our food so we left.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Anna Calvi and The Cambridge English Tripos

It's been pretty quiet on here recently, mainly because I'm about to take my final year English exams at Cambridge University.

So I've been pretty busy with revision. However, I did make it to an Anna Calvi gig:

I like Anna Calvi a lot. She can sing, she can shred, she's a woman in music without making an issue out of it, and she's got a great sound -- heavy on the darkness and melodrama without being indulgent or glib. Also, she probably hasn't written her best songs yet. I'll be really interested to see where she goes next. It's nice to see a woman with a lot of genuine technical talent and a love of her instrument doing well; even in the British "indie" scene, which likes to think of itself as liberal-minded [but actually may be more conservative than the mainstream - that's another story] women musicians are too often perceived as a light option, are outright overlooked, or are seen as successful only off the back of their male collaborators and label marketing budget (Florence, Lily etc). Which is why, when Anna Calvi coaxed slinky licks, sweeping chords, and gasping runs out of her Telecaster, I couldn't help but smile. She can really play -- she leaves no room for questions of authenticity. she's there, and she's doing it, bringing a sensuality and nuance to her guitar playing that stands her apart from a lot of guitarists, both male and female.

Anyway, back to some revision. Here's a reading list, so you can have your own Cambridge English Tripos at home:

Richard Ford - Rock Springs
Ernest Hemingway - The Nick Adams Stories
Isak Dinesen - Winter's Tales
William Shakespeare - Hamlet, Othello, Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth
Sophocles - Antigone, Oedipus Rex
Aeschylus - The Oresteia
Walt Whitman - Leaves of Grass
Eric Mottram - Blood on The Nash Ambassador
D.H. Lawrence - Collected Short Stories
Ted Hughes - Birthday Letters
Ibsen - John Gabriel Borkman

Good luck, exams start May 26th.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

I'm Your Man

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Most of the time you do one thing and think another. Shady one-take recording. Everyone has a song called 'I'm Your Man' these days. Here are the lyrics:

Can’t help looking back,
And seeing a boy from the wrong side of the tracks
Just three short steps behind,
Reaching out his hand for mine
Ah, weary as I am
I think I’ve got a plan,
I’m your man

So I save, and dress up nice,
To catch the eye, and smile of my
Elastic-limbed young girl
Whose father wears a golden crown
Ah, pauper that I am
With rough and calloused hands,
I’m your man

Every few weeks
I see her body make a promise that her heart can’t keep
And I know for sure
She’ll leave by the back door
With her hand in someone’s claw
It’s a temporary flaw
To remind her of love
On the chair at the pub, I might dream of a ring on a hand
Well I’m your man

I’ve been home with nightclub girls
Who wake up with their hair uncurled
The worst time to be lonely
When you hold some extra closely
You’re up in your tower
I leave without a shower
I’m your man

But I won’t mope and whine
I’ll show them all, for good this time
With nothing but my wits,
My hands, my knees, my eyes, my lips,
I’ll build my house on sand
And sell it for three hundred grand yeah
I’m your man

Every few weeks
I see my body make a promise that my heart can’t keep
And I know for sure
I’ll leave by the back door
With some hand wrapped in my claw
It’s a temporary flaw
To remind me of love
When they close up the pub, I kiss any girl who can stand

Yeah, every few weeks
I make a promise with my body but it’s only cheap
And I will make sure,
We’ll leave by the back door
Hand in hand, ah, claw to claw,
Isn’t that what claws are for?
To remind us of love,
At the back of the pub, I might leave fingerprints on your hand
Well I’m your man
I’m your man

Monday, 11 April 2011

Girl of the North Country

This is a very simple Bob Dylan song with complex depth, like a lot of good Bob Dylan songs.

Photo stolen from Vintage Reflection via Google. There's some really nice stuff on that blog, check it out.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Will Sheff at St. Pancras Old Church, 28th March 2011

Last night I went to see Will Sheff of Okkervil River play a solo show at St. Pancras Old Church. I had a spare ticket, and I thought I'd found someone online who wanted it, but he called at the last minute to say he couldn't make it. So I went to one show with two tickets. Both times, it was great.

When I arrived the pews were full of about 100 Okkervil faithful so I leant against the upright church piano at the back against the wall. This turned out to be a pretty great decision in the course of things. Will Sheff played some Okkervil songs, new and old, and was joined by bassist Zach Thomas for a few of them on another guitar and vocals. Their versions of 'Lost Coastlines' and 'Wake and Be Fine' were highlights, as were Will's solo renditions of 'A Stone' and 'The President's Dead'.

For his encore, though, he came out to a wall of applause and whoops and headed straight for the piano I was leaning on. He sat down and started playing 'For Real', as gasps and purrs of recognition came from the audience, who now gathered around in a close circle. His long-limbed body looked too big for the tiny piano, but the song was measured and intense, with squares of light and shadow from a window falling over him in the dim room, and camera phones flashing occasionally, or recording the whole moment. Maybe only a few of us could see his face. Me, and another girl leaning on the other side of the piano, and maybe two people next to me. He had a neat rusty beard and sang with his eyes closed. He matched his strong, tremulant voice with a simple piano figure, and it was very moving.

Afterwards one or two very excited people shook his hand and looked as if they wanted to die for him in some heroic and self-sacrificing way, such as taking a bullet or throwing themselves on top of a grenade. Such is the adoration of the lonely for their poets.

Later I got the train home and I felt happy, thinking it was one of the best performances I'd seen for a very long time.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Quick Courage

Whilst going through some old songs and lyrics I found this one, 'Quick Courage' and recorded it. I think I wrote it when I was about 18 or something.

Here are the lyrics:

You had that quick courage
Your schoolyard grin and your tender heart
I used to wish for courage
I used to wish I could play my part
And our voices clearly rang through the avenue
Where charm-placed footsteps ran
You had that quick courage through it all

You had that quick courage
Your eyes turn grave when the troubles start
You had to fight the knowledge
To be brave in your sceptic heart
And the days grew long and old, in the avenue
Soft-amber streetlights swam
Singing love songs in the cold, all out of tune
Soft words came out of the cans,
When I looked up to your eyes, so invincible,
Inscrutable and sore,
You had that quick courage through it all

You had that quick courage
The schoolyard smile I thought would never bow
Your parents broke their promise
Your parents broke their vow
And your fists went flurrying up down the avenue
Torn skin and broken glass
Yeah your fists went flurrying up, scraping all the walls
Knuckles red and scarred
And when you were fighting yourself in the avenue
The world was still going past
You had that quick knowledge, raw wounds
You had that long redress, home looms,
You had that greyscale shift, towards the truce,
You had that quick courage through it all

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Varsity Acoustic Session / Amnesty Freedom Festival March 12th 2011

We played this:

At one point, this happened:

And so, once more into the breech, dear friends, as The Shadow-Line pulled up in Cambridge for another fine example of musicianary. There was a pretty good lineup at the Freedom Festival, although there were some issues at soundcheck with the soundman wanting to run electric guitars through the PA (Eh???). Even so, it was a pretty quality night, which involved free beer, pasta and bread, and Chinese lion dancers, and some good bands called Dog Is Dead and Tin Roots, among others. We all had a good time and got several notches above crunk-a-doodle-doo at The Maypole -- if you know what I mean son?

Also we recorded an acoustic session for Varsity newspaper, on the staircase at my house. Conrad Steel sat in on Cello. Here are some photos from that, the video will be up soon:

Also we drew some cocks on the otherwise very positive-thinking 'graffiti wall' and a few people got sick tatts:

All in all, it was a very productive day.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

God Is In The TV Review for Scratchcard Winner

I got another review for the EP:

Sombre strings and lightly plucked acoustic guitar gather around the sound of drizzle, bringing to mind early Badly Drawn Boy on Kids on the Corner, before Zygmunt's vocal joins in like a crusty Paul Weller. It's a wonderfully bittersweet tune, elegantly structured to tug at the heart strings and paint peculiar pictures in your mind's eye. One of Zygmunt's greatest skills as a song-writer is knowing how to capture a mood in his music that is like the aural equivalent of Shane Meadows' films.

Things go surprisingly borderline Elton John on the upbeat piano-rock intro of Tommy, it turns into a exuberant spiky little indie number that feels like a distant cousin of A Town Called Malice telling the tale of someone leaving their small town for, hopefully, better things. Alas for all its energy it kind of loses its drive around the four minute mark, and with almost two minutes left to go it sort of chunders towards a so-so finale rather than the rousing climax it seems to aim for.

There's an air of the softly spoken poetic style of Baxter Dury in Zygmunt's occasionally squeaky and delightfully honest delivery on Horoscopes/Morning Rain, and it builds towards wondrous choruses with warm female vocals offsetting the crunch of Zygmunt's voice brilliantly; the refrain of 'Anything' inparticular having a nice contrasting resonance between the sweet and sour voices. There's a rousing cry of 'It don't change!' over twinkling bells, insistent drums and aching strings that has the hairs on the back of your neck standing to attention, and it swells with hope and optimism. Similarly Temporary Saviours has a lively percussion backing up Zygmunt's colourful and wry lyrics; 'I went home that night with an exotic dancer/Man, I wore all her kisses like a plaster.' The track continues hinting at little explosions, it shuffles tentatively and nervously towards exploding, and these denials of release are thrilling, and it's jaunty little asides with shouts of 'Hey!' are both liberating and danceable yet equally cautious and restrained.

The closing title track is a despondent ballad, Zygmunt crying 'Surely luck will come round.' It has layered vocals and a gentle acoustic guitar line, but fails to evoke as strong an atmosphere as the rest of the record, it's got some nice sentiments but they sort of wash by rather than striking chords. It's a slight shrug of the shoulders at the end of a generally lovely and at turns moving and exciting record by an artist with a strong and unique style.

4 Stars

Written by Owain Paciuszko at God Is In The TV. He is a fine gentleman who also wrote a review of This City Has An Echo.

See the original review by clicking this proverb: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

Friday, 25 February 2011

Night Time: Global Midnight

I contributed to a second episode of Rhodri Karim's superlative late-night radio show Night Time, discussing the effects of the Global Midnight of '68, during which a geo-orbital anomaly brought about an entire day of mignight. Rhodri and I were lucky to be able to broadcast a discussion between two of the leading academics in the field, Dr. Olaf Peterdeltersen, and Dr. Hunger T. Flam, of the Appalachian University. The discussion is really quite fascinating.

You can listen to the show by clicking here, and it should also be up on Rhodri's Night Time blog soon enough.

[Above] Rhodri in the radio studio. Out of shot: Drs. Peterdeltersen and Flam

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Dannish Babar Know What You're Thinking, 15-19th February 2011

For the last five evenings I've been providing the music for Dannish Babar's stand-up show, 'Dannish Babar Knows What You're Thinking'. Whilst he stood up, I sat at the side of the stage and played guitar. It worked well! We got a glowing review from Varsity [here] and a relatively good if confused one from The Tab [here]. I guess one problem with student reviews (possibly reviews in general) is that the reviewer is not always very well-informed on the particular genre of the work they are reviewing. I reckon the best reviews aren't only an exercise in "I liked this / disliked this because..." but are sensitive to the context and history of the work, and how it furthers the art form (or doesn't). That kind of review is also much more interesting to read.

Anyway. As my first experience of being in a comedy show, it was really interesting to look at the differences in stagecraft, audience participation and tone required. Comedy really seems to rely on its audience. It's true that the best music gigs are also the ones where there's a large and they're really behind the band, but if a band is playing really well it almost doesn't matter if they're playing to 50 people or 500. It's very different for comedy, the audience is integral in creating the experience. One night we had a small audience and a lot of the material that worked every other night - and produced massive laughs - fell flat, with only smiles and giggles from the audience. I think it's much easier to laugh freely when there are a lot of people in the room, partly because the presence of so many people provides a kind of tension that just isn't there with small audiences, and partly because it's less about the individual and more the collective feeling of the group - each person is more comfortable laughing when their voice contributes to the collective laughter of the audience, instead of being a singular sound. We were lucky to have pretty much sold-out audiences for the last two nights, which worked really well.

As far as music went, the challenge was to fit the music to the script so that there wasn't too much discontinuity or jarring - in the end, it led to me playing stuff that was quite neutral in terms of its emotional content, and was more designed to sustain momentum, apart from one or two points at which I played some exaggerated versions of 'inspiring advert music' and some sad music for ironic effect. It was really interesting to see how music could be used in this context, as it really couldn't influence Dannish's material too much, and it's easy for music to give meaning to words that they might not otherwise have. So it was an exercise listening and being sensitive to meaning as much as anything. It was also really nice to just play pretty much solidly for an hour and a half every night, and it was great how many people came up afterwards and complimented the show. Dannish has put together a really funny show, and, hopefully, there'll be some more performances at some point...

BONUS - here's the opening video:

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Kiss My Brass at The Pioneer, Feb 12th 2011

[Above] Photos by Mark Leaver

Last week I went back to St. Albans, to play a one-off reunion gig with Kiss My Brass on the sacred ground at The Pioneer. A lot of our friends came down, and the reaction we got was really strong, even after two years. I think the reason KMB songs still mean a lot to people in St. Albans is that really those songs are theirs. They're about things we did and friends we had growing up, and quite a lot of them are actually about The Pioneer. That music is like a soundtrack for the place, so it makes sense to have play through it all there again. It was nice, maybe we'll do it again in another few years, although I don't know how useful it is to keep looking back. Sometimes things are good because they were good in a certain place and time, and I think Kiss My Brass was great while we were teenagers. We were really lucky to have that band, and we worked hard at it when we weren't blazed or drunk.

Also I'm glad The Pioneer is running again, and will hopefully continue to run great gigs. All you need for a scene to happen is a stage for it to happen on, and people willing to come and listen and dance.

Cheers to Mark Leaver for those great photos. I think Benji has some videos too, which might surface soon ...