Review: Taylor Deupree – Faint
Record Label Website and Links: http://www.12k.com/ & http://www.taylordeupree.com/
Taylor Deupree’s Discography: http://www.taylordeupree.com/music/
12k2025 (CD, Deluxe CD & Digital)
Tracks: CD1 57:17 1) Negative Snow; 2) Dreams of Stairs; 3) Thaw; 4) Shutter; 5) Sundown & CD2 38:38 1) Thaw (Reprise)
Whether it’s his music, photography, collaborations, and even the work from his record label 12k, Taylor Deupree is an Artist (emphasis on capital A). I’m a relative late-comer to his work, and I’m not even quite sure how that I came across his work or the 12k label, but I think that it had something to do with a 12k sampler CD, and then as I often do, I took a dive into his back catalog, focusing on physical releases (since those tend to be my preference—I’m old fashioned that way).
While Deupree has an extensive solo output, he also is an active collaborator with a wide range of artists (follow the discography link I noted above) in addition to many other musicians not listed for concerts and tours. He also actively experiments with new approaches and directions in his work—reinvention invigorates. Just as in his musical works, there is a peaceful desolation in his photography. I’m drawn to many of his photos, especially his landscapes (I’m fortunate to have a copy of his book of photos and CD Sea Last), but this is one of my favorites:
Moss, Kyoto (linked from Taylor Deupree’s website)
I also enjoy his Instagram photos posts, many of them are taken on outings in the woods, the fields and a reservoir nearby his home. It’s evident in his mastering of his own work and those of other musicians that the quality of the sound is important too (I often seek out music, not only for the artist, but the studio, sound engineer, producer and mastering engineer). Each release by 12k, whether CD, LP, standard or deluxe edition, receives special attention in the design, execution and promotion of the work. I admire this greatly—the time and attention is worth the money and the effort.
Faint is Taylor Deupree’s new album. It’s available in the latest 12k packaging as a standard release, as digital files or in a deluxe edition (pictured here) with a second CD of extended version of the track Thaw as well as twelve prints of photos taken by Deupree with a handmade camera. Faint overall is more restrained and pared-down to elemental sounds (though not at all stark) compared to his other recent work, yet it has a warmth that makes this album deeply comforting (hints of this are in the track titles). I’m not sure of the timeline in the recording of this album (beyond that it was recorded over a two year time span), but there are similarities in Negative Snow to the environment in Simon Scott’s expansive album Below Sea Level. It’s like taking a walk in a field that still has a foot in Winter, but the cold is subsiding in the sun and streams are returning to refill vernal pools.
Dream of Stairs is a gorgeous track with a lightly guiding keyboard thread (sounding like a Fender Rhodes piano) weaving through whispers of treatments, gentle guitars, remote looped voices, and ephemeral sounds of an almost intangible reality that might be captured on the edges of a dream.
Thaw (with a longer reprise on CD2 in the deluxe issue, akin to Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon) has a broader aura, like a fog lifting on an very early Spring morning where the air is warmer than the still-frozen ground. There is an ethereal suspension into which a distant organ-like sound appears and retracts back into the haze—like gentle waves on a flat sand beach. It has an ancient and mysterious sound like that in Creation du Monde, a very early post-Aphrodite’s Child soundtrack by Vangelis. Shutter has a hazy analog-reverberant foundation behind a placid and heavily treated electric guitar solo that is later joined by gentle reminders of Dream of… Sundown at first is a like a quiet seascape, watching distant ships passing and hearing far-off signals as a day draws to a close. Closer sounds enter to illuminate the scene, like fleeting afterglows that fill a sky once the sun disappears below the horizon—nature’s reverberation of what was, before entering darkness.
It’s a restful and warm journey.
Review: Naked Truth – Ouroboros
RealNoiseRecords RNR029 (CD & Digital) Time: 49:51
Record Label Websites: http://www.rarenoiserecords.com/
Sound Samples: http://www.rarenoiserecords.com/jukebox/naked-truth/ouroboros/
Tracks: 1) Dust; 2) Dancing With The Demons Of Reality; 3) Garden Ghosts; 4) Orange; 5) Right Of Nightly Passage; 6) Yang Ming Has Passed; 7) In A Dead End With Joe; 8) Neither I
Ouroboros, the eternal consuming and replenishing serpent can be seen in the singular (nothing outside of itself) or in a broader societal context. In this case, my interpretation is more of a collective urban consciousness. This is an album of motion, not of rest, an album of experiences, not of contemplation (at least until after the intense experience is over). It’s a fusion-brew of industrial, urban and cosmic sounds, and a potent follow-up to the 2011 album Shizaru (the lesser-known fourth primate of see, hear, speak, and DO no evil).
Graham Haynes has joined the Naked Truth quartet on electric cornet and trumpet (following Cuong Vu’s departure) along with original members, King Crimson alum drummer Pat Mastelotto, English keyboardist Roy Powell, and Italian Lorenzo Feliciati on electric bass and guitars.
Shizaru from 2011
First a warning: Prepare your audio system (and your ears) for a workout. Ouroboros will shake out the cobwebs. The opening track Dust is the warm-up, the testing of the systems. It’s a more keyboard dominant, brass punctuated bookend before entering the fuzzed sonic maelstrom. It has the atavistic fibers of many eras, and I’m old enough to have been around for the many incarnations of King Crimson, Weather Report and other Jazz-Fusion, Progressive Rock variants, and it’s all there–the solid musicianship and the sometimes angst-filled drive. There’s also a hint of Miroslav Vitous’s 1976 spacey funk inspired album, Magical Shepherd.
Track One: Dust
Next, place yourself in a traffic jam with an impetuous case of not-so-mild road rage (in the aggressive spirit of KC’s Neurotica, sans vocals), and that’s Dancing With The Demons Of Reality. The pauses are the waiting at traffic lights, restoring momentary sanity, but tension builds with pressurized chromatics, electronics and percussion before subsiding. Garden Ghosts is a respite; at first a progression of sonic fragments, a meandering prepared piano, percussion and fuzz-bass. The trumpet is the roaming spirit joined by a languid beat, murky electronics and guitar background; ultimately it ends as a brass-teasing percussive danse macabre.
At the start of Orange it’s disguised as an atmospheric piece, a quiet evening perhaps—serenade with cornet, but then diverts quickly with syncopated rhythms (bass, guitar and keyboards reminiscent of Kazumi Watanabe’s work), before returning to the more sedate themes. Right Of Nightly Passage is an instrumental recasting of the driving rhythmic “heat in the jungle” anagram. Clustered horns interlace with the cadence of the frenetic scene. The spirit of Miles Davis’s later more electronic work is channeled in Yang Ming Has Passed. It’s a menacing and deeply rhythmic piece (sounding like it could be dock-side in a shipping yard) with traded riffs between bass, percussion and trumpet meshed together by a high-cover of electronics.
The heavy backbeat continues in the darkly raucous In A Dead End With Joe. The trumpet soars and trills against the syncopated drums, electric guitar and keyboard phrases. Neither I is the other keyboard-textured closing bookend of the album. It displays some Far Eastern influences, and is more experimental and atmospheric with clustered brass, melodic percussion and roving piano before finding its beat. By contrast to the rest of the album, it closes with a gentle yet furtive purity.
Ouroboros is an adventurous and deliciously brash album that reveals glimpses of the eternal and sometimes daunting cycle of existence from different perspectives. Naked Truth is a sturdy, tight and vibrant quartet, and I’ll be very interested to see and hear where they take us next.
Naked Truth – courtesy of RareNoiseRecords
This is a solicited review.
Updated: What’s Spinning Today – Robin Guthrie, Olan Mill, Machinefabriek and A Winged Victory For The Sullen
Robin Guthrie – Fortune ***Updated with Souncloud link sample***
Soleil après minuit – SM1203CD – CD and 300 copies forthcoming on Vinyl
Robin Guthrie, long ago, moved on from his work with Cocteau Twins. Some fans want him to keep looking back, but frankly, I’m glad that he has continued on with his own work (albums and EPs) and numerous collaborations with Harold Budd, Eraldo Bernocchi and others as well as film soundtracks. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy my CT albums, and nothing is more searing, emotionally than the CT track (from their last album, Milk and Kisses) Violaine.
Fortune is a personal work, putting his life, emotions and experiences into his layered, chorus-and-echo-filled guitar sound. I sense intense memories too. I find that Guthrie’s work is filled with sound-color, which is also why I am so drawn to it. My favorites include the languid ladybird, the refreshing like water in water, the tender and deeply-toned melody of perfume and youth, and and so to sleep, my little ones, which picks up where the EP Songs To Help My Children Sleep leaves off—enchanting.
Artist Website: http://robinguthrie.com/
Available also at: http://darla.com/?fuseaction=item_cat.ecom_superitem_detail&item_cat_id=41313
Olan Mill – Home
Preservation CIRCA512 – limited 300 copy CD release and Digital
With each Olan Mill release, I am drawn all the more to their work. There is a subtle lag between rhythms, melodies and harmonies that gives a tidal flow, similar to some works of Ralph Vaughn Williams or Claude Debussy. Also, I’m not sure how this will be taken by some current listeners of this genre, but some of Olan Mill’s work reminds me of early to mid 1970s compositions of Evangelos Papathanassiou’s, especially the soundtrack to the Frédéric Rossif film La Fête Sauvage.
Record Label: http://www.preservation.com.au/product/olan-mill-home
Album overview at Experimedia:
Machinefabriek – Secret Photographs
Important Records – IMPREC366 – CD and Digital
This is a three track (more than 70 minute) soundtrack for a forthcoming film about Alvin Karpis (notorious bank robber and longest serving prisoner at Alcatraz Prison) by Mike Hoolboom. Karpis was released from prison in 1969, moved to Spain and wrote a memoir. He took photographs in the closing years of his life, and never shared his work with anyone until the collection was found for sale on ebay. Rutger Zuyderfelt’s response to the work is separated into three parts (black and white, color and black and white). It is a subtle guitar and electronics-based composition that gives the sense of taking a hushed and private tour through chambers of secluded memories.
http://www.machinefabriek.nu & http://machinefabriek.bandcamp.com/album/secret-photographs
A Winged Victory for the Sullen – A Winged Victory for the Sullen
Erased Tapes – ERATP032 – Vinyl, CD and Digital Files
Released about a year ago, the eponymous A Winged Victory for the Sullen album is the work of Stars of the Lid’s Adam Wiltzie and LA composer Dustin Halloran. I didn’t realize that there was a connection between Adam and Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse), but it was ultimately that connection and colleague Francesco Donadello that brought …Winged Victory… together. Large spaces, grand pianos, string quartets and delicate woodwinds and brass are the framework for this lush and stunning album.
Artist Website: http://www.awvfts.com/
Record Label: http://www.erasedtapes.com/artists/biography/16/A+Winged+Victory+For+The+Sullen
Lambchop – One Of My Favorite Concerts of 2012
My photo of Kurt Wagner of the band Lambchop taken at La Poisson Rouge in NYC on April 19, 2012. This photo was used in Spin Magazine’s Concert blog. It was a concert of inexplicable beauty and musicianship–very memorable. An even more memorable night, because I had a chance to meet F. M. Cornog (aka East River Pipe) and his lovely wife, Barbara Powers. Photo Copyright by wajobu (please use only with permission and credit—thank you).
I have many other photos from that concert if anyone is interested in seeing them.
So many great songs that night, but My Blue Wave was right up there…
Some Recent Kitchen. Label Releases
Record Label Website: http://www.kitchen-label.com/
Soundcloud Page (Excerpts of Albums): http://soundcloud.com/kitchen-label/sets
Available at: http://www.darla.com/
I am always on the lookout for new music, especially from record labels that are doing something different, something special, and I don’t mind spending extra money for well crafted, limited or richly illustrated art editions. In a way, it’s my reaction against the trend of digital only releases, which include not only music, but e-books (I still prefer finely crafted, bound books).
I’ve missed some of Kitchen. Label’s earlier releases that have gone out of print, but to date I have acquired four albums from their US distributor, Darla (their first release being in 2008 and they are an outgrowth of their design firm Kitchen, founded in 2005). K.L is based in Singapore and specializes in releasing art-editions of talented emerging artists, and label founders Ricks Ang and April Lee take great care in all aspects of their work, from the engineering of the recordings to the diverse and creative designs.
ASPIDISTRAFLY – A Little Fable – Kl-007 – 2011
ASPIDISTRAFLY is composer and vocalist April Lee and producer Ricks Ang, and their work tells charming and delicate stories. Their second album A Little Fable was released in 2011 and it has the presence of a secret garden. I find the depth and airy quality of Homeward Waltz to be particularly enchanting–it’s like chamber music. Their first album I Hold A Wish For You was also released on K.L.
Landscape With A Fairy
FJORDNE – Charles Rendition – Kl-006 – 2011
FJORDNE is the solo project of Tokyo-based composer, Fujimoto Shunichiro. His work has a timeless richness that is brought to life with acoustic instruments and a laptop computer. Music for a quiet night of contemplation. Charles Rendition is his 5th album.
Pill-Oh – Vanishing Mirror – Kl-010 – 2012
Pill-Oh consists of electronic artist Hior Chronik and classical pianist Zinovia Arvanitidi, both from Greece have been working together since 2009. They each have established solo careers of composing for theater, film, documentaries, and art performances. Zinovia is recording her 2nd solo orchestral album, to be released within 2012. Their album Vanishing Mirror is like the soft and hopeful first-light of a spring day. The feeling is sometimes reflective, but not sentimental. In this music there is restful comfort along with accomplished musicianship. The track Melodico is my favorite.
Szymon Kaliski – From Scattered Accidents – KL-011 – 2012
Szymon Kaliski is a multi-media artist from Poland. From Scattered Accidents is his fourth album. His work combines familiar acoustic and invented instrumentation. His work has a tranquility that often evokes a suspension of time within a vast sonic depth of field.
Interlude I (with Peter Broderick)
The music at Kitchen. Label is never strident, but it can challenge some norms of straight-up ambient, post-classical or electro-acoustic genres. There are even some jazz influences (FJORDNE, especially), yet the compositions are often ethereal and filled with memories of nature and surroundings of daily life—rediscovering the forgotten in the familiar.
Review: Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisited II
InsideOut Music 0506240 (Ltd 2 CD & Book, also 2 CD & 4 LP)
Time: CD 1: 73:18 CD 2: 71:27 minutes
Record Label Website:
http://www.insideoutmusic.com/ & http://www.insideoutmusic.com/artist.aspx?IdArtist=458
http://www.hackettsongs.com/ & http://hackettsongs.sandbag.uk.com/
Photos of Musicians on the Album:
Tracks CD 1: 1) The Chamber of 32 Doors; 2) Horizons; 3) Supper’s Ready; 4) The Lamia; 5) Dancing With the Moonlit Knight; 6) Fly on a Windshield; 7) Broadway Melody of 1974; 8) The Musical Box; 9) Can-utility and the Coastliners; 10) Please Don’t Touch
Tracks CD 2: 1) Blood on the Rooftops; 2) The Return of the Giant Hogweed; 3) Entangled; 4) Eleventh Earl of Mar; 5) Ripples; 6) Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers…; 7) …In That Quiet Earth; 8) Afterglow; 9) A Tower Struck Down; 10) Camino Royale; 11) Shadow of the Hierophant
It has been 16 years and many life changes since the last Genesis Revisited album by Steve Hackett (subtitled Watcher of the Skies) in 1996. Although the span of time recounted musically is similar, 1971 through 1976; the breadth of the work on GRII is far more comprehensive. It’s also worth noting that in 1987 Steve was a special guest on an orchestral reinterpretation album of Genesis work, We Know What We Like: The Music of Genesis (led by arranger David Palmer conducting The London Symphony Orchestra), although in that case it includes works after Steve had left the band (from albums And Then There Were Three and Duke). On that album is perhaps the best example of how well the work of Genesis transfers to an orchestral format: Can-utility and the Coastliners. As much as I love the instrumental section with waves of Mellotron on the original recording, the full orchestra adds great depth and power to that track.
I’ve read (and I’m paraphrasing) that Steve didn’t want to literally re-record these works (as some Genesis tribute bands so painstakingly perform), rather enhance them with the lens of time, since many were recorded somewhat hastily between concert tours in the 1970s. Another added benefit is that some recording technologies have improved, and this is quite clear in the warmth and clarity of GRII. Frankly, I rather liked many of the reinterpretations on the last GR album, and there was the added track Déjà vu originally penned by Peter Gabriel and SH, then set-aside, to be revived and beautifully completed with Paul Carrack’s vocals.
As much as I wanted the limited 4 LP vinyl set, I opted for the 2 CD version along with the extensively illustrated and annotated small format hardbound book—a quite worthy trade-off (designed by Harry Pearce of Pentagram Design). It’s clear that this album was an enormous undertaking (with a special mention for the co-production, recording and mixing by collaborator and keyboardist, Roger King), with some 30 guest musicians and vocalists (including brother John Hackett, SH Band alum Nick Magnus, and the members of the most recent touring and recording SH Band: Roger King, Gary O’Toole, Nick Beggs, Amanda Lehmann and Rob Townsend). I have provided a link above to a page on the SH Website showing a complete list (with photos) of all who participated on GRII. A matrix of the album track performers in included in the credits.
Throughout the album there are a number of acoustic guitar introductions (like the opening to the potent The Chamber of 32 Doors), variations and electric guitar solo fills by Steve that are not on the original recordings; they reflect journeys and musical influences from his many years as an artist. Horizons and Supper’s Ready are preserved in their pairing from the original Side B of Foxtrot. The solo acoustic guitar of Horizons has long been a mainstay of Steve’s live shows since the early days of his solo career, and here it’s just as pure, unrushed and striking as a morning sunrise or evening sunset at one’s favorite place to be. The vocals and instruments on Supper’s Ready are powerful, clear and Steve’s guitar is “up” in the mix (as it is on much of the album). The treatment greatly invigorates the original, and made me want to take the time to listen to the entirety of the track repeatedly. The Apocalypse in 9/8 and the closing section of As sure as eggs is eggs (aching men’s feet) just sends chills up the spine as from those concert days long ago.
The purity of Nik Kershaw’s vocals on The Lamia is different from Peter Gabriel’s more raspy treatment of the song, and to my ear it’s a stunning performance (brighter than the original). Again, the instrumentals have a clarity superior to the original (although, I’ll never turn my back on the Charisma/ATCO recording of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway—too many aural historic memories there). SH’s closing solo echoes the original while adding a smooth lyricism. I’d be interested in knowing how and why Kershaw was chosen for the track. After a brief acoustic guitar link of Greensleeves, Francis Dunnery’s (It Bites et al) vocals on Dancing With the Moonlit Knight are probably the closest to channeling Peter Gabriel and the Selling England by the Pound performance as on any of the album’s tracks. As has been the case during recent concerts, drummer Gary O’Toole performs the vocals on the Lamb’s two tracks Fly on a Windshield and Broadway Melody of 1974. Both are broad and authoritative performances. O’Toole’s voice is his own.
I have always wondered why Anthony Phillips isn’t credited as a songwriter on The Musical Box, since he and Mike Rutherford wrote and recorded the early demos in 1968, when the track was known as F Sharp, but anyway… TMB opens with an almost Raymond Scott-like musical box fantasy, before entering into the realm of the long ago Nursery Cryme album. Sung by Nad Sylvan (who also provides vocals on Chamber and Eleventh Earl), this interpretation has an intimate sound, chamber-music-like, with clustered and freer vocals, before breaking into the raucous guitar-centric bridge and to the familiar closing that was performed in concerts during the mid to late 1970s.
As noted above, I think one of the most powerful and diverse Genesis tracks from the early days, which is frequently overshadowed by Watcher of the Skies or Supper’s Ready, is Can-utility and the Coastliners. Steven Wilson (solo and Porcupine Tree) provides the vocals. This version has the “soft bits and loud bits” and combines the oceanic strings (violins/violas) and bass pedals with the rawness of Foxtrot. Please Don’t Touch (from the 1978 album) closes CD 1 and was a track originally to have been linked with the instrumental Wot Gorilla on the 1976 album Wind and Wuthering. One of the reasons SH left Genesis (well documented) was he felt at that time his contributions to the band were being overlooked, so when he appeared officially as a solo artist, this track was the perfect, aptly named, composition to strike out on his own. It has had many incarnations, including sections of a 1986 track Hackett to Bits from the eponymous GTR album with Steve Howe et al. I remember concerts from the late 1970s and early 80s that would end with this track at ear-splitting volumes. This version is dark and authoritative.
CD 2 contains many tracks co-written with single Genesis members rather than the full band (exception is Hogweed and In That Quiet Earth), and one of my personal favorites is the timeless (and still topical) track penned with Phil Collins, Blood on the Rooftops. For years, SH played small sections of this track as a teaser during his acoustic “breaks” at concerts, and then in the early 2000s, the full track appeared in concerts and live recordings. This piece has a great deal of meaning to me—like entering a time machine to another place. Steve opens with a small fantasy on his nylon string guitar before the track begins, and I consider it a great gift to his fans that it has been recorded again (vocals by Gary O’Toole and woodwinds by Rob Townsend).
The Return of the Giant Hogweed is a different type of track in the Genesis oeuvre that starts with an attack (or rather, an infestation!). It also displays SH’s early fret-tapping technique. Although this video is not the recording from the album, it has a similar spirit and same vocalist, Neal Morse (taken from the 2010 High Voltage Festival by Transatlantic with SH as the guest guitarist).
Entangled was written by Hackett and Tony Banks—the dreams and nightmares of an altered mind. The vocals (fuller than on A Trick of the Tail) are by Jakko Jakszyk with backing vocals by Amanda Lehmann (guitarist and vocalist in the SH Band, and Jo Hackett’s sister). Eleventh Earl of Mar (Banks, Hackett, Rutherford) has a much deeper and clearer sound that I always found lacking in the original recording (and all of the reissues…for some reason the David Hentschel engineering that sounded so great in the Seconds Out live album, just sounded so flat and compressed). Nad Sylvan also adds layers to the spirit of the original Phil Collins vocal harmonies and channels the voice of Noel McCalla at times. Nick Beggs’ bass energetically drives the piece. Amanda Lehmann skillfully adapts the Collins’ vocals on Ripples, adding lyrical depth to the chorus (also a tribute to the engineering, recording and mixing of co-producer Roger King). The instrumental sections are faithful to the original. Lehmann returns again on the closing track Shadow of the Hierophant, which was co-written by SH and Mike Rutherford on Hackett’s first solo album from 1975, Voyage of the Acolyte.
Grouped together are (Hackett and Rutherford’s) Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers…, followed by the group-written …In That Quiet Earth, and Tony Banks’s deeply melancholic Afterglow, the closing tracks of the last official album that Hackett recorded with Genesis (excluding the 1977, 12 inch EP Spot The Pigeon). SH improvises more freely on his guitar in …Quiet Earth and the solos that close (including Rob Townsend’s soprano sax) are more rugged than the original. The strong and familiar voice of John Wetton anchors the close of the trio from W&W.
It’s exciting to hear a reinvented A Tower Struck Down (from 1975’s VotA) with a true orchestral opening (Dick Driver on double bass, Rachel Ford on cello, Christine Townsend on violin and viola and John Hackett on flute). The solid bones of the Tower from Acolyte are present, but in a completely different, even darker skin. Steve Hackett notes that he had dreams of Genesis playing the chorus of Camino Royale (written by SH & Nick Magnus). This track dates from the 1982 solo album Highly Strung, and was always a great concert piece, from when Nick collaborated with Steve in the late 1970s and 1980s—full of spirit and rhythmic precision, a great addition to this collection. This track also includes jazz influences from the Hungarian band Djabe (Steve has collaborated with Djabe on some of their recent albums and concerts). As does Voyage of the Acolyte, Genesis Revisited II closes with Shadow of the Hierophant. This version is more up-tempo and potent, and Rob Townsend’s flute peregrinates throughout the shadows. It closes as it has since it was first recorded with the hierophant traveling on the long journey of seeking and interpreting the sacred and the arcane.
The one thing some (purist) listeners might find missing in GRII is the grittiness of the original recordings, but the defects of these compositions from long ago have been deftly exorcized, and the sonic foundations treated with such care that Hackett not only preserves the legacy of his former band, but enhances it for future listeners. These recordings are not meant to replace the originals; they are akin to variations by composers of the past. In a way, Steve Hackett is the archivist of the musical spirit of Genesis from that time. Sit back and enjoy this brilliantly crafted set of recordings with all the 21st century enhancements. You will not be disappointed.
The Hackett Band will be on tour with many of these recordings in Europe, the UK and America in 2013. I can’t wait!
Review: Roger Eno – Ted Sheldrake
Backwater Records OLKCD023 – Time: About 42 minutes (CD & Digital Files)
Record Label Website: http://www.backwaterrecords.com/
Artist Websites: http://rogereno.co.uk/ and http://rogereno.com/
Tracks: 1) You’re Just A Bloke; 2) All In A Garden; 3) The Old Queen’s Head; 4) There’s Something Wrong With Ted; 5) The Cold Night Is Over; 6) Marrers; 7) My Old Bike; 8) You’re Just A Bloke (Ted); 9) Moon Waltz; 10) Ever True; 11) Sally; 12) Bittersweet; 13) Ted’s Funeral Music
I find it hard to believe that my original LP copy of Apollo (Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and Roger Eno) will be thirty years old in 2013, but there it is—one of the great albums of the ambient music genre. When I think of Roger Eno’s music over the years, three words come to mind: thoughtful, quirky and sometimes playful. Whether lyric or instrumental, RE’s works tell stories that can either be tightly sewn threads or loosely knitted yarns. Often, the subjects are quiet ruminations, but they can also be spirited and cheerful. His works can also be rather enigmatic, as noted in an autobiographical analysis from his website: [He is] “On an ongoing and heterogeneous musical journey which twists and turns and goes whichever way you think it won’t.”
Roger Eno entered the professional music scene with Apollo after music lessons and college to study music (as a multi-instrumentalist and singer), as well as running a music therapy course at a local hospital. In addition to working with his brother Brian, Roger has collaborated with artists including Bill Nelson, Kate St. John, Lol Hammond, Peter Hammill and Michael Brook, and has provided soundtracks for films and advertisements.
RE’s most memorable albums for me (of his 25 or so) include: Voices (1985), The Familiar (w/ Kate St. John, 1993), Automatic and Excellent Spirits (both with Channel Light Vessel, 1994 and 1996), Lost In Translation (1995), Swimming (1996), The Music of Neglected English Composers (1997), and more recently Fragile (Music) (2005), Anatomy (2008) and Flood (2008, a reinterpretation of a soundtrack constructed for Salthouse Art Festival in North Norfolk). I hope that Roger works again with Kate St. John and Bill Nelson; their work together on The Familiar is some of the most touching and enchantingly inspired work that I have in my music collection.
Ted Sheldrake is a departure from Roger Eno’s instrumental ambient work; originally a quiet neighbor and later a friend, it’s a tribute to a life, and even though it takes place in recent times, it could have just as easily taken place a hundred years ago—in many respects it did. It’s a familiar story in literature as well. In Victorian times, Richard Jefferies told the stories of common labourers, from the farm fields in his books like Green Ferne Farm, Round About A Great Estate (both from 1880), The Life Of The Fields (1884), and in newspaper articles during that time in the late 19th century. In the first half of the 20th century Henry Williamson also wrote of life in a West Devon village known as Ham (The Village Book and The Labouring Life in 1930 and 1932, respectively) and described the country life in the narrow village streets, fields and hedgerows, “local colour”, and stories of the “everyman”.
The compiled, mostly song-oriented work traces Ted in East Anglia (Suffolk and Norfolk, UK), being from a family of hearty stock, farm labourers and fishermen, and he spent his years working on an estate and living in a village where the pace of life was slower and the work was hard, but satisfying. In his younger days Ted learned to play a melodeon (hand organ), and as the years passed he became known for composing and performing songs in local pubs and village halls. In his later years, following his retirement, TS suffered the loss of his beloved wife, and something changed in him and it comes through in his music.
The album is divided, the way I see it, into two sections (observations and then reflections) and includes a number of recordings (songs, spoken word with accompaniment, and instrumental) made on location with cast of characters and talent connected to his life.
You’re Just A Bloke is an introduction to Ted’s work through the voices of others; a group interpretation of this universal and common man. This is the first indication that Ted’s work and life isn’t embellished with ornate descriptions, he’s the “real stuff”, with genuine words. Village life includes folks gathering in thatched cob or flint-walled cottages, village halls or pubs, and the jolly and perceptive All In A Garden brings this experience to life. Ted’s songs are also a bit like tiny memoirs, recounting special occasions and getting spiffed-up for The Old Queen’s Head.
As time passes, Ted’s meager existence and loss of friends weighs on him. Some around him sense a change in his countenance. There’s Something Wrong With Ted tells the worry of a friend, layered austerely with piano and a keyboard. The Cold Night Is Over is the beginning of Ted’s reflections of melancholy and pastoral memories of the farm fields and long views to the sea. Marrers (marrows or zucchinis) is perhaps the most beautiful track on the album—deeply reflective, and one of the main reasons Ted would still rise in the morning—for his garden; at first a lone piano, then an open and sincere expression of longing. The melodic theme is expanded modestly (and somewhat cheerfully at first), this time overlaid with memories in My Old Bike. Ted’s is a simple life in the village, never needing to leave East Anglia, and now missing his dear wife.
The original version of You’re Just A Bloke is rendered by Ted—directly, perhaps even more so than Hemingway. The last section of songs (with piano) present Ted’s most personal feelings, the endearing yet untrained voice, and uncomplicated romanticism of Moon Waltz and Ever True. Sally is an instrumental tribute to his wife, which is proud and forthright. Bittersweet is apparently Ted’s last song, interpreted by an ensemble of his mates (documented by local schoolteacher Miss Kemp—Ted didn’t write music, he just played it). The final tribute to his life is the piece Ted’s Funeral Music, which sounds like it’s played on an old harmonium or church organ.
So, slow the world down, set a spell, and get to know Ted Sheldrake and his humble existence. He might turn out to be someone you know, and it’s a simply delightful chronicle.
Ted Sheldrake will be released on January 7th, 2013.