FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Road Atlas: Adrian Crowley

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We are thrilled and overjoyed to have Irish songwriter Adrian Crowley featured in the latest installment of our ‘Road Atlas’ series. Adrian has been busy touring Europe these past cold months of Winter and colourful months of Spring, in support of his latest masterpiece, ‘I See Three Birds Flying’. The extensive tour encompassed all of beautiful Europe, from the lowlands of Belgium and Holland to the frontiers of Germany, Spain, France and ending in Scandinavia and Britain. Over the years, the distinctive baritone of Crowley has formed an indispensable part of my record collection. I have always likened his precious music to kindred spirits such as Bill Callahan and Leonard Cohen. A true voice. A songwriter’s songwriter. Forgive the cliché, but I would like to describe Adrian Crowley as a national treasure, whose utterly beguiling folk music has endlessly inspired all those fortunate to have discovered any of his records. ‘I See Three Birds Flying’ is, for me, his masterpiece, where poetry is painted on a canvas of divine sound. The strings on album opener ‘Lady Lazarus’ continues to amaze me in its unerring beauty. As with all works of art, the sonic creations continue to soar just like those three beautiful birds in the sky.

Words & Photographs: Adrian Crowley, Illustration: Craig Carry

acrowley_pencil

Adrian Crowley – {excerpts from a tour diary Winter 2012 – Spring 2013}

2012-12-06 15.30.42

December 3rd, 2012 (Utrecht, The Netherlands)

I leave the hotel/hostel at 6am to head for the train station.

A freezing damp black morning, or should I say a night-morning in Utrecht, my Austrian full length military coat keeping the wind from cleaving my belly. I drag my injured wheelie case across cobbled streets (an obscene dawn racket) and with my guitar and rucksack I pass the very shop where, only yesterday, I bought this very coat.

Who would have imagined the wrong coat for this climate could have elicited such worried looks?

Genuine concern and wonderment. The sweet exotic woman with the lazy eye tightened my belt from the back as I stood bolt upright there among the racks of vintage clothing. I kept my arms slightly raised to give her clear passage to my flanks.  Then stroking down my shoulders and tugging up the lapelles she stands before me, frowning  in thought and  biting her lip.

“There, now I think you are ready for Berlin. With just one additional button you could fasten up your collar all the way to your chin in the cosiest way. Maybe come back with a button and I’ll sew in on for you. Free of charge of course.”

So I listened to her directions, the right turns, the left turns, the description of the little sewing shop…I watched her as she talked, her eye fixed on me ..all the while her lady colleague stood behind the counter – pretty and perfect and as still as a painting.

I did actually try to find the little sewing shop but soon abandoned the search. My fever was mounting again and my wheezy breath was shortening.My legs felt as heavy as train track sleepers.

So I steered myself back to number 8 Boothstraat where my bunk bed awaited me.

Maybe in the Spring when I return to Utrecht I’ll head for Voorstraat and bring a button to the lady with the curious eye and dark hair and remind her of her promise to the Irish singer who came to Utrecht in Winter dressed for Summer and walked into her shop looking for an emergency overcoat.

Of course the day would have turned out differently had I gone to the right station but for some reason I assumed my ticket was for the 07:25 from Utrecht Centraal not actually from the station that was marked on the ticket: Amersfoort. Oh God I’ve missed the train now. Just need to cover 700+ kilometers and make it to Leipzig, Germany, in time for the soundcheck. I head for the information desk scraping my limping suitcase as I go.

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2013-02-28 10.28.32

Berlin, December 5th-7th. 2012.

Alex (aka Cyann) sits across the table from me, the pictures of sushi and rice wraps on two laminated pages between us.  Dazed and tired from travelling, I stare vacantly at a plug socket in the wall next to my bench. I’ve taken the corner seat to shelter from the intermittent draft coming from the opening and closing of the restaurant’s front door. Alex is telling me about her friend and flatmate in hospital and how she had to pay one hundred and sixty five euros to rescue the clamped car she had borrowed (from her other flatmate) for the visit.

I mention our gig that is taking place the following night and we begin talking about it.

‘Oh, it’s a very good sign if they say there’s going to be a soundcheck’

‘Really?’,  I say.

‘Oh yes’, she says ‘one thing you must understand; this is Berlin. Last week I played a free gig to four people in a bar using just a toy piano.That was definitely a recent low point for me, where I questioned everything and wondered how I could allow this to happen…I’ve quit my band, left Paris and my life there and all my friends, my favourite book shops, my room…and here I am in a Berlin bar playing a toy fucking piano to four drunks who don’t even know I’m there’.

‘Ok, well’  I say, ‘I think the show tomorrow night will be different’.

————

2012-12-06 19.30.08

There was a black dog sitting in Monarch.I said to Andreas the promoter, “Gosh I just noticed him sitting there’.
‘Noticed what?’ asked Andreas.
I pointed to the dog right next to Andreas,
“Holy shit, I didn’t even notice!’

December 6th:  Monarch , Berlin.

The U-bahn screeches past in luminous green, the snow all packed in piles on the pavement below.

I sit against the glass and try to catch some of the scene on my camera phone as Alex soundchecks.

She puts on a silver jacket…. and now she’s Cyann.

The room fills with warm drones, mechanical whirrs and whistles. Her friend Anna (Morley) says she could listen to that sound all night. “Too bad”, I joke, “I hope you’re ready for my songs”.

Anna and I take a seat at a table at the other end of the room from the stage. We both notice a large and curious black and white framed photograph on the wall next to us. It resembles a 1930s police photograph of the scene of a crime… a  murder … a shooting. There is a car, a close up, all smashed glass, and there is a deer awkwardly ‘sitting’ in the passenger seat.His legs seem bent the wrong way – one antler out the door , the other peaking through the space where once there was a wind shield.

Despite all of this, the deer seems placid.

‘It’s disturbing, isn’t it?’ remarks Anna.

Then I make sense of the picture: someone must have crashed into the deer.

That reminds me of a story I heard about a guy driving near a forest in France. I tell her my story.

————

2012-12-06 10.57.53

December 7th, leaving Berlin

‘So long Mariannenplatz’, I sing quietly to myself as I step into the taxi, my Austrian military coat buttoned to a couple of inches below my chin. I turn and glance back at the snow-covered square as we leave it behind us.

I’ve missed my meeting with Nina. Her text reaches me just as I’m giving up on the idea. Time had got away from me and I’ve miscalculated how long things will take.

‘Hi A, Nina here, running ten minutes late. If you would like to continue on the U1 to Warschaver Strasse, I can meet you there at 5’.

‘See you the next time, Nina’, I reply as the taxi enters a dark tunnel bound for Berlin Hauptbahnhof.

————

2012-12-06 10.20.00

Photographs and text © Adrian Crowley 2013.

“I See Three Birds Flying” is out now on Chemikal Underground. 

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http://www.adriancrowley.com
http://www.chemikal.co.uk

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Written by admin

May 30, 2013 at 5:00 pm

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