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Chosen One: Colleen

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Interview with Cécile Schott.

This decision actually made me feel a bit more confident that a fully electronic album was the way to go, since it would introduce a human element of non-exactness, something I value in music. ”

—Cécile Schott 

Words: Mark Carry, Photographs: Isabel Dublang

Colleen by Isabel Dublang ii

The world-renowned French artist Colleen has crafted one of her most captivating, absorbing and empowering works to date in the form of ‘A flame my love, a frequency’. The latest record marks Colleen’s first fully electronic-based album, having departed from the viola da gamba instrument (which was integral to the last two sonic treasures ‘Captain Of None’ and ‘Weighing Of The Heart’). The results are nothing short of staggering whereby Schott’s singular melodies shimmer across the radiant warmth of shimmering electronics and textured rhythms, creating, in turn, eight resolutely unique and stunningly beautiful sound worlds.

The delicate synth tones of ‘November’ immediately transports you to an ethereal dimension that serves the perfect prelude to the album’s lead single ‘Separating’. The gorgeously rich polyrhythms of Schott’s trusted Pocket Piano and Moogerfoogers creates mesmerising soundscapes that encapsulate the French artist’s achingly beautiful vocals. A charged immediacy and striking intimacy exudes from ‘Separating’s  masterfully interwoven sonic tapestries. As Schott sings on the opening verse: “Separating from the world /Is like a drop of rain/Falling to the ocean floor”, it reflects the artist’s emotional response to the inevitability of death and life’s impermanence. The hypnotic refrain of ‘Separating’ emits a healing force as a myriad of utterly transcendent moments continually fill the human space like stars dotted across the night sky.

The stand-out instrumental  cut ‘Another World’ forges a deeply moving journey into the depths of the human heart.  A piece of music such as this truly reflects the singularity of this remarkable musician, forever pushing the sonic envelope and exploring new avenues at each and every turn. The production’s richness and warmth is a joy to savor, which continually evolves and mutates into various shape-shifting patterns (a cross somewhere between Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s Black Ark studio productions and Nils Frahm’s synthesizer works). The ambient bliss of ‘Another World’ feels just like that: co-existing in some far-reaching stratosphere of unknown dimensions.

Winter Dawn’ is steeped in the darkness of anguish and pain: “The world had nearly ended and the sky was blue” is sung beneath rhythmic pulses of synthesizers. The glorious rise in the song forms one of the utterly transcendent moments of ‘A flame my love, a frequency’ as Schott laments “O dear soul, flesh and bones/Love alone is your home” beneath intricately layered and sumptuously crafted electronic passages. The dichotomy of light and dark permeates throughout as Schott pleads “Deep and warm, golden dawn/Shine some more of that light of yours”. An intensely beautiful and soul-stirring tour-de-force.

The gripping heart of the latest full-length comes with the achingly beautiful duo of ‘Summer night (Bat song)’ and ‘The stars vs creatures’. ‘Summer night (bat song)’ is an intimate, heartfelt lament that conveys Schott’s deep love for nature. Lyrically, I feel there’s a closeness with the timeless songbook of Sibylle Baier or Townes Van Zandt in the innate ability to create an entire world – with such striking emotional depth – within a song. A deep sadness is etched across the “descending milky night” of Schott’s masterful poetic prose wherein the metaphor of the bat’s mystical movement conveys the necessity of change. A masterful song-craft.

Nature’s peace flows throughout the sublime ‘The stars vs creatures’. The glistening blue of a kingfisher by a river or the rare sight of a terrific red fox in the early night sowed the seeds for this magical song-cycle. Lyrically, the song feels more like a parable – a message of divine wisdom – that reminds us to savor life and appreciate each moment. The blazing light of hope shines forth like a million stars.

The album closer – and sprawling title-track – is yet another defining moment of this monumental work. This meditative lament casts a spell like no other as Schott’s beguiling vocals ascends into the atmosphere with eternal rays of optimism “so stillness now can reign again”. The extended electronic sections (a key part throughout the record) swells like that of the ocean waves as they traverse the vast human space. As the sun-lit horizon looms in the distance, we – the listener – are reminded just how far the journey has taken us: “I will call you when the sun has reached the final hour”.

A flame my love, a frequency’ is a precious and divine work of art. To coin Carl Sagan, music such as this can “break the shackles of time”.

A flame my love, a frequency’ is out now on Thrill Jockey Records.

Colleen’s tour dates (including America and Europe) are listed here.

http://colleenplays.org/
https://www.facebook.com/colleenplays
http://www.thrilljockey.com/

 

Colleen by Isabel Dublang iii

Interview with Cécile Schott.

Congratulations firstly Cécile on your truly moving and groundbreaking new album “A flame my love, a frequency”. It’s a real pleasure to ask you some questions about this latest sonic marvel of yours. This sixth studio album represents something as close to a concept album as you’ve ever done. Rather than having to recount your specific memories of being in Paris – your hometown – during those atrocious terrorist attacks of November 2015, please shed some light on your mindset and outlook when it came to the immediate aftermath of this harrowing experience? For instance, you began to compose and make music again after a (much-needed) silence post these awful attacks, I would love to gain an insight into the feelings, colours, musical language that you soon found yourself heavily immersed in (and what would be the inception of “A flame my love, a frequency”)?

Cécile Schott: In July 2015 I had just finished the Captain of None tour and enthusiastically acquired a Pocket Piano by the brand Critter and Guitari and a Moog filter pedal from the Moogerfooger series called the MIDIMuRF. I experimented throughout the whole summer with the combination of the two and my Moogerfooger MF104M delay pedal (the one I already used on Captain of None), the initial intention being to create rhythms with the Pocket Piano + Moogerfoogers, which would form a kind of basis on which to play my viola. But somehow the two sounds did not seem to “gel” and I couldn’t find the excitement and freshness I had felt when playing the viola on my previous two albums. Instead, I did start to have little kernels of songs born just out of the synth and pedals, and I recorded these initial tests and took notes as I went along. This initial work period was suddenly interrupted by the illness of a close family member whom I had to go and visit immediately in France. I returned to Spain briefly, then went back to France again, and when I had to go back to Spain again, on the way back stopped in Paris on November 13th. So that when I came back, I found myself in the situation where I knew I had to work on a new album, but it felt like both a superficial and impossible task in the light of all the things that were happening on both a personal and more global level. For two weeks our flat stayed completely silent except for the online TV news, even listening to music just felt wrong. However, little by little, I realized that not working was not the solution, and that perhaps working on a new album might be helpful in taking my mind off the things that worried me so much. I felt an intense need for what I could call a joyful sound,and that’s when the basic ideas for the first songs were born: the instrumentals “Another world” and “One warm spark”, and “Separating”. “November” was also created early, as well as the basis  for “A flame my love, a frequency”.

The choice to have “A flame my love, a frequency” as your first fully electronic and keyboard-based album works so wonderfully on so many levels. The stark intimacy of your new song cycles – as your fragile vocals are masterfully embedded in sumptuous layers of electronic tapestries – and the cosmic quality of this latest voyage is further heightened by the minimalist nature of the new music. It’s this sacred space that your songs forever inhabit that makes for such an enriching, empowering and deeply affecting experience for the human heart and mind (which becomes the essence of the new album). Can you trace back to your decision as to remove the viola da gamba from your musical world (for now, at least) and I’d love for you to describe the various electronic instrumentation and studio set-up for the new album?

CS: I think that as a musician who has worked for more than 2 decades now, even if the first 12 years were not professional, I have a pretty fast understanding of when something is working or not. You always have to fully test out your ideas and give them a chance, but there comes a point where if something really feels forced, then you’re just wasting your time and not looking for alternative solutions that might work. I just remember that at one point it dawned on me that perhaps this album would have to exist as a purely electronic album, and because of the gravity of the situation, this drastic musical decision did not actually seem so drastic to me, or at least did not scare me as much as it might have done otherwise. The one thing I knew, from a composition and production point of view, was that if I was going to leave the viola behind for this album, then I needed to make sure I didn’t lose any of the characteristics of my music, which I see as a certain type of asymmetrical song structure, the combination of pop or at the very least melody and experimentation, and a warm sound.

As for the gear, I first saw the Pocket Piano at King Britt’s studio in Philadelphia during the Captain of None tour, and was immediately in love with its small portable size, and I was able to test the MIDIMuRF briefly twice, once again in King Britt’s studio and also at the house of my old friend French musician Dominique Grimaud. The Septavox came later, as I realized I wanted to expand the possibilities already contained in this extremely small but versatile setup. Pretty soon I made the decision that the album would have to be recorded live, because cutting into electronic soundwaves to correct mistakes (something I’ve always practiced in my past albums but always on acoustic sounds) is something that is extremely time-consuming and sometimes bordering on impossible. This decision actually made me feel a bit more confident that a fully electronic album was the way to go, since it would introduce a human element of non-exactness, something I value in music.

Many melancholic shades and textures shimmer across these new recordings, Cécile but I feel there is an undeniable light of hope and strength and beauty that radiates from the depths of darkness. Aesthetically, I just love how you place several instrumental tracks among the vocal tracks (obviously something not new here) but it really feels like one of those dub treasures from the 60s/70s as one hears these beautiful, transporting instrumental tracks alongside the richly poignant ballads. For example, how the ethereal, blissed-out instrumental ‘Another world’ follows precedes the deeply affecting (and latest single) ‘Winter Dawn’ – and the many intricate arrangements and moments within moments that effortlessly occur – creates such a profound listening experience. I’d love if you could discuss more in detail about these intricate transitions that occur between tracks (and within tracks of course) and the aesthetic quality of “A flame my love, a frequency”.

CS: Thanks for your kind words Mark. Because the subject matter could not be anything other than the very large question of life and death and our fear of death and illness, I immediately felt that this would almost be a concept album, and my feeling was reinforced by the limited instrumental palette – something I’d already tested on Captain of None. The idea in the case of a restricted instrumental palette is not that the songs will be similar, but the reverse: *because* theoretically you are limited in terms of the variety of sound, you cannot hide poor compositional ideas behind a lushness of diversity of instrumental timbres. Instead, the song structure itself, melodies and chords, effects used dynamically to truly shape the direction and mood of the song, the choice to include lyrics or not, and the actual lyrics themselves – everything needs to contribute to the diversity of the album. And to make extra sure that I wasn’t using the same sound combinations over and over again, I kept a precise account of what synth settings I was using (which mode and type of wave), what pedals I was using and what for (just the filter pedal / just the delay one / both, was I using preprogrammed filter patterns, LFO, etc). I really became lost in this electronic soundworld and found it immensely enjoyable, and was surprised at how I did not miss the viola da gamba once: it just felt like exploring a different country and thinking that it was worth a visit in its own right, without comparing it to other beautiful places you’ve visited. Exploring the various combinations was endless, time-consuming too, and not always fruitful, but regularly I found a combination that really spoke to my ears and heart and each time they became a new composition for the album, and little by little I started to get a clearer idea of the tracklisting, which follows a rough chronological timeline: November obviously refers to the worst month of that year, Winter dawn to the subsequent period, Summer night (bat song) already leads to a more peaceful period, and The stars vs creatures and the title track are more about the remaining uncertainty that one realizes will always accompany life, this emotional rollercoaster that life will always be: there simply is no way of evacuating death from life, it is part of it, and we have to learn to live with it.

Colleen by Isabel Dublang iv

The gripping heart of the new album comes with the achingly beautiful duo of ‘Summer night (Bat song)’ and ‘The stars vs creatures’ on side B. ‘The stars vs creatures’ is one of the most profound and moving ballads I have ever heard, one that reduces me to tears upon every visit. Please recount your memories of writing these particular songs, Cécile? The natural world and this magical, otherworldly realm that ‘The stars vs creatures’ inhabits exudes this remarkable source of intense healing. The lyric of “a single one of my feathers is worth a million stars or Venus” represents one of the most magical, celestial moments of ‘A flame my love, a frequency’. 

CS: These were part of the 3 songs that were born with the Septavox during the second half of the making of the album: Winter dawn, Summer night (Bat song), and The stars vs creatures. Summer night (Bat song) is one of the darkest sounding songs on the album, and yet it was inspired by a moment of profound peace: in the summer of 2016 I once again visited my parents in France and was lucky enough to find exceptionally good weather, so spent my afternoons either outside in the garden or inside my childhood bedroom with the windows wide open, giving me a great vantage point to watch birds and do birdwatching-related readings or listenings (something I’d planned on doing for a long time). In the evening after dinner I particularly looked forward to watching the house martins flying high in the sky and sometimes flying right above our house, but the moment I loved even better was waiting for the last bird to fly and for the first bat to appear. There are only two or three bats every night, so seeing them always feels quite special, and over the past couple of years I’ve grown more and more fascinated by these incredible animals, and the fact that they appear right after the last bird seen flying, sometimes within seconds, strikes me as an amazing symbol of a passage from the world of the day and light to a world of night and darkness, which in spite of the commonly associated negative themes is actually brimming with life.

One evening, as I sat in my room, one of them literally nearly flew into my room, and turned around at the last millisecond. I marveled at the dexterity and perfection of its flight, and reflected that I wished that I as a human being were able to do the same thing with my thoughts: just stop them when they’re going in the wrong direction. I knew there and then that I would need to make a song out of that experience, and out of the peace that I felt in that room so loaded with memories.

The stars vs creatures is indeed like another chapter in those reflections on the power of nature and its redeeming beauty: I really do see a kingfisher regularly in a river not far from where I live, and I had a chance encounter with a red fox in Switzerland while birdwatching in a low mountain area – a fleeting second in which I saw him and he saw me and then was gone, a second that filled me with an immense joy that lasted for weeks, the sensation of having had a privileged glimpse into the life of a wild animal where he’s really supposed to be.

Were there challenges posed with the electronic instrumentation and particularly when this provided the sole musical backdrop (excluding your vocals of course)? For instance, I presume some the Moog pedals were used on your previous ‘Captain of None’ tour and I presume you acquired some new equipment to be added to the mix for the new record?

CS: The Moog pedals were really crucial in giving width and analog warmth to the synths, and I used my favourite panning, 50% Left 50% Right, on all stereo returns from the pedals, so that the music sounds like it’s kind of dancing between your ears. I also added my favourite plugins which I’d already used on Captain of None, one is a spring reverb emulation and the other a tape delay.

I must ask you about the gorgeous album-title and how you came about choosing this deeply poignant title (which embodies the music so perfectly)? Also, please talk me through the song itself, it’s one of those meditative laments that maps the impending sunlit horizon. I also love how there seems to be a strong correlation between the album’s title-track and the lead single ‘Separating’, feels like they are sister songs. The title-track reminds me of ‘Lighthouse’, with its hypnotic, meditative feel and the everlasting light of hope that shines forth. Also, this organ sound that melds with your voice creates such a heavenly, soul-stirring sound.

CS: I had the core of that title song early in the making of the album, but the words came to me right towards the end, and in general, this album’s lyrics were hard to write given the serious subject matter. I knew I wanted to stay on a “poetic” (for lack of another word) level because that’s really the only way I manage to write lyrics, and the image of the flame seemed to work for me as a symbol of something that we need to keep alive in times of hardship: some people use a physical flame to represent life or the loved one in times of mourning, but in my title I use the flame more as a metaphor for anything that we hold on to make us survive fear and pain. The frequency was obvious because it’s literally what I did when making the album: I got lost in a world of sound to make myself feel better, and I know that music plays that role for so many people. And since I was in love with the filters’ sound on the MIDIMuRF pedal, I knew I wanted to have a song where the ending would be just that, a play on frequencies appearing and disappearing, with a final resurgence at the end, like a sun coming back from behind the clouds, as a musical symbol of hope.

You must feel deeply proud of this magnificent new album, Cécile. Looking back over the making of ‘A flame my love, a frequency’, I wonder did one song (over other ones) form a gateway into the rest of the album, which allowed you to nearly see the path you were navigating, in a way? Or in some ways, did mistakes or happy accidents occur during any of the sessions that found their way on the final album? 

CS: I actually think the whole process of making an album is a combination of disciplined persistent work and loose explorations where you should just let go and let so-called accidents happen, and electronic music-making is actually the ideal playing field for this approach: there are so many parameters that can change a sound, and with analog gear, there is no way of saving settings, so it’s all about capturing the moment. I take notes because I know I’m going to take the album to the stage later on, so that is also a fascinating activity, learning to know how your machines react to try and replicate something that can be very fleeting. I just loved the learning curve to this project, and I really feel that a new door has been opened in my music-making.

A flame my love, a frequency’ is out now on Thrill Jockey Records.

Colleen’s tour dates (including America and Europe) are listed here.

http://colleenplays.org/
https://www.facebook.com/colleenplays
http://www.thrilljockey.com/

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November 2, 2017 at 2:59 pm

Fractured Air Presents: COLLEEN (FRA) w/ special guest Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh (IRE) / Cork Opera House / SUNDAY 3 MAY 2015

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colleen_concertposter_craigcarry

We’re delighted to be presenting the following double-bill concert with world-renowned composers Cécile Schott (Colleen) and Meteor Choice Music Award winning Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh (The Gloaming, This Is How We Fly). This is Colleen’s only Irish date for her 2015 European tour to promote her latest fifth studio album ‘Captain Of None’, released earlier this April via Thrill Jockey Records. Both artists have mastered their own respective instruments of choice; Schott’s treble viola da gamba and Ó Raghallaigh’s ten-string Hardanger d’Amore fiddle. Join both musicians on the Cork Opera House stage (literally) for an intimate gig set up to bring the audience right into the heart of the music. Concert takes place this Sunday 3 May, doors are 8pm and tickets are €17.50.

Tickets are available now from the Cork Opera House Box Office (Emmet Place, Cork), telephone: + 353 (0) 21 – 427 0022, or online from the following link:

http://www.corkoperahouse.ie/event/colleen-caoimhin-o-raghallaigh/2015-05-03/

Event Page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/667437746735775/

colleen

COLLEEN (FRA/Thrill Jockey)

The Paris-born musician Cécile Schott has been making music as Colleen for over a decade now: beginning with a string of much-loved records for The Leaf Label (debut 2003 album ‘Everyone Alive Wants Answers’, 2005’s ‘The Golden Morning Breaks’ and 2007’s ‘Les Ondes Silencieuses’, as well as 2006’s ‘Colleen Et Les Boîtes À Musique’, (an E.P. originally created for Atelier de Création Radiophonique as a commission from France Culture). After a four-year break, Colleen made her long-awaited return to music in 2013 with the release of her album ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ via London-based label Second Language, its eleven songs featuring, for the first time, Schott’s own voice as well as a new-found love for Jamaican music and rhythm. Colleen’s highly acclaimed fifth studio album ‘Captain Of None’ was released by Chicago-based label Thrill Jockey Records in April 2015.

‘Captain Of None’ is characterized by a stripped-back sound palette (Schott adopts the use of two main instruments; the treble viola da gamba and voice) and finds Schott embracing her long-term love for Jamaican music in terms of the construction of her own songs (production ideas and experimentation with sound). The album was recorded entirely in her home San Sebastian studio, where two key things happened. Firstly, Schott wished to add basslines to her own music, which lead to her using an Octaver Pedal to create bass sounds (the pedal adds another octave below the original sound you are playing). Secondly, Schott began to use a Moogerfooger pedal to create the delay effects crucial to the dub reggae sound aesthetic. ‘Captain Of None’, together with it’s predecessor, 2013’s ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’, journeys Schott’s natural and beautiful transformation from instrumentalist to lyricist, where Schott’s songbook details the inner human life (“so rich and complex it’s just impossible to really understand it and that’s what is really fascinating”).

Colleen’s performance at Cork Opera House will mark Cécile Schott’s eagerly-awaited return to Cork to mark the release of ‘Captain Of None’, her fifth studio album. This is Colleen’s only Irish live performance.

Selected Press for ‘Captain Of None’:

“Colleen essentially provides a journey to this mysterious, elusive heart, one that requires an open mind and sense of adventure… valiant and genre-defying.”
(The Quietus)

“…the whole thing carves out and inhabits a persuasively exotic world of echo that invites total immersion.”
(MOJO)

“…positively vibrate with melodic ideas… the way Colleen uses classical acoustic instruments to reconfigure modern idioms recalls Arthur Russell’s cello-driven World of Echo or Hauschka… Somehow, Schott is able to make these disparate elements feel organic and effortless.”
(Pitchfork)

“The result is gorgeous, like a quietly brewing storm of layered pizzicatos, bouncing off the walls and grazing your ears as they glide past you.”
(Stereo Gum)

“Captain of None is her most ambitious [album] to date. The elegiac vocal elements that buoyed its predecessor are now well and truly on the surface.”
(FACT)

http://colleenplays.org/
https://www.facebook.com/colleenplays
http://www.thrilljockey.com/

caoimhin

Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh (IRE/The Gloaming, This Is How We Fly)

Ireland’s Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh plays traditional and contemporary folk music on Hardanger d’Amore and other fiddles. The masterful musician and gifted composer is undoubtedly a national treasure; heralding a distinctive and utterly compelling voice in Irish contemporary music. In addition to being an established solo artist, he performs with two groups The Gloaming and This is How we Fly, in duos with Dan Trueman, Mick O’Brien & Brendan Begley, a trio with Martin Hayes & Peadar Ó Riada, and as part of many other collaborative projects.

2014 was a remarkable year for Ireland-based composer Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh. Firstly, January ‘14 saw the release of contemporary quintet The Gloaming’s stunning self-titled debut album via Real World Records. Subsequent concerts would be performed across the globe (including Sydney’s Opera House) to mass celebration and widespread critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. As well as touring with his other band, the Irish/Swedish quartet This Is How We Fly, across both Ireland and Europe (and most recently across the U.S.), Ó Raghallaigh also performed a series of truly special solo concerts (entitled “In My Mind”, a solo fiddle and film show) across the length of Ireland for the month of October, organized by Irish Music Network. Despite the hectic touring schedules, Ó Raghallaigh also released two stunning albums: the solo album ‘Music For An Elliptical Orbit’ (via Dublin-based label Diatribe Records) and the mesmerizing ‘Laghdú’, a collaboration with U.S. fiddle player Dan Trueman. The Gloaming’s self-titled debut album was recently awarded the prestigious Meteor Choice Music Prize for 2015.

Selected Press:

“a seamless and unfettered soundscape… there’s enough space and light here for influences as diverse as baroque to minimalism to breathe free… the work of musicians reveling in the moment: a rare find.”
(The Irish Times)

“possibly one of the most fulsome and beautiful recordings I have ever heard. Great music has this magnificent power over us, a power to which the heart must yield always and without regret.”
(Iarla Ó Lionáird)

“ASTOUNDING… Replete with unexpected melodic twists and turns, the tunes are highly cinematic, painting richly impressionistic images.”
(Colm O’Hare, Hot Press)

http://www.caoimhinoraghallaigh.com/
https://www.facebook.com/caoimhinoraghallaigh

 


 

Fractured Air Presents: COLLEEN (FRA) w/ special guest Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh (IRE), Sunday 3 May 2015, Cork Opera House, Tickets: €17.50, Doors: 8pm.

Tickets are available now from the Cork Opera House Box Office (Emmet Place, Cork), telephone: + 353 (0) 21 – 427 0022, or online from the following link:

http://www.corkoperahouse.ie/event/colleen-caoimhin-o-raghallaigh/2015-05-03/

Chosen One: Colleen

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Interview with Cécile Schott, Colleen.

“…for this album there would be a general theme of trying to speak about the human brain, the mind and basically things that connect us all; these inner struggles, inner demons – if you want to call them that – and just, in general, the inner human life is so rich and complex and also it’s just impossible to really understand it and that’s what is really fascinating.”

—Cécile Schott

Words: Mark Carry, Artwork: Craig Carry

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The Paris-born musician Cécile Schott has been making music as Colleen for over a decade now: beginning with a string of much-loved records for The Leaf Label (debut 2003 album ‘Everyone Alive Wants Answers’, 2005’s ‘The Golden Morning Breaks’ and 2007’s ‘Les Ondes Silencieuses’, as well as 2006’s ‘Colleen Et Les Boîtes À Musique’, (an E.P. originally created for Atelier de Création Radiophonique as a commission from France Culture). After a four-year break, Colleen made her long-awaited return to music in 2013 with the release of her album ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ via London-based label Second Language, its eleven songs featuring, for the first time, Schott’s own voice as well as a new-found love for Jamaican music and rhythm. Colleen’s hugely anticipated fifth studio album ‘Captain Of None’ has just been released by Chicago-based label Thrill Jockey Records, representing the crowning jewel of Schott’s treasured works of art thus far.

The first glimpses of the San Sebastian-based artist’s new material came during 2013’s ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ tour, in the form of the shape-shifting creations: ‘Captain Of None’, ‘I’m Kin’ and ‘Lighthouse’. The scintillating dub-infused rhythms interwoven with Schott’s mesmerising voice is a pure joy to behold as vast seas of tender beauty ascend into the human space. I was fortunate to witness Colleen’s live performance on two separate occasions during 2013 – Dublin’s Unitarian Church during the early summer and Cork’s Triskel Christchurch in early November – that were dotted with an endless array of utterly transcendent moments created in Schott’s own little corner of the world.

The hypnotic notes of Schott’s trusted treble viola da gamba (a baroque instrument with gut strings) formed the foundation to ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’s sonic trajectory – in accordance with Schott’s use of vocals for the very first time – that would be further explored on ‘Captain Of None’ to wondrous effect. Unlike ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ – which incorporated a wide palette of instrumentation (for instance, the use of organ on ‘Humming Fields’ or clarinet on ‘Moonlit Sky’) ‘Captain Of None’ limits the instrumentation to Schott’s voice and treble viola da gamba (with the exception on the melodica-led, Augustus Pabo-inspired ‘Salina Stars’). The album’s eight sublime creations further evolve, transform and ceaselessly mutate due to the compelling production ideas and wholly unique artistic vision of Schott, who creates, in turn, a sonic marvel of a record. Inspired by Jamaican music, the dub-inspired techniques (basslines provided by a Moogerfooger delay pedal) utilized throughout ‘Captain Of None’ transports the listener to the further reaches of one’s mind: a lost labyrinth of time.

In Lloyd Bradley’s comprehensive history of Jamaican music, ‘Bass Culture’, one particular chapter describes Lee Perry’s Black Ark Studio (Schott’s own San Sebastian-based studio has been lovingly dubbed the White Ark). Leroy Sibbles describes Perry as “an explorer going into the future of the music” and I feel those very words epitomises both the ambitious scope of ‘Captain of None’ and the breath-taking inventiveness of its author.

“The naked eye can’t see these things” sings Schott on ‘Captain Of None’s penultimate tour-de-force, ‘Eclipse’, it perhaps best describes the lyrical viewpoint of Schott since she commenced adding voice to her compositions on 2013’s ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’, where both realms of the real and the imagined are simultaneously traversed and explored (in a similar vein to Liz Harris’s Grouper guise or Sibylle Baier’s beloved ‘Colour Green’, for instance).

Like a beacon of the night, ‘Captain Of None’ reveals a sense of the vulnerable and the fragile (as well as a sense of the deeply personal) which quietly lie side-by-side with the brave and the permanent. All the while to the pulse of a beautiful, beating heart.

colleen-captain-of-none-artwork-by-iker-spozio-300x300

‘Captain Of None’ is available now on Thrill Jockey Records.

http://colleenplays.org/
https://www.facebook.com/colleenplays
http://www.thrilljockey.com/

colleen_collage_craigcarry_web

Interview with Cécile Schott, Colleen.

Congratulations, Cécile, on the incredible new album ‘Captain of None’, it is very special.

Cécile Schott: Thank you.

First of all, it’s great to see the songs you performed on ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ tour – the likes of ‘Captain Of None’, ‘Lighthouse’ and ‘I’m Kin’ – present on the new album and to hear how they have evolved over the past year or so.

CS: Yes, it’s true. It’s actually one of the first albums I’ve done where most of the songs – well, half of the songs on the album – were born as live songs as I was basically preparing the live show for ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’. What happens usually when I rehearse is of course I am rehearsing specific songs but there is always a point when, for instance, your hand strikes another chord or maybe you just sing something to yourself and all of a sudden you realize that you have the seed for a new song. And basically the first song that was born that way was ‘Lighthouse’. When I was rehearsing for ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ live shows in 2013 and then the following summer, ‘Captain Of None’ and ‘I’m Kin’ evolved really rapidly as I was rehearsing in my studio, playing around with ideas. So it’s true it’s the first time I’ve been able to play a couple of songs from a forthcoming album before the album is released, basically. It was actually really nice at the moment of recording, I had the body of these three songs and then I was able to give them further clothes by adding little production ideas and having a more complex sound. It’s obviously easier to have a more complex and interesting sound when you are recording because you have more tools at your disposal.

That’s exactly one of the aspects that makes ‘Captain Of None’ such a compelling journey: it is the instrumentation itself and all the different layers. I think too it’s the studio set-up that you have – which you have dubbed ‘The White Ark’ in reference to Lee Perry’s ‘Black Ark’ – I would love for you to discuss the various techniques because it’s obviously an album with so many ideas where there is so many elements happening in the music.

CS: Thank you. Well basically the album is both very cohesive in the sense that there is only one stringed instrument – that’s the treble viola da gamba – and then there’s the voice and these are the two main instruments. On ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ there was treble viola da gamba, bass viola da gamba, acoustic guitar, clarinet, piano, organ, toy gamelan (basically a miniature version of a gamelan), frame drum, floor tom and other bits of percussion, and of course my voice, so it was very varied.

With this album I knew I was going to do something different because I really fell in love with the sound of the treble viola da gamba. Basically, what happened was, when I was making ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’, there was a moment when I took the treble viola – and I hadn’t recorded with it yet – and then I changed its tuning and that’s how I first made the song ‘Geometría del Universo’ and then I made a couple of other songs like ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ and ‘Raven’ with it. And at that moment I knew I was really onto something because I think it’s a very, very specific sound and it led me to a way of playing that was different. So I knew from that moment that the subsequent album would be mainly focusing on this and on the voice.

Also, at the time of recording ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’, I was listening with Iker [Spozio] to a lot of Jamaican music and I felt so inspired by it that I also thought that ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ was a very prepared album – in a way it’s a very controlled album in the sense that it was my comeback album, I was trying the voice which was obviously a big, big challenge for me and I was quite worried whether or not I could pull it off – and so I had to control many parameters on ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ and I think after that I needed to make an album where I could feel free – free to play, free to experiment – so from then on, I knew the album would have a kind of restricted palette of instruments but that it would be counter-balanced with my approach to producing it. And you know that’s where the Jamaican influence comes in big time even though it’s true it doesn’t sound like Jamaican music as such because obviously the instruments are different – my voice is nothing like a Jamaican singer’s voice – the point is not to even imitate the Jamaican music that I am so fond of but rather to take my inspiration from production ideas and the idea of experimenting, of playing with sound and seeing how far that can take you in terms of constructing songs, basically.

The quality of the overall sound as well where there is a very warm and organic sound from the instrumentation you use but I love too how like you mention with ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’, on one level the songs are quite longer in the sense that there are extensive closing sections to many of the songs. 

CS: I can talk a bit more about certain things in my set-up that have really led to the sonic identity of the album. For instance, and that’s one of the things I love about trying to develop as a musician, is that sometimes you feel that you want to do something but maybe you haven’t got the right piece of gear to do it – you know, for instance I’m not at all someone who buys lots of gear, it’s something I don’t do. At one point I had a tendency to collect instruments but now I really stopped doing that. But sometimes it’s true that acquiring a new piece of equipment can really make a big difference. I think for this album, two things happened: First, I wanted to have some basslines in my music so I researched what is called Octaver pedals on the internet and I ended up buying one. An Octaver pedal adds another octave below the original sound you are playing, so it gives you a bass sound but with the original sound still present. When I got it and started playing with it, it was like: “Oh I just can’t believe how good this is!” It was giving me a bass sound that was way better than anything I could have hoped for especially because the treble viola in itself doesn’t really have any bass. So the first big change was that I started to think in terms of basslines.

And the second big gear acquisition [laughs] was the Moogerfooger pedal. I basically got this pedal after seeing the Moogerfooger pedals in a video by American musician King Britt and I thought: “wow, these pedals look really cool” so I started to look at demo videos on the internet and I thought: “wow, this looks like something really different”. I already had lots of delay pedals but they weren’t analog pedals, just digital pedals doing emulations of analog delay. So I got one of them and you know again it was a case of not being able to believe the things that it was doing to the sound; it was completely different to everything I had in my array of pedals. So that was the second thing that started to enable different sounds to come into play on the album. And the thing about the Moogerfooger is it’s a pedal that you really have to use as if you were playing live. Basically, I was recording something and I was turning the dials on the pedals or maybe I recorded something beforehand and afterwards I would run the sound that I had recorded through the pedal and I would touch the various parameters that you have on the pedal.

For instance, a song like ‘Holding Horses’, the song is really – apart from the bassline – completely connected with the use of the Moogerfooger; all the different sounds – changes in the sounds you hear – it’s all through the Moogerfooger. Also, a song like ‘Salina Stars’, the melodica goes through the Moogerfooger and it’s what really gives those sounds and likewise for ‘Eclipse’, the voice goes through the Moogerfooger and so that was a really good moment of buying something and seeing that it’s taking you into whole new places in terms of sound, which in turn takes you to a different way of making music.

One of the first things that comes to mind is that the album feels like a live performance in the way that it takes you to the live show itself. In terms of the lyrics, I love how, for example ‘I’m Kin’, I love the beautiful imagery that is drawn from the song itself.

CS: I am a very curious person and I have an interest in so many things and one of those interests is trying to see how humans are connected across the ages, across geographical spaces and how we are connected to animals and just, in general, to the natural world that’s around us. So, I think with ‘I’m Kin’ I was trying to express this feeling of connection to other past ancient cultures including cultures that have completely vanished. I can tell you specifically for instance that the “golden ram from Iraq” is a reference to a statue that’s in the British museum; it’s a statue of a ram, it’s usually called the ‘Ram in a Thicket’ – it’s what it’s officially called, if I remember well – and I remember the first time I saw it, I was thinking wow, this is from the same place that now we only hear about because of the war in Iraq and you know this is like a birthplace and cradle of civilisation which was incredibly important to the development of the arts and so I thought that was quite interesting.

And then, afterwards, basically the song takes you from, first, it’s the connection to past civilisations and then it’s the connection to the animals; so in ‘The Odyssey’, Argos is the dog of Odysseus and when Odysseus comes back from his long journey, no one recognises him because he’s changed so much and there’s only his dog that recognises him. I remember when I read ‘The Odyssey’ I thought that was such a moving passage, I thought that there is no better example of that connection between a dog and his master. And also the next sentence of “the greyhounds hanging from the trees” – I don’t know if you’re going to understand this reference [laughs] – it’s basically a reference to the Spanish greyhounds that are used by hunters and unfortunately the hunters, once their dogs are not useful anymore for hunting or if they’re considered bad hunting dogs, they’re basically left to die in horrible conditions; they’re even tortured. It just meant a lot to say that I felt connected to the fate of the poor animal like that and then it moves onto the elements like “the rocks and the water” and when you tread on something there is this whole hidden world – insects and life underneath – like the song goes from something that is concrete and human to the world of elements and of the tiny, basically.

Again, I think the lyrics are so poignant; they feel almost like parables as you listen to the different songs. 

CS: I think there are various ways of writing lyrics. For instance, I really admire people who can write lyrics that have a narrative content so, for instance, I think a real master of that kind of lyric writing is Townes Van Zandt. When you listen to a Townes Van Zandt song it’s almost like hearing a short story and it works so well and if you had to sum up the contents of his songs they would sound really, maybe cliché but his gift for narrative writing which obviously is infused with a lot of poetry is really, really strong. Or someone like Stina Nordenstam who I think has some songs that really have this sense of mysterious narrative and, unfortunately, I don’t think I am one of those kind of lyric writers. Also, I think I’m very much at the beginning of writing lyrics, you know in total I’ve written very few lyrics but I knew that for this album there would be a general theme of trying to speak about the human brain, the mind and basically things that connect us all; these inner struggles, inner demons if you want to call them that and just in general the inner human life is so rich and complex and also it’s just impossible to really understand it and that’s what is really fascinating. For instance, a song like ‘Captain Of None’ is really about that but the thing is the way I was writing the lyrics I was really trying to stay away from clichés and so when you say a parable, it’s not necessarily that I want the lyrics to be hard to understand and I don’t think that they are but it’s trying to write them in a way that hopefully will resonate with every listener and maybe every listener, when listening to the lyrics, will take something from it and maybe interpret it in his or her own way.

Staying with the song ‘Captain Of None’, I love how both the title-track of this album and ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’, I think it works so beautifully that each song closes the album as well.

CS: Yeah, yeah I like the idea of maybe keeping the most important thing for the end in a way.

If one lyric comes to mind that sums up nearly the feel of the album would be the lyric “I got lost inside a dream”, it encapsulates the journey as a whole. 

CS: The song is about losing touch with reality and not recognizing or understanding yourself – trying to find rest yet being unable to do so – hence the feeling of getting lost in a kind of parallel reality (a “dream”) which leaves you feeling “Captain of none and nothing”.

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When you listen to the new record too you feel there is a trajectory going back to even your first album and the music boxes; there are textures and nuances present that makes you feel shades of your previous material is somehow embedded in there as well.

CS: Yeah, it’s funny I’m actually quite happy about that because, on the one hand, I’ve never made an album like this one but on the other hand it’s true that some aspects of it go back to the first album and in a way that’s quite nice. I think maybe at one point – I’ve never rejected what I’ve done in the past – but I remember when I was making ‘Les Ondes Silencieuses’ I really wanted to be able to play without looping because I was thinking “Oh ok, everyone uses loopers, it’s boring; to be a real musician I need to be able to play without any background looping” so I had these kind of ideas in my head and you know I think as an artist, you do go through various phases and it’s interesting how if you let a few years pass you can change your mind completely. Well, I’ve gone back to my initial love of sampling and looping and I think that’s completely fine and also I think one of the effects of Jamaican music is that in a way Jamaican music and especially the dub productions, they really pre-date so much of the music from the end of the electronica and all subsequent electronic music. And one of the things about Jamaican music is that it’s often very basic in terms of the melodic unit: it can be the same chord for five minutes and when I realized that I was never disturbed by that, I thought well it just goes to show that it’s not about whether something is looped or sampled, if it’s a great melodic unit then yeah, it can last for ten minutes for all I know, so I was really glad to be able to just work without any preconceptions of what I should do. And I still really like that first album [‘Everyone Alive Wants Answers’] so I’m glad I was somehow able to make the circle form itself.

And what is also wonderful are the sublime instrumental cuts. I know you’ve already mentioned ‘Salina Stars’ and I love how it brings you to the likes of Augustus Pablo and the like.

CS: Absolutely. Augustus Pablo was my reference point to the song, it was almost like a little homage. It’s funny because first I thought I wasn’t going to use the melodica because I thought well that is going to sound sub-par compared to Augustus Pablo’s melodic genius but then I took it out of its case and I hadn’t touched it in years and years and then all of a sudden the song was born. And yeah I’m really glad because I think it adds variety to the album’s sound as well. Before, I said the album is only treble viola but it’s not completely true, there is also the melodica.

Actually another thing, Cécile, I didn’t realize it until recently but if you’d like to talk about first noticing the viola da gamba itself, I think it was in a French film?

CS: I think I was about fifteen when on French TV they showed ‘Tous les Matins du Monde’ by Alain Corneau. I remember watching it and just falling in love with the sound of the viola da gamba. At the time, I think maybe I had just started to play the guitar possibly, but anyway it seemed like something that you would think about but it’s never going to be for you because I don’t have a classical education. At the time I couldn’t read notes on the score and also the viola da gamba is a very expensive instrument; it’s very rare. I mean, you can find a cello quite easily but to obtain a viola da gamba is like a whole different process. So that basically stayed at the back of my mind and later on, when I took up the cello, that kind of went into the foreground a little bit until, in 2005, when I made the decision to order a viola and then so afterwards I had to wait for nine months for the viola maker to make it and then I got it in early 2006. But the treble viola da gamba, I only got it in 2009 and the interesting thing is I just wasn’t using it. I got it precisely at the moment when I went through my blank period of not feeling like making music. But afterwards, when I went back to making music, it wasn’t the easiest instrument to go to because I hadn’t really played it. So, I thought: oh, I’ve ordered the viola and it’s cost me money and it’s just lying there and I haven’t even used it until I had this revelation when I was making ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ and I changed the tuning and so that’s the short story about the viola [laughs].

Another thing is how fantastic it is that you have your proper studio set-up – which is really like for the first time – and no longer having difficulties of only recording at night, for example with ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’? So this time for once you had your proper space.

CS: Well I have to say this album has been such a joy to make. All of my previous albums, there’s always been a challenge of some sort. If I think of the second album [‘Golden Morning Breaks’] it was the first time I was recording with real instruments and I had the so-called second album pressure on and the third album ‘Les Ondes Silencieuses’ that was a really hard one to pull off because I was going for a more minimal sound with the big viola da gamba and for that you need really good microphones, you need quite a good recording technique, so in the end I got the help of my mastering engineer at the time, Emiliano Flores: he’s also a sound engineer so thankfully he helped me to record it. But it was recorded in two weeks in an attic at his parents’ place and then I did some of the additional recording at home but it was far from ideal and kind of rushed. For ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’, I had the studio but the studio had these terrible doors and windows; you could hear the sound of cars and from people coming by so I had to record the album partly in our flat here and partly in the studio at night. It was just insane and I would be so tired; it is just not good for you to work that way and it’s also quite stressful. One of my aims with this album was: “Ok, this time I’m really going to take my time and just do things well” and I was able to do it thanks to the renovation of the doors and windows of the studio that happened in late 2013. Honestly, it was amazing to go there at a normal time like 3 in the afternoon and just spend the whole afternoon until 8 in the evening recording and there is no noise and there’s light coming through the doors, it was just great you know [laughs]. My first pain-free recording, basically.

At the start of your last tour you had some new songs, I wonder do you have sketches of new songs in your head at the moment or is it too soon?

CS: I have very, very small things but to be honest I’m just concentrating on learning how to perform all the songs from the album – well seven from the eight songs on the album – I’m learning to perform them live because the thing is some of them are really easy because they already existed before the album was recorded; ‘Captain Of None’, ‘I’m Kin’ and ‘Lighthouse’ – these were pretty easy – but the other ones were made in the studio and the thing about using delays is that delay works differently in a studio setting and in a live setting: in the studio it was going into the computer and you’re basically using headphones but then it’s a different bag of tricks when you’re playing through a PA system because then the delay doesn’t react the same way. So I’m having to learn how to change the settings of the delays from how I’ve had them for the recording. And also I have to learn how to perform the songs in one go because obviously on the album, with the luxury of recording, you can always touch up on mistakes and do twenty takes if you need to. So right now I’m mostly concentrating on just that and I have a faint idea of what the next album might be like but I also think I shouldn’t rush.

I love ‘Lighthouse’ which is one of the older songs off the new album. I suppose it shows the inspiration you draw from your surroundings in San Sebastian?

CS: Absolutely. I think in a way ‘Lighthouse’ is a bit different from the rest of the album because I think it’s the only one that doesn’t really fit the thematic unit of the rest of the album because it was made much earlier. The thing is ever since I moved here I’ve always had the idea of having at least one song that would pay homage to the beauty of the landscape here, the soothing quality of it and the magical quality of living by the sea because, in a way, I’m used to it now but I think it’s when I see something like a lighthouse, I don’t know maybe it’s the human element within the landscape of the sea, the flashing lights; there’s something about lighthouses that are very poetic. For instance, I always have this fantasy of one day being able to record an entire album in a lighthouse and at some point it would be something I’d love to do. Also in a way I think the lighthouse flashes, they also have enormous musical qualities – I don’t know if that really makes sense – there is something like a pulse that really speaks to me and you’ve seen this lighthouse anyway, it’s always the same emotion of seeing that landscape and definitely as far as living here is concerned, I actually find it very beneficial to be living in a place where there isn’t very much happening because in a way it forces you to look deeper within you and also gives you more time to work on your own stuff. And that’s the way I feel and I’m glad I lived in Paris for many years – and I probably think it was the right place for me at the time – but actually right now I couldn’t go back to a big city. I think it’s really good to be here and have this balance and also this ability sometimes to completely disconnect from city life, and go to a park or go by the river or sea or go to some hills and completely disconnect and I think that is quite important and quite healthy.

I love your story about when you used to visit the local libraries in Paris, which in turn formed your musical education in many ways? It must have been a whole new world of sounds that opened before you?

CS: I think I’m so lucky that I was able to arrive in Paris at the moment I felt like making music again. Basically what happened from the age of nineteen to twenty-three, I gave up for a moment. From about twenty/twenty-one to twenty-three/twenty-four, I wasn’t sure what kind of music I wanted to make and I didn’t have the tools anyway to do something original and I knew that I wanted to do something by myself. I knew that I didn’t want it to be guitar driven – and I was only playing the guitar at the time – and I think arriving in Paris at that time and having free access to all this music at the time when the internet was barely starting, you know that’s like pre-historic times you know for young people reading this now. I think you have to remember that in 1999 there was no way to listen to things that easily and I think it really formed my whole project of making music in a different way through having access to all this different music.

Finally, Cécile, in terms of Jamaican music, what artists would you recommend?

CS: I’d like to suggest the work of the following people; in terms of producers: Lee Perry, King Tubby, Augustus Pablo, Scientist, and the recordings that appear on the Wackies label. For interpreters: the early Tappa Zukie and early Burning Spear are favorites, as well as Noel Ellis, Ras Michael, Stranger Cole, Horace Andy… but it’s just the tip of this huge iceberg of excellent music that is the Jamaican music production from the late 60s to early 80s (the period I love the best, with my year of birth – 1976 – being a particular favourite, but that’s just a coincidence!)

 


 

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‘Captain Of None’ is available now on Thrill Jockey Records.

http://colleenplays.org/
https://www.facebook.com/colleenplays
http://www.thrilljockey.com/

We’re proud to be presenting Colleen (with special guest Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh) live at Cork Opera House on Sunday 3 May 2015. Tickets are €17.50, available at Cork Opera House Box Office (Emmet Place, Cork City); telephone (+353 21 427 0022) or online HERE.

 

ON SALE: Colleen plus special guest Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh / Cork Opera House / Sunday 3 May 2015

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We’re delighted to announce a special double-bill concert comprising the world-renowned composers Colleen (France) and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh (Ireland). Each artist has developed a wholly unique playing style and highly distinctive approach to their own respective instrument of choice: Colleen’s viola da gamba and Ó Raghallaigh’s Hardanger d’Amore fiddle. Taking place on the May Bank Holiday Weekend, this concert will be Colleen’s only Irish performance of 2015 in support of her soon-to-be-released fifth studio album on Thrill Jockey Records. In addition, this one-off concert will take place in the intimate setting of the Cork Opera House where the stage itself will be shared by both musicians and audience alike, making for an unforgettable experience. Colleen plus special guest Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh performs at Cork Opera House on Sunday 3rd May 2015, tickets are €17.50.

Tickets are available now from the Cork Opera House Box Office (Emmet Place, Cork), telephone: + 353 (0) 21 – 427 0022, or online from the following link:

http://www.corkoperahouse.ie/events/colleen-caoimh%C3%ADn-ó-raghallaigh

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COLLEEN (FRA)

The Paris-born musician Cécile Schott has been making music as Colleen for over a decade now: beginning with a string of much-loved records for The Leaf Label (debut 2003 album ‘Everyone Alive Wants Answers’, 2005’s ‘The Golden Morning Breaks’ and 2007’s ‘Les Ondes Silencieuses’, as well as 2006’s ‘Colleen Et Les Boîtes À Musique’, (an E.P. originally created for Atelier de Création Radiophonique as a commission from France Culture). After a four-year break, Colleen made her long-awaited return to music in 2013 with the release of her album ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ via London-based label Second Language, its eleven songs featuring, for the first time, Schott’s own voice as well as a new-found love for Jamaican music and rhythm. Colleen’s hugely anticipated fifth studio album will be released by Chicago-based label Thrill Jockey Records in April 2015.

While her first album, ‘Everyone Alive Wants Answers’, was made up entirely of acoustic samples taken from her eclectic record collection, second album ‘The Golden Morning Breaks’ saw her exploring a wide range of instruments which she all played herself – cello, classical guitar, ukulele, music boxes, windchimes, and a rare 19th century glass harmonicon. After the music box interlude of the ‘Colleen Et Les Boîtes À Musique’ EP, she made an old dream come true with 2007’s ‘Les Ondes Silencieuses’– a modern album using almost exclusively baroque instruments (viola da gamba, spinet, clarinet, classical guitar and crystal glasses), focusing on their resonance and the silence between the notes. Colleen’s performance at Cork Opera House will mark Cécile Schott’s eagerly-awaited return to Cork to mark the release of her fifth studio album.

Press:

“An album of unusual sensuality and feeling.”
(The Irish Times)

“…a gleaming treasure.”
(Folk Radio UK)

“Like nothing you’ve ever heard. Astonishing.”
(DJ)

“Lyrical and full of light…magical.”
(Mojo)

Links:

http://colleenplays.org/
https://www.facebook.com/colleenplays

 


 

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CAOIMHÍN Ó RAGHALLAIGH (IRE)

Ireland’s Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh plays traditional and contemporary folk music on Hardanger d’Amore and other fiddles. The masterful musician and gifted composer is undoubtedly a national treasure; heralding a distinctive and utterly compelling voice in Irish contemporary music. In addition to being an established solo artist, he performs with two groups The Gloaming and This is How we Fly, in duos with Dan Trueman, Mick O’Brien & Brendan Begley, a trio with Martin Hayes & Peadar Ó Riada, and as part of many other collaborative projects.

2014 was a remarkable year for Ireland-based composer Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh. Firstly, January ‘14 saw the release of contemporary quintet The Gloaming’s stunning self-titled debut album via Real World Records. Subsequent concerts would be performed across the globe (including Sydney’s Opera House) to mass celebration and widespread critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. As well as touring with his other band, the Irish/Swedish quartet This Is How We Fly, across both Ireland and Europe, Ó Raghallaigh also performed a series of truly special solo concerts (entitled “In My Mind”, a solo fiddle and film show) across the length of Ireland for the month of October, organized by Irish Music Network. Despite the hectic touring schedules, Ó Raghallaigh also released two stunning albums: the solo album ‘Music For An Elliptical Orbit’ (via Dublin-based label Diatribe Records) and the mesmerizing ‘Laghdú’, a collaboration with U.S. fiddle player Dan Trueman.

Press:

“a seamless and unfettered soundscape… there’s enough space and light here for influences as diverse as baroque to minimalism to breathe free… the work of musicians reveling in the moment: a rare find.”
(The Irish Times)

“possibly one of the most fulsome and beautiful recordings I have ever heard. Great music has this magnificent power over us, a power to which the heart must yield always and without regret.”
(Iarla Ó Lionáird)

“ASTOUNDING… Replete with unexpected melodic twists and turns, the tunes are highly cinematic, painting richly impressionistic images.”
(Colm O’Hare, Hot Press)

Links:

http://www.caoimhinoraghallaigh.com/
https://www.facebook.com/caoimhinoraghallaigh

 


 

Fractured Air presents: COLLEEN plus very special guest CAOIMHÍN Ó RAGHALLAIGH / Cork Opera House / Sunday 3 May 2015

Tickets are available now from the Cork Opera House Box Office (Emmet Place, Cork), telephone: + 353 (0) 21 – 427 0022, or online from the following link:

http://www.corkoperahouse.ie/events/colleen-caoimh%C3%ADn-ó-raghallaigh

Don’t Look Back: 2014 (Part 1)

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“Don’t Look Back” is our look back on the year from the perspective of both musicians as well as various members of the arts community at large, who — despite varying geographical locations and backgrounds — all share the following in common: a deep passion and love for music. We’re both honored and delighted to be able to share the words of these special people through their personal accounts of the year that was: 2014. 

Part 1 of a 2-part series.

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Susan Schneider, The Space Lady (Colorado, USA)

There are fewer people in the universe more deserving of such a rewarding and special year than The Space Lady. And 2014 has been that (and so much more) for the much-fabled Outsider Artist Susan Schneider, who, after the NightSchool Records release of “The Space Lady’s Greatest Hits” in November 2013, suddenly found a whole new audience (and new generations) of adoring music fans. After decades of street busking across the States (San Francisco’s Castro and the Haight areas would become her adopted home) with her beloved Casiotone keyboard and iconic winged helmet (with flashing red light), 2014 would see The Space Lady embark on her first ever tour of venues, where she toured extensively across both the United States and Europe to universal critical acclaim. 

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What a cosmic whirlwind 2014 was for The Space Lady, after what I thought was her long-ago retirement. First, a tour of America’s West Coast, then off to the UK and Ireland in April – where those strange rumours about TSL having thousands of adoring fans around the world proved overwhelmingly true, and held true throughout the European tour, and then in Denver, Toronto, and finally in little, picturesque Crestone, Colorado.

From the daily struggles of playing on the streets – dealing with traffic noise, inclement weather, dying batteries, complaints to police, and indifferent, or sometimes outright rude people – to playing to enthusiastic crowds of TSL fans in artistic, counter-cultural settings with powerful sound systems, my songs – and my self-esteem – sky-rocketed!

Not only that, but with the support of my husband Eric, “The Space Manager,” I realized I could actually have a music career, doing what I really love, not just what I had to do to make money. Once again, Joseph Campbell’s advice to “follow your bliss” became a viable alternative to doing what’s expected, schlepping along uninspired on that proverbial wage-slave treadmill. All those years of hand-to-mouth struggle not only weren’t wasted – after all, I did support my family of five – but my unique sound and style had taken on a life of its own and traveled around the world, thanks to the internet and word of mouth.

Coming back home to quiet, conservative Colorado after the tours was not unpleasant….in fact, at first it was replenishing. Then a book by Elizabeth Kolbert, ‘The Sixth Extinction’, slapped me upside the head. Of course we’ve all heard about climate change to a nearly numbing extent; but the author’s dispassionate, scientific reporting on eco-collapse from around the world shocked me awake like never before. I found myself almost paralyzed emotionally with despair. What can I possibly do? Well, the next right thing for me was to get behind my keyboard and mournfully wail, which led to the creation of my new song, ‘The Next Right Thing’. I call it a love song to Mother Earth…and a call to action.

Then more recently, Eric discovered another book called ‘The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible’, by Charles Eisenstein. Upon reading that, my hope for the future of nature and humanity was rekindled. It’s all about inventing a new cultural “story,” i.e., making a very necessary shift from our old, black-and-white story of separation, frantic competition and endless expansion, to a new story that creates a world of inter-connectedness, steeped in kindness and patience. To illustrate, Eisenstein quotes an African tribal chief who was warned by activists that his world was about to be destroyed by encroaching civilization, and that it was urgent for him to fight back. The chief calmly replied, “Urgency is not something we have here.”

We can’t fix what’s wrong in the world by simply revamping those old methods that got us here. We have to change our way of being. So we really have nothing more to do than follow our hearts and practice patience. That’s what I began doing in 1980 when I joyfully started busking with an old accordion in downtown Boston, which led to the creation of The Space Lady. But after 20 years of playing on the street, I had given up. Now, thanks to my fans, promoters, agents, record producer Michael Kasparis, and most of all to Eric – my ever-supportive husband/manager – I am following my heart again. Thank you all – you’ve given me the opportunity to once again step into the role of The Space Lady – that cosmic, other-worldly messenger who comes to us on Wings of Song!

 

—Susan Schneider

 

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‘The Space Lady’s Greatest Hits’ is available now on NightSchool Records.

http://www.thespacelady.net/
http://nightschoolrecords.com/

 


 

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Iker Spozio (San Sebastián, Spain)

Italian artist Iker Spozio is an illustrator, engraver and painter whose artwork is handmade using traditional techniques (such as monotype, collage, ink and paint) and without computer. Spozio’s work has been widely reproduced and seen in the context of music: producing album sleeves for such musicians as: Colleen, Hauschka, Mark Fry, Adrian Crowley, Half Asleep and working with music labels such as FatCat, The Leaf Label, Thrill Jockey and Deutsche Grammophon. Spozio is represented internationally by various illustration agencies (including London-based Folio) while his client list also includes publishers Laurence King and Penguin Books. Extensive commission work for Laurence King for a series of Artist books entitled “This Is” will be published next year (including “This Is Magritte”, to be published in Autumn 2015).

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– Jamaican music.
Mostly old 7″s, 10″s and 12″s which haven’t been reissued yet. My favourite find of the year would be Lee Van Cliff’s ‘Wiser Than Solomon’ 10″ (HitBound, mixed by Scientist).
Also several reissues released in 2014 by Pressure Sounds, DKR and OnlyRoots.

– Tommaso Landolfi.
My all-time favourite writer. I treasure all his books (which are being repressed by Adelphi in Italy) and always will.

– Medieval art.
I’ve always been interested in it, but only in 2014 I took the time to investigate it in-depth. I saw many great examples of it during a holiday in the South-East of Italy, this year, and read several interesting books on the subject. I’ve grown a great passion for Mozarabic miniature painting in particular.

– Italy in the 70s.
I was a child then, hence I don’t remember much about it. I’m currently trying to learn as much as possible about a particularly complex period in the history of my native country.

– Birdwatching with Cécile by the river, especially to see my beloved kingfisher.

 

—Iker Spozio

 

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http://www.ikerspozio.net/
https://www.facebook.com/iker.spozio

 


 

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Cécile Schott, Colleen (San Sebastián, Spain)

The Paris-born musician Cécile Schott has been making music as Colleen for over a decade now: beginning with a string of much-loved records for The Leaf Label (debut 2003 album ‘Everyone Alive Wants Answers’, 2005’s ‘The Golden Morning Breaks’ and 2007’s ‘Les Ondes Silencieuses’, as well as 2006’s ‘Colleen Et Les Boîtes À Musique’, an E.P. originally created for Atelier de Création Radiophonique as a commission from France Culture). After a four-year break, Colleen made her long-awaited return to music in 2013 with the release of her album ‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ via London-based label Second Language, its eleven songs featuring, for the first time, Schott’s own voice as well as a new-found love for Jamaican music and rhythm. Colleen’s hugely anticipated fifth studio album ‘Captain Of None’ will be released by Chicago-based label Thrill Jockey Records in April 2015.

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2014 started promisingly with settling in my newly renovated rehearsing and recording studio: the doors and windows of this former olive and pepper brinery were literally 50 years old and full of gaps, so that a lot of noise passed through them, making recording possible only late at night. Everything was changed for state-of-the art triple glazing, and tiles were added to a part of the floor that suffered from dampness problems, and these two changes have made a world of difference and turned an OK place into a truly welcoming and adequate work environment.

This in turn led me to a major upgrade of my recording equipment. I’m quite the anti-consumerist and believe a minimal mindset can be beneficial to making music, so whenever I make a new purchase, it’s usually preceded by months of thinking and research on the product that will best fit my requirements. With this finally silent working environment, it made sense to invest in my first nearfield monitoring system (the basic mixing tool, which I did without for all my previous albums exceptLes ondes silencieuses’). My soundcard was from 2003, so that also needed a major upgrade, along with a new computer, two pairs of really good headphones (one for mixing, one for recording), and an analog delay Moogerfooger pedal which unexpectedly ended up playing a major role on my new album.

This all contributed to making the recording of my fifth album by far the most pleasant and pain-free recording I’ve ever experienced. It was actually the first time I was able to record in a near-professional environment, with the invaluable advantage of this being my own place, which means unlimited time and freedom, and no neighbours to worry about. It was also the first time I recorded during the spring, and the light coming from outside, although filtered, imparted a real sense of joy to these sessions. It was awesome to get out of the studio at 8 in the evening and still see the light outside!

I finished the album in early July and got the confirmation that American label Thrill Jockey would release it, which has been tremendously exciting, and is hopefully the start of a long and fruitful working relationship with a label that has a truly impressive and diverse roster of free-thinking artists.

I was then able to relax for real during the beautiful summer, and in September, due to having to rehearse with more bass frequencies than in the past (the 5th album contains lots of bass lines), I also bought a small PA system, which has made rehearsing for the shows a much closer experience to actually playing live, making it all the more exciting.

The walls of our home have been vibrating daily to the sounds of Jamaican music almost non-stop for more than 2 years now, vastly thanks to my partner in life and in art Iker Spozio, whose  obsession with the Jamaican stuff keeps the house filled with new vinyl. I’ve listened to Jamaican music several times in my life, including when I was very young and had no clue as to what it was, and it seems entirely logical and natural that it has finally entered my own music.

Last but not least, in a year that also contained some very sad news, some small creatures have come to play an increasingly important part in my life and help me stay sane: birds. I started to get into birdwatching last year, in great part thanks to Martin Holm who curated the Music and Migration series at Second Language, the label that released my fourth album ‘The Weighing of the Heart’. My interest progressed steadily with the acquisition of the birdwatching Bible that is the ‘Collins Bird Guide’ and a good pair of binoculars, and since then there’s been no turning back. It’s hard for me to describe in words what it is about being in nature and observing birds that feels so right to me… Apart from the sheer amazement at their beauty and at the biodiversity that was right on my doorstep without me even knowing it (I live in the Spanish Basque country which is very varied in terms of landscape), there is something incredibly liberating about an activity that has nothing to do with us humans, and indeed with me: birds don’t care about us and that’s why watching them is so great – the feeling of disconnecting from modern life and reconnecting with something wild and ancient is truly priceless. For me, birdwatching even acts as a metaphor for life and how I should try to live it: I used to think I paid attention to my surroundings, but now I know that I was half-blind, and that when you start to *really* watch, *really* listen, you discover a whole new world that was there all along – and I can’t really think of better news than that.

 

—Cécile Schott

 

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http://colleenplays.org/
https://www.facebook.com/colleenplays

 


 

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Julia Kent (New York, USA)

World-renowned Canadian cellist Julia Kent has three solo albums released to date: 2007’s ‘Delay’ (Shayo); 2011’s ‘Green And Grey’ (Important Records) and 2013’s ‘Character’ (The Leaf Label). Previously, Kent worked and collaborated extensively with numerous musicians and groups, including: Antony And The Johnsons; Rasputina and Parallel 41. This year, Kent contributed original scores for numerous film works, including award-winning short film ‘Oasis’, directed by Carmen Jimenez and Chris Boyce. As part of artist Peter Liversidge’s exhibit, “Doppelgänger” at the MAC, Belfast (which took place during October), Julia Kent made a special one-off collaboration with Kentucky-based pianist, arranger and composer Rachel Grimes. During November 2014, Kent was in Italy, performing live with Balletto Civile (a company of performers, established in 2003) for “How Long Is Now” in Genova and “In-erme” in La Spezia and Florence.

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I can’t remember at all the beginning of 2014; it’s been, for me, a rather vague year, involving a lot of traveling and a bit of consequent disorientation in terms of time and space…but I do remember vividly playing in Cork this past March with the spell-binding Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, after a stressful and dramatic journey involving the temporary loss of my cello and the enormously gracious and generous loan of another, from a sympathetic music store in Cork, Pro Musica. It was my first solo show ever in Ireland, and was a memorable and beautiful experience: Cork is a special place, and I’m so grateful to the Carry brothers for bringing me there, and also to the welcoming audience! It was also a really special experience to play with Caoimhín in Cork and Dublin and have a lovely and wide-ranging chat on the journey in between.

For me, time is really defined by the people and places I encounter, and 2014 brought some other wonderful encounters: I was thrilled to have the chance to collaborate with the extraordinary Rachel Grimes for Peter Liversidge’s metaphysical and fascinating show, “Doppelgänger, in Belfast; to create live music for the dance companies Balletto Civile in Italy and Compagnie Tensei in Paris; and to contribute music to other theatre works, dance, and film, in the U.S. and Europe. Performing at William Basinski’s festival in London was another highlight of the year: he brought together so many incredible artists to celebrate the spirit of his and James Elaine’s glorious Arcadia, a seminal arts space that contributed so much to New York and still is sorely missed. And just this past week, I was so thrilled to share the experience of seeing some images from Antony and the Johnsons’ and Charles Atlas’s “Turning” on the breathtakingly enormous screens in Times Square…it was incredible to see those heartbreakingly beautiful images in that context, and in the company of some of the iconic women who embodied them on the “Turning” tour, which was and always will remain a special and emotional experience for me.

I’m looking at my calendar to try to remember some other details of 2014…and seeing the week where I went from Athens to Joshua Tree to Torino. I continue to feel enormously fortunate to have the chance to travel and play music in such disparate, beautiful, and inspiring places, and encounter, along the way, equally beautiful and inspiring people. Right now, since I’m home for a moment, I’m working on a new record that I hope will come out next year…and I hope will distill some of the memories and essence of this one…thanks for letting me share some of them!

 

—Julia Kent

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“Happy Holidays NYC, 2014”

 

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‘Character’ is available now on The Leaf Label.

http://www.juliakent.com/
http://www.theleaflabel.com/

 


 

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Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh (Dublin, Ireland)

2014 has been a remarkable year for Ireland-based composer and fiddle player Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh. Firstly, January saw the release of contemporary quintet The Gloaming’s stunning self-titled debut album via Real World Records. Subsequent concerts would be performed across the globe (including Sydney’s Opera House and triumphant homecoming shows on Irish soil including Kilkenny’s St. Canice’s Cathedral) to mass celebration and widespread critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. As well as touring with his other band, the Irish/Swedish quartet This Is How We Fly, across both Ireland and Europe, Ó Raghallaigh also performed a series of truly special solo concerts (entitled “In My Mind”, a solo fiddle and film show) across the length of Ireland for the month of October, organized by Music Network Ireland. Despite the hectic touring schedules, Ó Raghallaigh also released two stunning works: the solo album ‘Music For An Elliptical Orbit’ (via Dublin-based label Diatribe Records as part of their ‘Solo Series Phase II’ project) and the mesmerizing ‘Laghdú’, a collaboration between Ó Raghallaigh and U.S. fiddle player Dan Trueman. 

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Time marches on, there’s no stopping it: do you remember a time when the only way to pronounce 2014 was two thousand and fourteen, when even the year 2000 seemed like the far distant future?

We find ourselves here at the tail end of twenty fourteen, looking back on a euphoric whirlwind of a year. My thirty-fifth year on this bluegreen orb has been truly wonderful, in so many ways. There have been major milestones and moments of wonder and beauty. This act of looking back is welcome, too, this year in review, not something I naturally do, and it brings home just how special it has been.

Above all else, ‘Laghdú’ has given me endless pleasure this year. Musically, it’s the thing I’m most proud of I’ve ever made, and playing that music with Dan has been unfailingly rewarding and delightful. Equally wonderful was working with Rossi McAuley of Distinctive Repetition, whose design for the ‘Laghdú’ packaging continues to surprise and give immense pleasure every time I touch, see and feel it. And I love that we have an ongoing relationship with the object, as we must continually assemble the albums ourselves from the printed card, discs and rubber bands, spending time touching, feeling, learning and living with this beautiful object, deepening our relationship with it.

One day I called over to Rossi’s studio while he was working on the design, and he told me the music on the record really reminded him of Patrick Scott’s work, whose extraordinary retrospective was still occupying the Garden Galleries at IMMA. Experiencing Scott’s work for the first time at that exhibition was one of the highlights of 2014 for me, as was Maria Simmonds-Gooding’s retrospective at the RHA. Maria is a neighbour of mine down in Kerry, and her large-scale aluminium pieces have been living inside my head for a few years now, married to a line of Beckett’s: “they were things that scarcely were, on the confines of dark and silence”. But it was her plaster canvas works and the carborundum prints that got inside me at the RHA, and live there still. Like Scott, I find her work deeply satisfying and profoundly moving. Instructive, too, informing the music I wish to make, the feeling I wish to produce, and it somehow inspires a conviction in the worth of doing so.

Earlier in the year at the RHA, Richard Mosse’s “The Enclave” completely blew my mind with his infrared immersion in that jungle of sadness that comes of war. To be surrounded by that violently pink world of the Congo, to feel that sound move your innards, to see these unknown things and feel them twist your insides, it was nearly too much, and wiped the floor with your soul. Powerful beyond words.

Early in the year, too, we released The Gloaming’s debut album, and what a year for the Gloaming it has been, going to #1 in the Charts, playing the Royal Albert Hall and the like. But playing the Sydney Opera House beats all, I truly never imagined such a thing was possible. I woke that morning well before sunrise, at jetlag’s insistence, and set out across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, looking down at the Opera House and trying to process the idea that we’d play there that night. The following morning myself and Iarla took off for a long old walk before breakfast, down through the Botanic Gardens and out to Mrs Macquaries Point, the pair of us looking incredulously across Farm Cove to the scene of the crime and the Harbour Bridge beyond, hardly believing we had rocked that House the night before. You know, I still don’t quite believe it.

The Gloaming were in residence at the Kilkenny Arts Festival in August, and it offered an opportunity to showcase other of our projects. Myself and Dan premiered ‘Laghdú’ there, for instance, and the This is How we Fly gig on the Saturday night really took off. There were a series of secret pop-up gigs in fancy Gardens around the town, and the one I did with Cleek Schrey gave rise to my favourite moment of the festival, when our cheeky sunspectacled selves sidled up to Nic Gareiss, who reached into his pocket, pulled out an appropriately bright vivid yellow pair of shades and started dancing up a storm on the loose gravel path on which half the audience stood. A totally joyous moment, mischievous, irreverent, unexpected, ecstatic.

Cleek is a fellow 10-string hardanger d’amore fiddler from the States, and I spent a wonderful mid-March week with him in New York, writing music together courtesy of a residency at the Irish Arts Center. There’s such a wonderful openness to his approach, a great combination of the carefree and the curated, and he’s very much a kindred spirit of mine. I feel at every moment that anything is possible, that there’s no agenda, just this feeling of co-exploration and endless possibility. The highlight of that week was an impromptu hour-long improvisation we embarked on to ourselves out in Redhook – unplanned, unrecorded, purely in the moment, sending out sound into the vast main hall of Pioneer Works.

This hardanger d’amore fiddle is a stunning instrument, and it is a joy and a revelation to play. Equally beautiful are the bows I play with, made by Frenchman Michel Jamonneau. While touring Brittany with uilleann piper Mick O’Brien in June, I visited Michel in his workshop, and fell head over heels with a bow of his, one he had recently made. Though I already had three extraordinary bows by Michel, playing with this bow was fundamentally different. Those other bows allowed me to do anything I wanted, but this seemed to float in the air, generate ideas of its own, made new things possible, brought forth the unintended. It is effortless to play with, not only a feather-light paintbrush for sound, but a creative force in its own right. When we left Michel’s workshop, that bow left with me inside my mind, and I revisited the feeling of playing with it throughout the following weeks, until Michel brought it over to Dublin to me in early August. It is a joy and a privilege to hold.

It has been a year of non-stop, nigh-on relentless traveling. It’s easy to shrink into yourself, or into your electronics, and it’s a real challenge to stay present, motivated and curious – you need something to keep you sane on the road. Looking through the camera lens has helped more than anything else – photography has been such a rewarding addition to the touring life, engaging the mind and the body. It turns drudgery to delight in alchemy, keeps you always looking outwards, seeking to connect, keeps the spirit fresh, and offers an unlimited learning curve for the curious mind.

Curious minds were in evidence aplenty in the Redwoods of California, as was the sheer joy of making music and being alive, when I spent a week teaching outdoors amongst the trees at the Valley of the Moon fiddle camp. One of the most enjoyable moments, aside from all the music, connections and conversations, was an epic game of water polo/football/chaos in which I became so fanatical that the rough bottom of the pool rasped right through three of my bare-footed toes, and put me hobbling around for the remainder of the week on tender feet. An enchanted bubble of a week topped off by the most wonderful Alice-in-Wonderland-themed Fancy Dress Banquet, the entire host appareled in the most colourful and fanciful costumes. A week that I came away from feeling as though life would never be the same again.

All this is only the beginning. The moments go on. The wheels turn, twenty fourteen is well-nigh gone.

 

—Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh

 

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The Gloaming’s self-titled debut album is available now on Real World Records; Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh’s solo album ‘Music For An Elliptical Orbit’ is available via Diatribe Records HERE; ‘Laghdú’ by Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh & Dan Trueman is available from Irishmusic.net HERE.

http://www.caoimhinoraghallaigh.com/
https://www.facebook.com/caoimhinoraghallaigh

 


 

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Cillian Murphy (Cork, Ireland/London, UK)

The ever-prolific Irish actor Cillian Murphy contributed stunning performances for numerous roles — spanning TV, film and theatre — during 2014. Murphy reprised his role as Thomas Shelby in the BBC2 epic British gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’ which returned to TV screens for its second season this Autumn. Murphy also continued his collaboration with award-winning playwright Enda Walsh (‘Disco Pigs’, Misterman’) for ‘Ballyturk’ (a play written and directed by Walsh starring Murphy alongside Mikel Murfi and Stephen Rea) which spellbound sell-out audiences at Galway International Arts Festival; Dublin’s Olympia Theatre; Cork’s Opera House and London’s National Theatre during 2014. Numerous film roles are set for release in 2015, including the hugely anticipated Ron Howard-directed film ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ which is due for release in March 2015. Cillian Murphy is also set to star in ‘Free Fire’, a Boston-set crime thriller from ‘Kill List’ writer-director Ben Wheatley.

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Twelve months slipped by at a pace this year. Thinking about it at first I was convinced that 2014 had been worryingly barren for me culturally, due to the restrictions of work and life and a new-found affection for sleeping. On reflection it seems I did manage to get out of the house on occasion, listen to the odd record and take in a show or two. Here’s what I liked, or what I can remember liking in no particular order….

‘Salad Days’ by Mac Demarco made a big impression on me. I am a sucker for melody in music and this kid (he is only a kid, twenty-three or something) can’t help but write songs with an instant hook. He also has a gorgeously dry sense of humour, plays a mean guitar and is Canadian. I like Canadian people. The album speaks very simply but with great fluency about love, the fear of losing that love, and what it means to be alive today. It is beautifully and simply produced and puts a smile on my face every time I listen to the album. I managed to catch Mac play in Manchester in may, a brilliantly ramshackle gig which climaxed with the whole venue on our knees singing along to ‘Unknown Legend’ and giving thanks to Neil Young.

I love the new Blake Mills album ‘Heigh Ho’. Another great guitar player, with a tone very reminiscent of George Harrison, it’s a definite grower but one worth waiting for.

The new Caribou album deserves all the plaudits its earning. Such a great record – designed to make you dance.

A Winged Victory for the Sullen very slowly prised the roof off the Barbican in October with genuinely affecting and moving music. An amazing show and an amazing group of musicians.

I also caught Damon Albarn live in Manchester at the 6music festival – thank God for BBC 6 music! I am very impressed by Damon Albarn as a man and musician. This is a highly personal record, filled to the brim with gorgeous melodies and revealing lyrics, my high point being ‘Heavy Seas Of Love’ a duet with Brian Eno.

Ok I did see a lot of gigs in Manchester, I was working there for a stretch, they are coming back to me now……. with maybe the highlight being Prince. I’ve wanted to see him play live for ever and the man did not disappoint. It was a three and a half hour gig, during which he jumped effortlessly between hits and space-funk jams with his all female backing band. It’s a nice feeling when a legend lives up to their legendary status. Finally, I managed to catch Tame Impala in L.A. Love this band, such confident musicians, they completely filled the auditorium with blissed out fuzz-drenched tunes. Their support act Delicate Steve I also highly recommend, a very unusual guitar player, his music is of the joyous instrumental kind you want to listen to walking around feeling warm inside while everybody else looks worried.

The Richard Ford trilogy of ‘The Sportswriter’, ‘Independence Day’ and ‘The Lay Of The Land’ rank high amongst my favorite all-time novels, and this year Ford re-introduced us to Frank Bascombe (protagonist of all three novels) in his latest novel ‘Let Me Be Frank With You’. Frank is now in his late sixties but as compelling a character as ever. It’s a brief book, written as a series of short stories but is as incisive and acerbic an investigation of the American dream as I have read.

‘The Dog’ by Joseph O’Neill is also a joy, a book that is as tragic as it is funny.

For some reason I recently decided to re-read some books that I had read in my teens to check if they were still the masterpieces I had first ostentatiously judged them to be. ‘The Book Of Evidence’ by John Banville certainly remains one. Such an extraordinary tour-de-force. If you haven’t read it recently please do. It will inhabit you. I also re-visited some Salinger. Those early short stories still must be unmatchable in terms of heartache and droll musings on American youth and life.

After the sad passing of Dermot Healy this year the only fitting tribute I could think of was to read ‘A Goats Song’ once more. I fell in love with it all over again, sad and mournful and touching – part of this Island’s history.

I’ll finish up now as I realise writing these things can cause quickening anxiety about leaving some wonderful book or poem or song out without a mention.

Before I go I must write briefly about some visual art I saw. Mark Garry’s show – at the Model in Sligo town, “A Winter’s Light” – was a thing of beauty, delicate and life-affirming. I recently saw Douglas Gordon’s show ‘Tears become Streams’ at the Armoury in NYC. It featured concert pianist Helene Grimaud play a series of pieces inspired by water while the extraordinarily vast space was slowly flooded by water creating a lake on which she seemed to hover and also turning the space upside down in reflection. Breathtaking.

So that is it……. I appear to have completely left out any mention of film and theatre. So be it. They will have to wait until next year.

 

—Cillian Murphy

 


 

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Dean Wareham (Los Angeles, USA)

The legendary Los Angeles-based Dean Wareham (Galaxie 500/Luna/Dean & Britta) released his sublime self-titled solo album this year via London-based label Sonic Cathedral (Europe) and his own label Double Feature (USA). Produced by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James at his home studio in Louisville, Kentucky, ‘Dean Wareham’ features Wareham alongside the formidable line-up of Britta Phillips on bass and Anthony LaMarca on drums.

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Favorite gigs:

Calvin Johnson at Ooga Booga in Los Angeles. Cate LeBon at Amoeba Los Angeles.

Favorite books read:

‘10:04’ by Ben Lerner
‘The Wet & the Dry: A Drinker’s Journey’ by Lawrence Osborne
‘The Book of My Lives’ by Alexsandar Hemon
‘Morvern Callar’ by Alan Warner
‘A Place of Greater Safety’ by Hillary Mantel

Records enjoyed:

Velvet Underground deluxe 3rd album with bonus live discs recorded 1969 at the Matrix
Brian Jonestown Massacre ‘Revelation’
Jack & Eliza ‘No Wonders’ EP
Ultimate Painting ‘Ultimate Painting’
Papercuts ‘Life Among the Savages’
Courtney Barnett’s ‘Double’ EP
War on Drugs ‘Lost in the Dream’

In 2014 I released my first solo album after 26 years making records. I also worked with the Andy Warhol Museum on a film/music project, selecting a group of performers (Tom Verlaine, Marty Rev, Eleanor Friedberger, Bradford Cox and myself) to perform live onstage to never-before-seen silent films by Andy Warhol. And Britta Phillips and I scored another excellent film for Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig — ‘Mistress America’ — which will likely hit theaters in 2015.

But I will remember 2014 for horrific images from the Gaza Strip, and for the terrible suffering in Libya and Iraq and Syria (courtesy of European and American politicians who “liberated” two of those countries without caring about what might come after). Many smart people have observed that 2014 in the Middle East can only be understood in the light of 1914: the Great War and its aftermath. We will remember also a coup and civil war in the Ukraine (where again the US is not blameless). Here at home 2014 will be remembered by the slogans “Hands Up Don’t Shoot!” and “I Can’t Breathe.”

 

—Dean Wareham, Los Angeles

 

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Dean Wareham’s self-titled debut solo album is available now on Sonic Cathedral (EU) and via Double Feature (USA).

http://deanwareham.com/
http://www.soniccathedral.co.uk/

 


 

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Terry Magson, Puzzle Muteson (Isle of Wight, UK)

Iceland-based label Bedroom Community’s much-prized Puzzle Muteson (aka Isle of Wight-based singer-songwriter Terry Magson) released his divine sophomore full-length release this year. Entitled ‘Theatrics’, the album was recorded between Iceland’s Greenhouse studio and Magson’s friends’ studio at the Isle of Wight and features contributions from Magson’s trusted collaborators (and label-mates) Valgeir Sigurðsson and Nico Muhly. Puzzle Muteson’s debut LP, ‘En Garde’, was released in 2011 (preceded by a 7″ of the same title which featured the B-side ‘Brittle Break’) which was also released by the prestigious Bedroom Community label (Ben Frost, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Sam Amidon).

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2014 has been a peculiar one for me. It really has gone too fast for me to comprehend. I spent far too much time in my own head, and maybe too much time in the company of cats. As far as listening to music went I slightly strayed from it.
I listened to mainly a bunch of separate songs when I did…

P.M Dawn – ‘Set Adrift On Memory Bliss’
Julia Holter – ‘Hello Stranger’
London Electricity – ‘Just One Second’ 
Chantal Acda – ‘We Must Hold On’
Drake – ‘Come Thru’ (James Blake Remix)
Jon Hopkins – ‘Breath This Air’
Ben Frost – ‘Venter’
Nightcrawlers – ‘Push The Feeling On’
Robin S – ‘Show Me Love’
Tan Dun – ‘Gone With Leaves’
Black – ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’
Doveman – ‘The Best Thing’
The Blue Nile – ‘Headlights On the Parade’
Airhead – ‘Believe’ 
Red – ‘Sorry About Your Love’ (RUCKAZOID Remix)
Akira Kosemra – ‘Light Dance’

Three live shows that I enjoyed for three different reasons would be Zebra Katz, Boys Noize and Gideon Conn.

 

—Terry Magson

 

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‘Theatrics’ is available now on Bedroom Community.

https://www.facebook.com/Puzzle.Muteson
http://www.bedroomcommunity.net/

 


 

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Erik K Skodvin (Berlin, Germany)

One of the true cornerstones of the thriving contemporary independent music scene, Erik Skodvin is both a remarkable composer (as both a solo performer and via his numerous musical projects including: Svarte Greiner, B/B/S/ and Deaf Center), visual artist, designer and label owner (Skodvin runs the ever-impressive Berlin-based Miasmah label). 2014 was a particularly busy year for Skodvin with an extensive touring schedule as well as the release of numerous records (Skodvin’s second solo album ‘Flame’; ‘Recount’, a mini-album by Deaf Center, who celebrated their 10-year anniversary during 2014). Miasmah Recordings released a number of spellbinding albums during 2014: ‘Sprang’ by Eric Thielemans; the self-titled album by Shivers and Andrea Belfi’s ‘Natura Morta’.

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2014 started for me with finalizing my soon-to-come second Erik K Skodvin album “Flame”. A mastering date was set for late January and I pretty much worked on it nonstop up until the day of mastering. Right after this, my good friend Otto A Totland’s debut album was released, something I was helping out Sonic Pieces with.

Next up, in mid February was a small northern EU tour with my trio B/B/S/ as we had a live LP recorded in 2013 that got released this time. I really like to play with Aidan and Andrea although we rarely all have time to meet up. We played a boat in Hamburg, Copenhagen jazzhouse, a studio in Gothenburg and an atelier on the Polish border, amongst others.

It’s funny to look back at a year and see how much different things were going on at the same time. Sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming. We did a couple of house shows at our miasmah + sonic pieces HQ in Berlin, something that’s really fun but also quite exhausting. I’m also constantly working on artwork and communication for new upcoming miasmah releases, which I’m actually using most of my time on. Personally at this time I was also not completely well and used big parts of the year to get myself back in action.

Then something I’d been looking forward too for a long time, which was the sonic pieces Japan tour together with Otto, Rauelsson and Monique. This was maybe the highlight of the year and something I’ll for sure remember. It was also my first time visiting Asia.

No more than a couple of weeks after the Japan tour, me and Monique went to London to do merch for the two first Slowdive shows since 20 years. Being a big Slowdive fan having the opportunity to see them on such small stages was incredible. I guess this is a perk of having released some of Simon’s solo records.

Some more weeks at home before I had another small tour, this time as Svarte Greiner. Together with Alexander Rishaug we played 4 Norwegian gigs in Bergen, Fredrikstad, Trondheim and Oslo. Went quite well though I was still not completely in shape, and all the traveling was taking it’s toll. We had one amazing evening in Oslo at a small Izakaya (!) where we played on a home-made sound-system for a packed crowd.

My second Erik K Skodvin album “Flame” was then released, on my birthday actually – Well planned, Monique!  It also came out as a 2LP together with my first EKS album “Flare”, which sold out quite quickly. Also the Shivers album on Miasmah was released then, though slightly delayed from the pressing plant. Around this time I also worked on a new commissioned piece of music to my now regular collaborator, Marit Følstad, for whom I also was commissioned the Black Tie material I released last year. This was later in the year exhibited in Bergen, Norway where both me and Monique attended.

The mid-summer was quite event-free when it comes to music, though once August started to approach I was invited to play a Svarte Greiner set on the Danish island of Fanø, at the Fanø free folk festival, which turned out to be really great. Set in a local commune house on the tip of the island, with mostly bands I never heard of before. Found some great new musical tips there.

Just a week later I played another Svarte Greiner set, this time on a pretty much complete opposite setting, being Berlin electronic/techno music festival Krake. I played in between techno sets and was forced to do a massive drone-noise attack, which ended pretty great, as I immediately got another booking just minutes after I finished.

Shortly after this I played at an ambient festival in Poland on the border to Belarus. This was an outdoor stage in the middle of a big park. It was only myself and Rafael Anton Irisarri who were to play, and of course it started to rain during sound check already, fucking up some of Raf’s gear. We ended up playing together, something we havent done for 5 years. It was also good to see him again. He had quite the bad year, with him and his wife losing all their possessions during a move to the east coast.

Berlin-based electronic-gear wizard Derek Holzer had contacted me earlier with the idea of custom making me a processing box for my effect pedal rig. After a good bunch of back-and-forth talking on what to do, it turned out as a “chaotic synthesizer-ringmod-guitar-processing box” as he calls it, and is something amazing I’m still trying to figure out properly.

Rest of August was set off to work on Miasmah stuff + two B/B/S/ shows in Berlin, one where we headlined and one where we opened for Thurston Moore at Lido, which was fun, but maybe not our best show so far. We also played a B/B/S/ show at the Italian festival Flussi, in Avellino outside of Naples, where the accommodation was set in an Italian olive farm in the mountains. This was pretty amazing. On top of this, our first Deaf Center material since 4-5 years was released on a new sonic pieces series I’m doing together with Monique called “Pattern”, which is pretty much based on laser cut sleeves. “Recount” as the record was called, was 2 lost long pieces made in 2007 and 2012.

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For once I didn’t have a lot of gigs set up for the Autumn, so I spent most of it in Berlin with the occasional trips to Norway. I used my time working on graphics, arranging house shows with Monique and going on sunday trips to the country side. One other thing I did during this time was to use a whole day at the Funkhouse studio here in Berlin being directed by Nils Frahm to make sounds and music for this film he’s scoring. It will be interesting to see if some of what I contributed ended up in the film which will premiere in the new year. I did a similar thing like this for Jóhann Jóhannsson last year for the film ‘Prisoners’. Both were fun but difficult as I needed to play spontaneously to the film over and over.

On a different note I also ended up going to Unsound festival for once without playing. Not often I go to a festival just to hang out, meet people and see shows, but this was a good occasion and I saw both some great and quite bad shows. The highlight of which was a band I never heard of before, named “Cyclobe”.

Seeing this was Deaf Center’s 10 year anniversary we did quite a lot more than we usually do this year. On top of the Japan tour we played 3 more shows in Germany. Mainly being Hauschka’s “Approximation festival” in Düsseldorf, then at UT Connewitz in Leipzig with Tomaga and a fairly secret house show at our own place. All went pretty good to great I’d say. Just one week after this tour, I did a small NL/BE Svarte Greiner tour, playing Antwerp and Brüssels but also visiting Amsterdam and Mechelen. Got to hang out with the Miasmah Belgian gang, which is always a great time. It was a little stressful trip all in all, but can’t complain. Also by now I was very ready to stay at home for a while.

The last big bang of the year is something that’s yet to happen as I write this. We’re going to open for Slowdive at massive venue The Forum in London this Friday the 19th. Quite scary but also very exciting. This will be the ending of our 2014 Deaf Center anniversary and although some things are set for next year, it will probably be quieter on that front.

To sum up, looking at what I just wrote it seems like a very busy year, something it kind of was. For sure an improvement from last year, which was not so good for me, so with this I write off 2014 with a big thanks to my working and living partner, Monique Recknagel, who’s been a big part of pretty much everything on this list. Next year will for sure not be any less busy as I haven’t even mentioned all the upcoming Miasmah stuff I used A LOT of time preparing and working on during this year. It’s gonna be a very exciting year I think.

 

Erik K Skodvin 2014 TOP 12 albums:

Matt Christensen – ‘Coma Gears’ (Bathetic)
HTRK – ‘Psychic 9-5 club’ (Ghostly)
Valerio Tricoli – ‘Misery Lares’ (PAN)
Josef Van Wissem / SQÜRL – ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ OST (ATP recordings)
Mica Levi – ‘Under the Skin’ OST (Milan)
Ai Aso – ‘Lone’ (Ideologic organ)
Tomaga – ‘Future Grotesk’ (Hands in the dark)
Andy Stott – ‘Faith in Strangers’ (Modern Love)
Otto A Totland – ‘Pino’ (sonic pieces)
Black To Comm – S/T (Type)
Simon James Phillips – ‘Chair’ (room40)
Driftmachine – ‘Nocturnes’ (Umor-rex)

 

Top 5 films 2014:

‘Enemy’
‘Under the Skin’
‘Only lovers left alive’
‘Snowpiercer’
‘Gone Girl’

 

Top 5 concerts 2014:

Marsen Jules (Berghain 10 year anniversary, Berlin)
Cyclobe (unsound festival)
Nils Frahm & Stargaze performs Terry Riley in C (volksbuhne, Berlin)
Tomaga (UT Connewitz, Leipzig)
Driftmachine (miasmah+sonic pieces HQ, Berlin)

 

—Erik K Skodvin

 

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‘Flame’ by Erik K Skodvin and ‘Recount’ by Deaf Center are available now on Sonic Pieces. 

http://www.miasmah.com/eks/
http://www.sonicpieces.com/

 


 

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Mary Lattimore (Philadelphia, USA)

Mary Lattimore is a Philadelphia-based harpist whose name has become synonymous in independent music circles as both a gifted solo composer as well as a versatile and accomplished collaborator. 2014 saw the release of ‘Slant Of Light’, the gorgeous collaboration between Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler; a record featuring heavenly harp and synthesizer improvisations released by Chicago-based indie label Thrill Jockey. Mary Lattimore has also contributed her highly distinguished harp playing for numerous artists, including: Sharon Van Etten’s ‘Are We There’ and Steve Gunn’s ‘Way Out Weather’ albums. Previously, Lattimore has collaborated with New York-based songwriter Ed Askew and ex Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore. 

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Okay, here goes! Hi from a cold night in Philadelphia:

Favorite Things of 2014 List

Favorite Records, in no order:

Myriam Gendron – ‘Not So Deep As A Well’
Steve Gunn – ‘Way Out Weather’
Grouper – ‘Ruins’
Watery Love – ‘Decorative Feeding’
Amen Dunes – ‘Love’
Marissa Nadler – ‘July’
Total Control – ‘Typical System’
Weyes Blood – ‘The Innocents’
War on Drugs – ‘Lost in the Dream’
Tinariwen – ‘Emmaar’
Sharon Van Etten – ‘Are We There’
Nathan Bowles – ‘Nansemond’
Purling Hiss – ‘Weirdon’
Lewis – ‘L’Amour’ (Reissue)
David Kilgour & the Heavy Eights – ‘End Times Undone’
K. Leimer – ‘A Period of Review’ (Reissue)
Mike Cooper – ‘Trout Steel/Places I Know’
William Basinski – ‘Melancholia’ (Reissue)
Jennifer Castle – ‘Pink City’
Daniel Bachman – ‘Orange Co. Serenade’
Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band – ‘Intensity Ghost’
Brigitte Fontaine – ‘Est…Folle’ (Reissue)

Favorite Song I Just Learned Of In 2014 (thanks to Justin Tripp and Nathan Bowles):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osZsDIEI0UQ

Favorite New Place:

Marfa, TX

Favorite Shows of 2014:

Slowdive and Low, two favorites, same show (Philly)
War on Drugs secret shows (Philly)
Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, TN
Transfigurations Festival in Asheville, NC (an anniversary party for Harvest Records)
Memorial Show for Jack Rose (Glenn Jones, Daniel Bachman, Chris Forsyth, Nathan Bowles, Megajam Booze Band) (Philly)
Getting to see Steve Gunn and his incredible band every night while on tour together!!
Kensington Picnic II (Philly)

Other Favorites:

Pew Fellowship.
Sitting in with Cass McCombs and his excellent band, wow.
Getting to play harp for some elegant parties at the Philip Johnson Glass House, architectural gem in Connecticut.
Improvising with bandmate Jeff Zeigler and dancers Elle Erdman & Laura Bartczak.
Orange Polenta Cake with Honey and Rosewater Syrup, wow.
Thrill Jockey putting out the record and getting to know those guys.
Becky Suss’s paintings (beckysuss.net).
Recording session with Steve Gunn and friends at Black Dirt Studio in upstate NY.
James Turrell Skyspace in Chestnut Hill, PA.
Seeing top American actor Michael Shannon in a play.
Finally buying a rice cooker instead of burning the rice all the time!
This unreal experience of natural beauty – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCWkzQqO7Ro (you can catch me and Naomi Yang and my mom on this news show, haha).

 

—Mary Lattimore

 

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‘Slant Of Light’ by Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler is available now on Thrill Jockey Records.

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https://www.facebook.com/lattimorezeiglerduo
http://www.thrilljockey.com

 


 

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Ed Askew (New York, USA)

The New York-based painter and singer-songwriter Ed Askew was born in Stamford, Connecticut. He moved to New Haven to study painting at Yale Art School in 1963. During his mid-twenties, while working as a teacher at a private prep school in Connecticut, Ed Askew began to write songs. Significantly, he also at this time purchased his much-loved Martin Tiple (a 10 string lute-like instrument originally from Columbia). Over the preceding years and decades, Askew would continue to write songs and paint consistently. However, a lack of fortune with record labels (like many musicians of the time) led to years of uncertainty and obscurity. Debut LP ‘Ask the Unicorn’ (initially released via ESP Disk and UK’s Parlophone) would quickly disappear into folk-psych obscurity. Second LP, ‘Little Eyes’ was recorded next; however, it sat in the vaults for some 40 years until its long-overdue limited release in 2007. In the summer of 2011, Ed Askew embarked on his first US tour at the age of 71; while in 2013, Ed Askew’s masterful album ‘For The World’ was released via Tin Angel Records. 2014 found Ed Askew writing its hugely anticipated follow-up.

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My recent birthday was on Dec. 1st, and I spent a quiet day alone doing stuff at home. Later, I said to Jay (my keys player): “lets do something”. So the next Saturday we joined friends at a nice little west side restaurant to have drinks and dinner.

It’s amazing to imagine that only a year previous I was at a gallery in Paris, on Nov. 30th, and chatting with people after the show; when, at midnight, I turned around and was greeted with a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday.

The next morning we all went to a place where the band could have it’s picture taken with the Eiffel Tower. My idea. Then on to Brussels.

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The tour was for about two weeks and took us to Köln, Gent, Utrecht, Paris, Brussels, London, Copenhagen, Coventry, where we also played and stayed with John, on an old rebuilt farm. John is a friend of Richard Guy, who runs Tin Angel Records, and drove us around for the duration of the tour. We also played in Bristol and Glasgow. I remember the beautiful hills in Scotland, and won’t forget all the great people we met.

I also have to mention Jordan Hunt (a London boy) who was violinist for the band during the tour (and Tyler Evans who is a regular member of our band; plays tipple and guitar).

Well, once back in the states I resumed my normal life of occasional shows in Brooklyn, rehearsals with the band, working on new songs at home, occasional visits from friends, and painting.

A big event in my, life this year, was a fall I had in June that just about put me out of action for a few months. but not to dwell on THAT. I will put up this recent poem that relates:

Watching the Hudson River through a tangle of
Trees, broken limbs, and late Autumn leaves.
I walk..tap..tap..tap..
Like James Joyce’s blind man,
Walking across Dublin. 
Except that I am not in Dublin
And I am not blind.

This is the longest I have walked
Since I fell, in June;
Infuriating the nerves in my legs.
But looking at the gold and green,
And tangle of trees, before me,
I can almost not notice the discomfort
In my legs.
And as I walk home from breakfast
I pass a child, learning to ride a bike.
And I remember the pleasure in overcoming difficulties,
(Even ones that are NO fun)
Learning to play an instrument,
Or finishing a new painting.

11/14

At any rate, aside from doing some shows in Brooklyn; we played at a show in July with Plastic Crime Wave. P C W is Steve Krakow’s band. Steve is a Chicago-based music promoter, musician, and all around psychedelic freak.

Ed Askew Band got most of the songs recorded for a new LP for Tin Angel. Going to Philly and upstate NY to do it. And Jay and I went to Canada to play, and see friend Molly Sweeney and enjoy her set. From Canada went to Maine, where we played during the closing week of the Oak and the Ax. A great venue in the Portland area. Sad to see it go.

Otherwise I have been working on a new set of abstract paintings and new songs for another Bandcamp self release.

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And, oh, me, Jay and Tyler played a show at Issues Project Room with Josephine Foster (who will be on the new album) and Victor Herrero, back in January. The hall was packed, which is gratifying.

Some artists whose records and CDs I got during 2014 are:

Atlas Sound
Virginia Rodrigues
Baby Dee
Zachary Cale
Mark Kozelek & Jimmy Lavalle
Lambchop
Do Make Say Think
Smog
Conor Oberst
Bill Callahan
Big Blood
Baby Copperhead
Family Planing
the Milkman’s Union
James Blake
Deer Hunter

Because I live in Northern Manhattan and it takes 2 trains and some time to get to Brooklyn and, I’m just lazy, I don’t go to many shows that I’m not playing in. I did see my friend Jerry DeCicca (producer of ‘For The World’), at Union Pool recently, though. They have Sunday afternoon shows there, that are relaxed and make for a nice, low-key time.

So here I am, at my trusty MacBook and another year has come and gone.

Another birthday,

some more paintings,

another song….

 

—Ed 12/13/14

 

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‘For The World’ is available now on Tin Angel Records. Ed Askew also released the double 10″ ‘Rose’ (w/ Joshua Burkett & Steve Gunn) via Okraina Records (Info/Buy HERE).

http://edaskew.bandcamp.com/
http://eaband.tumblr.com/
http://www.tinangelrecords.co.uk/

 


 

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Carl Corcoran, The Blue Of The Night (Dublin, Ireland)

Dublin-based broadcaster and radio presenter Carl Corcoran presents his radio show “The Blue Of The Night” nightly on RTE Lyric FM from 10pm to 1am. The much-loved show has become widely regarded as one of the finest resources to Irish music fans for both its vast eclecticism and its unwavering dedication to showcasing the very best musical talent from both Irish and international shores. All genres of music are catered for: from jazz to blues, classical to neoclassical and from traditional to modern composers, and all points in between. 

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I consider myself to have the greatest job in Ireland. I listen to, I play, I share music with an audience that ranges in age from young teens to octogenarians with tastes in music that run the whole gambit from 13th Century polyphony through Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods — from trad to jazz and where the two meet, right up to contemporary neo-classical, baroque pop and fusions of all sorts. The Blue of the Night defies categorisation – in fact we have become a genre of our own. My desk (and that of my co-Presenter Eamonn Lenihan) is piled high with CDs and my Inbox is jammed with emails containing Mp3s and links to Soundclouds, Bandcamps and Dropbox tracks which songwriters and composers feel is Blue of the Night material. Isn’t that cool! Isn’t that the greatest testament to the programme! What a compliment! What a thrill! So when I get around to listening to all this new music I marvel at the creativity that exists. The internet has facilitated the dissemination of new music. There is a Universe of great stuff out there – and for me it is a privilege to be able to share some (and it is only a small “some”) of this creativity. As a performing musician in another period of my life (and still am from time to time) I respect the “circular reciprocity” that emanates from a great performance. In other words performers enjoying their gig connect with their audience who in turn transmit that enjoyment back to the performer thereby completing the circle. Similarly, the same happens in my current role on Blue – I play the music, the audience responds and they in turn suggest music and artists that I am genuinely enthralled to hear and enjoy.

Music that came my way this year (and not necessarily released this year) that excited me and my listeners include Portadown musician/singer songwriter Katharine Philippa – her ‘Broken to be Re-built’ EP is great. NY’s Bryce Dessner (The National) impresses with his neo-classical creations for the Kronos Quartet; Sean MacErlaine’s latest release of solo reed (Clarinets and sax) musings along with his sonic backdrops is equally impressive; Dylan Tighe produced a personal and moving collection of songs in his “Record” Cd while the Ergodos Musicians (who in the past have paid tribute to 12C composers) on their CD ‘Songs’ captured the art of the song from writers such as alt-country singer Steve Earle, UK indie trio The xx, folk-rock hero Richard Thompson, maverick Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy, and Italian Baroque genius Antonio Vivaldi. Ailie Blunnnie is another young songwriter that caught my ear, as did Slow Skies, Seti the First, Chequerboard, Owensie and a recent find from the UK – composer, singer songwriter Sasha Siem.  There is so much good music out there – there are so many great music appreciators out there…….and we share. So much great music to be heard on the Blue of the Night. So much great music to send to Blue of the Night. I hope that circle continues – I hope I can reciprocate.

 

—Carl Corcoran

 

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Carl Corcoran presents The Blue Of The Night on Irish radio station RTE Lyric FM nightly from 10pm to 1am. Playlists and playback options are accessible online for each show.

http://www.rte.ie/lyricfm/the-blue-of-the-night-with-carl-corcoran/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BlueoftheNight
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blueofthenight

 


 

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Eithne Hand, Galway International Arts Festival (Galway, Ireland)

Eithne Hand is a Radio Producer and Writer. In 2014 she curated the ‘First Thought Talks’ Strand of the Galway International Arts Festival. She produces Gay Byrne’s weekly Jazz Programme on RTE Lyric FM and is a past winner of the Prix Italia for Work on Music with a radio documentary called Voicejazz which mixed five voices talking about jazz in a loose quintet. All she loves about radio comes from Glen Gould. She has written and directed four Radio Dramas and is working on a site specific theatre piece for 1916 based on her own family story and Caravaggio’s masterpiece ‘The Taking of Christ’.

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Musically my 2014 contained not so many ‘new’ pieces but a lot of ‘new to me’ work. Working every week with jazz from the 30’s and 40’s constantly opens my ears to some of the best playing and improvisations from a time when the form was dangerously good. Take just one example – Mugsy Spanier’s ‘Relaxin’ At The Touro’.

Lisa Hannigan, Cillian Murphy, Fractured Air and Tony Clayton Lea all took to the stage of Druid Theatre in Galway on a sunny July Sunday and provided a real highlight for the audience of muso’s and sentimentalists all there to hear an hour-long riff on the joy of the Mixtape. Cillian had the bright idea of asking all comers in advance to bring their own Mixtape/CD along so at the end we shook a box and everyone took home someone else’s offering. A true example of local ‘sharing’.

Film musical highlights were just two – I got to see ‘Good Vibrations’ – the story of Terri Hooley and the punk movement in Belfast. Great soundtrack, smart script from Glenn Patterson and a cameo appearance by Terri himself. An eerily accurate capture of a time and place.

Best book with music in it: ‘From Out Of The City’  – A John Kelly transport aptly described on the cover as “a medicated fugue”.

Ken Loach’s film, ‘Jimmy’s Hall’ was shot about 10km from where I spend a lot of time in south Sligo. The film has good and bad bits but the musical assembly of fantastic jazz foot stompers led by Tommy Higgins were a joy.

Teho Teardo’s soundtrack for ‘Ballyturk’ by Enda Walsh was the overall musical highlight. Now just out on CD and Vinyl. Stunning music.

Björk’s ‘Bibliophilia’ came along and having been at the concert in Alexander Palace which was recorded for the movie I had to go. Surreal, stunning imaginative effort to ‘show’ the music as having an organic visual life alongside the sounds.

Elvis Costello in October in Dublin was forgettable but Julie Feeney in the Spiegeltent on the Wexford Quays on Halloween night was the opposite.

Lowlight award goes to David Byrne/Fat Boy Slim collaboration ‘Here Lies Love’ – the musical based on the Imelda Marcos story at the National London. Poor taste and disappointing all round.

Year ending with Cyrille Aimee and the wonderful Aaron Diehl as well as Christian McBride and Cecile McLorin Salvant all together on the new Mack Avenue CD release for Christmas (‘It’s Christmas on Mack Avenue’).

For 2015  I am looking forward to a much rumoured chamber opera involving both Donnacha Dennehy and Enda Walsh. All details coming soon !

 

—Eithne Hand

 

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http://www.giaf.ie/

 


 

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Brigid Power-Ryce (Galway, Ireland)

Brigid Power-Ryce (born in London and now based in Galway) is one of Ireland’s most talented and unique songwriters. Having supported such world-renowned musicians as Lee Ranaldo, Peter Broderick, Alasdair Roberts and Richard Dawson in the past; Brigid Power-Ryce’s moving and powerful concert performances (involving accompaniment with accordion, guitar, ukele or simply a cappella performance) demonstrate the supreme power still inherent in the songwriting form. Brigid Power-Ryce released the stunning ‘I Told You The Truth’ album this year via Galway-based Abandon Reason Records, comprising recordings made at St. Nicholas’ Church in Galway.

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2014 was a crazy and hard year for me. Come to think of it, I’m not sure if it was any crazier than previous years, but it definitely was a year of “burning the candle at both ends”. There was a lot of change, which brought about a lot of chaos and loss, but then ultimately strength. It wasn’t a big year for me for soaking up new music or books. I go through phases where I will listen to a lot of music or read many books, but then I go into blank-brain mode and I need a lot of empty months, where I’m not usually listening to anything new, just listening to a lot of old favourites or sometimes nothing at all. Old stuff that I listened to a lot this year was Neil Young – ‘Zuma’, ‘Rust Never Sleeps’. Planxty. I listened to a lot of Prokofiev too and Satie.

My 4 year old son made us listen to and dance on repeat, the song ‘Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line’ by Waylon Jennings. Hearing him shouting and sort of side-stepping “EVERYBODY KNOWS YOU BEEN STEPPIN ON MY TOES AND I’M GEDDIN PWETTY TIRED OF IT” was special. We’ve recently moved very close to a beach and he always says, “I see Waylon Jennings sailing a boat over there Mum. There he is Mum making a sand castle!” He has a connection with Waylon Jennings. How strange.

I played a lot of memorable gigs. Around April 2014 I played a few gigs around the UK. I started off with opening up for Cian Nugent & The Cosmos in Cafe Oto, London. They were really raw and alive. Then I went to Manchester, Sheffield and Edinburgh. Playing those gigs really nourished me. The audiences were all so appreciative and connective and so were the acts I was supporting, Alasdair Roberts and Sir Richard Bishop, they were great and the latter so funny. I felt like I was floating the whole time of that tour. When I came home I came crashing down with a post-gigs anti-climax. It was hard to get back to day-to-day life and get my feet back on the ground. But I’ve learned how to handle the aftermath a bit better since Spring.

An artist I discovered in 2014 who made a big impact on me was Angel Olsen. It’s funny because when I first heard her in maybe 2012/13, I didn’t want to listen, I sort of shut it off. It almost hurt to listen, because I had been laying low for quite a while and not performing or writing or even singing so I wanted to avoid listening to something that I might have unconsciously known would remind me of who I am. But then I did let myself listen this year and her two albums ‘Half Way Home’ and ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’ were pretty much on repeat for the whole summer in our house. Here’s the evidence. I love her music, her voice and her lyrics too. I went to see her in Whelans too which was great, although there were a few assholes at the gig.

I played a good few gigs in the autumn. I supported a great American band upstairs in The Workman’s in Dublin, called Spires That In The Sunset Rise. They were incredible musicians and people. Then I supported Lee Ranaldo in Dublin, an exciting gig that went really well. And then my last gig was with Peter Broderick in the Half Moon Theatre in Cork. That was a really special gig. The promoters (ahem!) were extremely kind, generous, and without a hint of ego. Which was really unique. The audience was great and Peter Broderick was also lovely and I really liked his violin playing and multi-tasking abilities. After the show, we talked a lot about ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ and ‘Seinfeld’, which brings me on to “what I watched in 2014”. A LOT of CYE. I know it wasn’t out this year or anything, but hey I’m always a few years behind on stuff. I also watched the first season of ‘Broad City’ which I really liked. I’m excited for that new season to come out in January. It’s about two young women in New York and they are pretty funny. I used to live in New York when I was 18 and I was in a similar mindset to them then, so it feels familiar.

I know this has probably been a boring read, with not much substance or music/film/book recommendations (oh I just remembered I re-read ‘Shakey’, and ‘East Of Eden’ which is very different to the film, very dark but brilliant), but it’s because I am tired. That sums up 2014, really: tiring. I think 2015 will be a lot more easier going. I think I will organize some more gigs and get over to America and maybe get a band together. I’m going to try and not waste so many hours on the internet also.
Bye!

 

—Brigid Power-Ryce

 

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‘I Told You The Truth’ is available now on Abandon Reason Records HERE.

http://brigidpowerryce.com/
https://www.facebook.com/brigidpowerrycemusic

 


 

With very special thanks to all the wonderful contributors for their contributions.
Wishing all our readers a very happy new year and best wishes for 2015.

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Web: http://fracturedair.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FracturedAir
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Fractured_Air
Mixcloud: http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/

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Colleen with Seti The First & Áine O’Dwyer

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The following is our account of Colleen’s first visit to Cork, Ireland, for her performance at Triskel Christchurch, on Saturday 2nd November 2013. Colleen was supported by the immense talents of Seti The First and Áine O’Dwyer.

Words: Mark & Craig Carry, Photographs: Izabela Szczutkowska

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“Raven, why stare at me with those eyes?
Don’t you know I love you
Just as you are?”

(“Raven”, taken from Colleen’s “The Weighing Of The Heart”)

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Saturday 2nd November 2013. Today is the day we have the joy and pleasure of bringing Colleen (aka French musician Cécile Schott) over to County Cork, Ireland, for her first performance here. The concert is to be held at Triskel Christchurch, Tobin Street, Cork. It’s been ten years since we both first picked up Colleen’s debut album “Everyone Alive Wants Answers”, a record which seemed to open up a whole new world of sound when we first heard it (we would have been eighteen years old, anxious to discover what music beyond the “norm” sounded like). We purchased the CD from our beloved local record store, Plugd Records, at its then location on Washington Street in Cork City. A decade later – and a string of much cherished Colleen albums later – the special soul of Cécile Schott would conclude her “The Weighing Of The Heart” tour (comprising her first live shows in almost five years) in the environs of our own hometown.

A new departure in Colleen’s ever-expanding sound could be witnessed by Schott’s new material on the night (“Lighthouse”, “Captain Of None” and “I’m Kin”) where the influence from the rich musical landscape of Jamaica (through a new dub-like treatment to her compositions) can be heard. “Lighthouse”, already premiered earlier in the year on Colleen’s European tour, contains a repeated mantra-like vocal, where Schott’s voice is at it’s most sumptuous and enchanting to date. Both the lullaby-like vocal delivery of the central lyric “Lights on the ocean” and a short passage on the viola da gamba are looped repeatedly while Schott layers the tapestry-like composition to it’s richly nuanced and beautifully intricate climax. Elsewhere, the new focus on rhythm and percussion are richly evident – augmented by the use of a floor tom drum and an octabass octaver pedal – the latter adding a dynamic, bass-heavy sound to the rhythm – revealing both the boundless possibilities and the forever-expanding inventiveness of Colleen’s most sacred and precious sounds.

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“Be still, don’t do that
I wanted to be here alone
Who are you, I only know
You’re not the person I wanted to
look like What’s up with you
look like you’ve seen a ghost”

(“Hyperbolia”, taken from Áine O’Dwyer’s “Anything bright or startling?”)

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“I’ve always experimented with and enjoyed using extended techniques more so than using additional technology. It’s really lovely to bow the lower base steel strings of a harp. A lengthy piece of rubber cable also creates a nice drone. Playing on dampened strings comes in handy. (excuse the pun) Drum brushes work beautifully. I like to lay the harp down flat and play it as a hammer dulcimer too, given the chance. Metal or glass slides work very well along the strings. If I want a guitar or lute sound, I pluck the string closer to the sound board rather than in the center. Playing it backwards is fun! After that, there’s plectrums, harmonics, tremors, string bending……So, plenty of possibilities there before I ever think of plugging it in.”

(Áine O’Dwyer, on discussing the harp’s possibilities)

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“Musically, it represents a bit of a departure from our first record Melting Cavalry so we are both nervous and excited at the same time. It will be still cello driven but Thomas’s Marxophone is set to take a very prominent position also.”

(Kevin Murphy, Seti The First, on the forthcoming second album by Seti The First)

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“O you my heart be feather-light!”

(Taken from Colleen’s “The Weighing Of The Heart”)

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“Once Upon a Time There Was a Pretty Fly (Lullaby)”

Once upon a time
There was a pretty fly
He had a pretty wife
This pretty fly
But one day
She flew away
Flew away

She had two pretty children
But one night these two pretty children
Flew away
Flew away
Into the sky
Into the moon

(Taken from the 1955 film “The Night Of The Hunter”)

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“At the time of making the album, I just wanted my music to reflect a sense of joy and movement in a way. So I think getting into percussion and into rhythm, it really helped me approach my instruments differently and to step out of my usual patterns.

So, definitely when I started to learn percussion, it mostly started with learning the frame drum. Then all of a sudden, I finally understood how the basic rhythms are put together, and then when I took my other instruments, it just felt immediately natural to play in a more accented rhythmic way.

So I think it’s definitely a big step forward and I’m really looking forward to keeping on working in that direction. It’s what I really want to explore further is the rhythm and the use of the voice, that’s definitely the step forward for me I think.”

(Cécile Schott, in conversation about adding percussion to her music, May 2013)

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“Actually, it’s the most common combination, you know, in popular music in the wide sense: It’s someone singing and they’re playing some kind of instrument at the same time. And obviously that’s been going on for the longest time in history and I thought, well, if I am going to use my voice now, I have to make sure it’s really, really special and I have to keep the thing I did have which was special in my instrumental music. So I did work very hard in trying to achieve that.”

(Cécile Schott, in conversation about adding vocals to her music, May 2013)

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“I rise like the sun above olive trees, like the moon above date palms. Where there is light, I shall be. Where there is darkness, there is none of me. I rise like the moon above date palms. I am counted as one among stars.”

(Excerpt taken from The Egyptian Book of the Dead)

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“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”

―Carl Sagan, “Cosmos”

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“Moon be bright and shine”

(Taken from Colleen’s “The Moon Like A Bell”)

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All photographs by Izabela Szczutkowska (http://www.izyandthesunshines.blogspot.ie).

(The complete series of photographs can be see HERE.)

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Very special thanks to: Cécile, Áine, Seti The First, Lawrence, Triskel Arts Centre, Izabela and everybody in the audience. 

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Written by admin

November 25, 2013 at 10:03 am

The Story Of An Artist: Iker Spozio

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Interview with Iker Spozio.

In our new regular section – entitled “The Story Of An Artist” (named in tribute to the American singer, songwriter and artist Daniel Johnston) – we will be focusing on the artists who have brought their own distinctive artwork and indelible mark to the independent music scene. First to contribute is the wonderful Italian artist and illustrator Iker Spozio, who currently resides in the northern Spanish coastal town of San Sebastián. Spozio’s name has become synonymous with the independent music scene over the last number of years, with the creation of record sleeves for such independent labels as London-based Second Language and the Brighton-based label Fat Cat Records. Spozio’s work graces the sleeves for such bands and composers as Colleen, Adrian Crowley, Mark Fry, Delia Derbyshire and Hauschka. Over the years, Iker Spozio’s reputation for a master craftsman, engraver, illustrator and painter of immense talent and versatility has been widely evident for all to see.

Words: Craig Carry, Artwork: Iker Spozio

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“Self Portrait” based on El Greco’s “El caballero de la mano en el pecho”.

Even if the Italian artist Iker Spozio is not a household name to you, his distinctive artwork has bound to have passed your eye on more than one occasion. In fact, the chances are his artwork adorns some of your most prized and precious records in your collection. Spozio’s artistry has adorned albums by some of the most inspiring musicians in the independent music scene. Musicians such as French composer Colleen, Irish songsmith Adrian Crowley, German pianist and composer Volker Bertelmann (aka Hauschka) and the legendary English folk songwriter Mark Fry – to name but a few –  have all had their music beautifully adorned by Spozio’s immense artistic gifts.

Most notable in his musical work is his ongoing collaboration with the gifted French composer Cécile Schott (aka Colleen). The pair have been partners for many years and their symbiotic relationship has produced a string of truly memorable and everlasting records over the last ten years or so (with Spozio creating both album and e.p. sleeves as well as concert posters), Spozio applies the visuals to Schott’s music, both as deeply immersive and enchanting as each other. Their most recent collaboration has come in the form of Colleen’s current album, “The Weighing Of The Heart”, an album released last May on London-based independent label Second Language. The album is an extraordinary achievement for both Schott and Spozio, where both artists sought new departures in their ever-expanding artistic visions. The resulting work (both in sight and sound) is a true joy to behold.

Iker Spozio’s work has thus far been as impressive in its versatility and scope as well as in its unwavering and passionate attention to detail. Throughout his varied work (across commissions, personal work and longterm projects) there is a huge emphasis placed on craftsmanship where virtues of both patience and skill are always in evidence. Spozio’s versatility as an artist is nothing short of breathtaking, his portfolio showcasing works across many mediums including watercolour, engravings, monoprints, pencils and india ink. Often, the work is a hybrid of many techniques combined together – where a truly remarkable appreciation for each process’ own intrinsic qualities can be discerned – yet such works never serve to lose any sense of vitality as Spozio’s own distinctive graphic approach can always be appreciated and admired. For any work which bears the name of Iker Spozio can safely be described as something truly precious and singularly unique.

Most recently, Spozio’s work has been published as part of Mark Fry’s “Dreaming With Alice” songbook, a limited, special edition publication which collects together for the first time Fry’s lyrics and sheet music from his seminal 1972 album “Dreaming With Alice”, an album which is today recognized as one of the most defining records of psychedelic folk music. Spozio’s work here encompasses a series of twelve specially commissioned engravings which serve to beautifully illustrate Fry’s dreamlike and mysterious sonic masterpiece. Like any of Iker Spozio’s masterful handmade work, the imagery – like those from an everlasting and recurring dream – will journey straight to your eyes (and heart).

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Taken from “Dreaming With Alice” Songbook, engraving.

Firstly, congratulations on the magnificent achievement of the recently published “Dreaming With Alice”, the lovingly assembled songbook containing Mark Fry’s lyrics and sheet music for his seminal ’72 LP of the same name. The project is obviously very close to your heart as you have expressed a deep admiration for Mark Fry (as both musician and painter) in the past, as well as sharing a close friendship over the years. You also featured Mark Fry heavily in your fabulous “Morning” music magazine when you memorably interviewed him back in 2009 for the issue’s second edition.
So, first off, I would love to ask you can you remember the first time coming across “Dreaming With Alice?” What effect did it have upon you when you first heard it?

I first came across “Dreaming With Alice” about fifteen years ago, when I was still living in Italy, my home country.
I was just starting to work as an illustrator, back then, but also had a “proper” job as a graphic designer for a company which did websites. This job allowed me to pay my bills and also, of course, to cover my badly needed monthly fix of music!
I used to get my pay and then drive straight away to the bigger town in my district, Varese, where there used to be a pretty big and nice record shop, called La Casa del Disco. I soon became friends with one of its clerks, a guy in his fifties who had lived first-hand all the psyche, folk and folk-rock era. He used to suggest me all kinds of amazing records, describing them with contagious enthusiasm and in the most colourful ways. He’s the one who sold me Mark’s album, in its unofficial CD version released by Akarma.
I perfectly remember the particular day I got the album and playing it at home: I really got blown away by it, especially by the eponymous song, that seems to constantly appear and disappear like a ghost all over the record.
I still find it hard to believe that I’m friends with Mark, now. It’s definitely a pleasure and a privilege to me.

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“I Lived In Trees”, LP sleeve for Mark Fry & The A Lords (Second Language, 2012).

You created the wonderful artwork accompanying Mark Fry & The A. Lords LP “I Lived In Trees” which was released in 2011 by Second Language. As this was effectively Fry’s return to music for the first time in over thirty years it was clearly a truly special project for all concerned. I love how deeply evocative your artwork (including the concertina inner sleeve) is to the music within. I also love how – on the one hand – we have strong dominant shapes and forms, yet, we’re also presented with so much texture, imagery, colour and detail. It’s one of my all-time favourite sleeves! Could you talk about the artwork for “I Lived In Trees”, the process and techniques involved and the resulting sleeve?

Well, actually “I Lived In Trees” is the second album after Mark’s “come-back”, following 2009’s “Shooting The Moon”.
I’m delighted to know you like the artwork for “I Lived In Trees” so much, since it’s also a favourite of mine. The idea for a tree being the subject of the sleeve came from Mark, while the format suggestion came from Second Language’s mastermind Glenn Johnson.
I thought it would be a nice concept to depict a tree that would be visible in full only when the concertina would be completely unfolded. This allowed me to insert various elements, sometimes incongruous, in each panel, making each section of the booklet kind of self-sufficient but also part of a whole.
Technically speaking, the background was painted in watercolour, then all the elements were inserted in the typical collage way, using various papers and textures I had prepared beforehand.

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Taken from “Dreaming With Alice” Songbook, engraving.

If we return to the “Dreaming With Alice” songbook and the twelve accompanying illustrations that accompany this special publication. Firstly, just to confirm, these are linocuts?

Yes, they are.

Since there is such an amount of detail and varying focal points across the various compositions, I imagine you must very carefully “sketch” these out beforehand? How does the process between the inception of your idea through to the realization of the completed artwork happen for you?

Yes, indeed, I design, or should I say “plan”, everything in detail beforehand, especially when I’m working on an engraving, a technique that seldom (or never) allows one to have second thoughts.
I must confess that I’m quite a perfectionist, when it comes to my artwork. Maybe too much for my own good, since there is always the risk of getting too rigid and clinical in pursue of a perfection of sorts. That’s why, especially in recent times, I have been kind of forcing myself to “let go” and surprise myself through less thoroughly planned projects.

I love how you have used both reds and blues separately across the work. It seems to create a distinct contrast for the series as a whole, and seems to represent that idea of fantasy and reality for me. What was the significance of the use of colour for you here?

At first I thought of using more colours than those. But, in the end, I found that red and blue were really the most suitable for the project, both technically and aesthetically. The colour choice for each illustration was based on my feelings and the perception I had of each song in Mark’s album. It’s hard to explain: I just found some songs to be “blue” and others to be “red”!

Actually, I seldom use more colours than the primary ones, in association with black and white.
Dealing with colour is not something that came really naturally to me. I used to work in black and white only for several years, until I decided to overcome my lack of confidence and try my luck in the technicolour world!

I love how your work can appear quite abstract and fluid here, yet it always seems so rooted in the world of reality and representation. Recurring imagery such as birds, figures, the moon, floral elements and musical imagery are interspersed throughout. The use of space – both positive and negative – is also so striking and makes for almost multiple versions of the same piece. In terms of the series itself, are the individual artworks done specifically for songs in mind from “Dreaming With Alice” or are they more loosely based on the music?

The illustrations are completely based on the actual songs, and they usually feature elements drawn from the lyrics.
Some of the engravings are more descriptive, others less so. I must confess that I have a marked tendency towards abstraction, which I tried to keep restrained in this particular project. I think that abstraction often got to the surface, anyway, mostly due to the fact that at the time I did these particular illustrations I was extremely interested in African art and its tendency to translate reality into geometric shapes and patterns.
The Odyssey project, which I did not long after completing the Dreaming With Alice songbook, shows my more abstract side, and its illustrations, which are still based on the characters and events described in the book, are so minimal that one may find it difficult to immediately associate them with the text.

If the opportunity arose for you to do a similar project for another classic album (of any time or period), which would it be and why?

Hhhm, tough question, here, since I’m such a music “freak” that it would be a hard choice to make: too many wonderful albums around…
A particular favourite of mine, though, is Burning Spear’s first LP, which I consider a masterpiece. I would love to illustrate it.
Actually, right now I’m working on a series of paintings inspired by Jamaican songs. They are going to be completely abstract, since I believe that music such as dub, which relies so much on sound treatment, could hardly be translated into descriptive images.

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“Run Run se fue pa’l Norte”, inspired by Violeta Parra’s song of the same title.

Just to talk a little about your earlier work and the formative influences on you as an artist. What were the initial sources of inspiration for you to create art? Were there specific art movements in art history or specific painters you were drawn to at the beginning? Since your work encompasses a wide range of various techniques – such as painting, engraving, linocuts – I imagine there must be such a variety of people who have influenced you in your own approach as an artist?

My father, my grandfather and my great-grandfather were all painters, so art, painting specifically, was part of my life since I was a child. I always drew, but it took me quite some time to make the decision to fully devote myself to painting and illustration. It actually came gradually, and in parallel with my passion for music, since the very first works I got published were for indie labels I followed.
I like almost all art, so it would be difficult for me to choose some specific artists or movements as my favourite ones. I must say, though, that, being an Italian, I surely was influenced from the very beginning by all the Renaissance greats, Piero Della Francesca and Paolo Uccello in particular. The Bauhaus has always been a source of inspiration to me, as well as some “eccentric” painters such as Piero Di Cosimo, Léon Spilliaert and Odilon Redon. In a more “graphic design” context, I’d like to mention Neil Fujita and his work for Columbia Records in the fifties.

For the record, what are the techniques you most commonly use?

I first worked mostly in black and white, using indian ink and various kinds of pens and brushes. Then I really got into engraving techniques, such as linocut. I prefer to mix techniques up, though, so I often combine the aforementioned ones with watercolour, gouache and acrylic paints. I also do monotype a lot, a technique I particularly enjoy, since it gives one an endless array of possibilities.

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“The Weighing Of The Heart”, LP sleeve for Colleen (Second Language, 2013).

Now, to turn to the music of Colleen and the hugely enriching and stunning work that has resulted from that truly special collaboration. Firstly, I’ll point out that Colleen (aka French musician Cécile Schott) is your partner for many years now and you have been creating the artwork for her albums as Colleen for the last decade or so. The resulting “collaboration” has most recently been this year’s magnificent “The Weighing Of The Heart” album. It’s obviously such a personal and special project for the two of you, not least since it’s the first Colleen record in five years. I know it sounds clichéd, but it just so perfectly embodies visually the music within (for example, Coleen’s new focus on rhythm, colour, and movement). There’s also so much else in the sleeve, including the reference to the Ursa Major constellation, the Egyptian book of the dead and also the location of San Sebastián, where yourself and Cécile now live.
I would love if you could talk about “The Weighing Of The Heart”, the artwork and the new elements found in this new work of your’s and what influenced you in the making of the artwork?

The making of the artwork for “The Weighing Of The Heart” took me an extremely long time, since I really wanted to give it my best. It’s a very important album for both myself and for Cécile, who was getting back to recording music after a fairly long hiatus.
I actually did three different versions of the cover artwork, but never was completely satisfied with what I came up with.
I think that the final one, the one Cécile and I were both happy with, reflects well the changes we’ve both experienced in our respective arts: Cécile’s new poly rhythmic compositions and more “colourful” approach to music coincided with a tendency I had developed to get my works busier and brighter in terms of colour. As far as I’m concerned, I believe it’s a consequence of my passion for traditional African art and also an influence of Juan Gris’s cubism.
It’s funny because I hadn’t heard a single note of Cécile’s new music until I had finished the artwork, so it’s the result of a kind of telepathic communication between the two of us if both music and images work along fine.

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“Les Ondes Silencieuses”, LP sleeve for Colleen (Leaf, 2007).

It would also be such a huge pleasure for me to ask you about the sleeves for both “Les Ondes Silencieuses” and “The Golden Morning Breaks” here as well. Both those records hold such a special place in the hearts of music fans and both of the sleeves distill so beautifully the space and time in which both those special Colleen albums were made, and embody the particular mood and atmosphere of both records too.

I’m pleased that you like those particular sleeves, even if I must tell you that I find it kind of hard to look back to that particular era of my work now… I don’t feel really connected to it anymore. Actually, the cover for “Les Ondes Silencieuses” is probably the very last “official” artwork I did in that pen-and-ink, Beardsley-esque style I had been working with. Oh, well, I still have a soft spot for that sleeve though, since it has such a “home-y” feeling to it… Cécile and our cat are on it, and the landscape is a familiar one: it could well be taken from the place where we live now or from my hometown in Italy.

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“Black Magic and Its Expose”, engraving, taken from “Master & Margarita”.

Last year your project – encompassing fifteen engraved panels, all handmade and hand-printed – based on Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita” was exhibited in the Bulgakov Museum in Moscow. This must have been such a proud and special occasion for you? And this project stemmed simply from your wish to illustrate each chapter from one of your favourite books?

It was a true honour for me to have my illustrations exhibited in Bulgakov’s Museum. The museum is actually in the house where the writer lived and wrote some of his books, including “Master And Margarita”.
When I got the offer to do that exhibition I was really moved, since I enormously admire Bulgakov, both for his work and for the determination he put into it despite the terrible living conditions and restrictions that were imposed on him by the Communist government.
I just wanted to pay a small tribute to him through my work, but unfortunately got stuck creatively midway through and never managed to complete it.
The original idea was to do 43 linocuts!…

Literature has also played a major role in your work as an artist. Which books and authors have you most admired?

I’m a huge fan of classical Russian literature: Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Pushkin, Gogol, Leskov, Lermontov and, of course, Bulgakov.
I also like early twentieth century russian poetry, Esenin in particular.
Generally speaking, I love the golden era of novel-writing, mid and late nineteenth century.
Other particular favourites of mine are Stendhal, Conrad, Maupassant and Tommaso Landolfi, maybe my most beloved author of all. He’s not well-known outside of Italy (actually he’s kind of considered as an “outsider” also there), but I find he wrote some of the most interesting works in Italian literature, especially when it comes to short stories.

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“Arrival at Pylos”, taken from “The Odyssey”, a series based on illustrating each chapter for Homer’s Odyssey, collage, monotype and sprayed watercolours.

Film has equally been important for you, I know in the past you have talked about such filmmakers as Marcel Carné and Tarkovsky. Which films and filmmakers would you recommend the most?

Tough question again! Hard for me to choose a few ones only!
I would definitely recommend some of the classic French movies of the 30s, 40s and 50s.
Carné is a big favourite of mine: I love “Hôtel du Nord”, “Le jour se lève”, “Quai des brumes” and, especially, “Les enfants du paradis”, definitely my all-time favourite movie (along with Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai”).
All the French cinema of that era is really interesting though, especially for the particular flavour of the language used.
French is a fabulous language, so rich and inventive!
I also love silent cinema, the German one in particular (Murnau, Lang, Dieterle, …)
Of course I have a soft spot for classic Italian authors, especially Mario Monicelli, and for music documentaries. A particular music doc I’m totally in love with is Margaret Brown’s “Be Here To Love Me”, devoted to the life and the music of the late great Townes Van Zandt. It’s most probably the best (and most moving) music film I’ve ever seen.

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“Mark Fry”, monotype, taken from “Morning” #2.

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“Norman Jopling”, engraving, taken from “Morning” #2.

Lastly, to music, and I have to at this point mention your incredible music publication “Morning” (named after the Peep Show’s song of the same name) which you published, illustrated and designed yourself. What’s so special and unique about “Morning” is that you effectively went on a personal quest to seek out those bands and artists from the past who you felt were unfairly forgotten and neglected by the music press at large. The resulting interviews are so poignant as the reader can really get the impression that these conversations were from the hearts of the respective musicians and they valued the opportunity so much. The art direction is a thing of beauty too (imagery comprises either your own artwork or the use of previously unpublished photographs) and is such a far cry from the mostly fairly generic nature of music media at large these days.
Could you recount your fondest memories you have had from your time creating and publishing “Morning”?

The concept behind “Morning” was to publish a magazine in the spirit of vintage periodicals such as “The Yellow Book” and “La Revue Blanche”, aesthetically speaking, and devote it to the music I really love. It focused mostly on artists I personally felt had not had the recognition they deserved, either in their time or even today, when some “underground” musicians of the sixties, seventies and eighties have been re-discovered and become sort of cult-figures.
My idea was to let the musicians talk as much and as freely as possible about their lives, their creative processes and their careers.
I really enjoyed working on “Morning”, especially since all the artists I approached were extremely enthusiastic and committed to the project. It was a truly rewarding experience on a human level.
I only have fond memories about it, so it would be impossible for me to choose a particular one, but perhaps it feels particularly special that Sybille Baier accepted to be interviewed (“because it’s such a nice little project”, as she said – and indeed it was: I only published 150 copies of the first issue). As far as I know, this interview is the only one she has ever given – isn’t that cool?…

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“Sibylle Baier”, monotype, taken from “Morning” #1.

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“Dreaming With Alice”, the illustrated collectible songbook featuring twelve specially commissioned linocuts by Iker Spozio (together with Mark Fry’s sheet music and lyrics) is available now HERE

For all information on Iker Spozio and to keep updated with new works please visit:

http://www.ikerspozio.net

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To read our interview with Colleen please see here, and for our interview with Mark Fry please see here.

Very special thanks to Iker and Cécile for their time, patience and warmth.

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