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Central And Remote: Adrian Crowley

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Interview with Adrian Crowley.

“There are always words to be written.”

—Adrian Crowley

Words: Mark Carry, Photographs: Steve Gullick

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Some blue morning soon,
We will rise and step into the glowing.
Where once were tears there shall be gladness,
Where once were splinters hope shall rise.”

‘Some Blue Morning’

Some Blue Morning’ is the highly anticipated seventh studio album from Irish singer-songwriter, Adrian Crowley, which reveals (yet again) a song-writing master-class whose poetic prose and interwoven rich sonic canvas captivates the heart. Recorded in Dublin with long-term collaborator Steve Shannon, ‘Some Blue Morning’ features members of the London string ensemble Geese, Ireland’s Seti The First and Waterford singer-songwriter Katie Kim duets on several songs.

The album’s glorious title-track –and sublime opener – unfolds a blissful sense of euphoria as the guiding light of Crowley’s achingly beautiful vocal casts a glowing light over the horizon. ‘Some Blue Morning’ is a song of hope: where rapture replaces tears. The immaculate instrumentation of drums and strings awakens the timeless sound of Jean-Claude Vannier and Serge Gainsbourg as fleeting moments of rare beauty flickers like the embers of a glowing summer sun.

Hungry Grass’ follows next; its warmth, immediacy and delicacy astounds each and every heart pore. The transformative work contains soaring strings that shares the illuminating spark of U.S. group Rachel’s such is its mesmerizing brilliance. A skyline at dusk. The impending arrival of darkness. The comfort in solace. Dancing flames of “cyan, silver, crimson and gold”. ‘Hungry Grass’ is a distillation of a seamless array of transient moments; snapshots or artefacts of life. As Crowley sings “the embers wink before they die”, I feel the hurt of loss but also, the treasure trove of entrusted memories we share and hold onto.

Lay me down on the hungry grass
Among the seedlings and the winter bark.”

‘Hungry Grass’

Some weeks before the eagerly awaited arrival of ‘Some Blue Morning’, I was fortunate to witness Adrian’s enthralling live performance. The special setting was Cork’s L’Attitude 51 wine-bar/sometime-live venue – formerly the near-mythical Lobby bar, a venue the Irish troubadour visited many times in the past. A small space, steeped in history, and so fitting that the prized songwriter would return last October. As part of the East Cork Early Music festival, Crowley was joined by the gifted talents of cellist Ilse DeZiah and violinist Justin Grounds. As the trio weaved their spell-binding magic, the audience was invited to soak in the splendour of the artist’s world of song. The power of words: its alluring charm, infinite radiance and raw emotional depth. The night offered a vivid snapshot into the intricate arrangements of Crowley’s sonic creations; from ‘The Beekeeper’s Wife’ to ‘Juliet I’m In Flames’ (the latter which featured the sole use of the Irish singer’s guitar – the reverb hanging beautifully in the air) and all points in between (not least the majority of ‘Some Blue Morning’s illuminating batch of songs).

One song that immediately comes to mind is the hypnotic ‘The Angel’ with its cinematic, eerie strings and Crowley’s lingering baritone floating beneath. The utterly transcendent tour-de-force contains such shape-shifting sounds, mood and rhythm that (larger) groups such as Balanescu Quartet or Kronos Quartet could only summon to create. Elsewhere, the achingly beautiful ‘Trouble’ – one of the many gorgeous duets with divine Irish songstress Katie Kim – centres on starting anew with the dream of a quieter life.

The Hatchet Song’ comprises ethereal strings and the similarly dream-like baritone voice that melts effortlessly into the sonic palette like pockets of ice on a woodland path. The deeply affecting ballad is reminiscent of Robert Wyatt and Lambchop whose poetic prose details an engraver with “a blade so eager”. The folk opus ‘Magpie Song’ flickers between the surreal and the visceral, where Crowley sings of “the ways of chance” that results in the magpie taking flight (after several encounters with the revered bird).

The Leonard Cohen-esque ballad ‘Follow If You Must’ is yet another remarkable achievement. The stunningly beautiful ballad (again featuring Katie Kim’s awakening voice) feels as though it’s forged from a “forgotten dream”: the melded voices of Adrian and Katie gracefully rises like the “morning dew”. The sheer beauty and utter transcendence unleashed by their momentous duets is nothing short of staggering. In fact, I’d like to think of this rare thing of beauty being kindred to the fireflies that light up the dark (sung by the pair on a later verse).

The cinematic spoken-word opus, ‘The Wild Boar’ – conjuring up the sound of a Cormac McCarthy travelogue – serves one of the album’s defining moments as “miles of pines” become entrenched in your memory. The striking narrative centres on a driver’s encounter with a mystical creature amidst a drive through a forest at dusk. A meditative and deeply contemplative experience is masterfully created in the opening verse: “He thought about his life and as his mind drifted/He was almost finding some kind of peace/All his frustrations of his troubled days seemed to fall away”. Crowley’s baritone evokes the richest of colours and detail, from the “distant hum of an engine”, the “clicking of a blinking indicator” along with the “scent of pine” and the “recent rain that infused the air.” The enraptured listener becomes hypnotized by the rhythm of Crowley’s poetic prose wherein a spellbinding magic takes hold of the mind’s imagination. Similarly, a sprawling canvas of mesmerizing sounds – beguiling soundscapes of meandering guitar tones, warm percussion and gentle ripples of acoustic guitar notes – floats majestically beneath Crowley’s soothing baritone. The words and music somehow evokes the vast expanses of the forest of trees; the sheer beauty of the wilderness and the further reaches of one’s mind where what once was unreachable has become attainable.

Some Blue Morning’ sees Adrian Crowley’s cherished songbook continuing to push the sonic envelope with enlightening tower of songs. I feel the opening verse of ‘Follow If You Must’ serves the perfect embodiment of Crowley’s superlative, sprawling canvas: “And the bonfire’s still burning bright/Throwing sparks up into the night/To linger there with the stars.”

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‘Some Blue Morning’ is available now on Chemikal Underground.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Adrian-Crowley/
http://www.chemikal.co.uk/

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Interview with Adrian Crowley.

Congratulations Adrian on the incredible new album, ‘Some Blue Morning’. It’s a real pleasure to ask you some questions about this truly beautiful work. Firstly, I’d love to gain an insight into the world that surrounds ‘Some Blue Morning’ and in what way you approached this record differently to its predecessor, ‘I See Three Birds Flying’.

Adrian Crowley: The pleasure is mine. Thank you, you are very kind! I will try to offer an answer! Well, I wrote the songs for ‘I See Three Birds Flying’ all in the same room and I wrote the songs for ‘Some Blue Morning’ in a different room… but both rooms are in the same house. I think that is an accurate description of my approach in more ways than one.

I also love the ode to Lee Hazelwood in the album-title. Furthermore, I feel the gorgeous duets between you and Katie Kim share that similarly magical spell cast by the timeless recordings of Nancy & Lee. Can you talk me through these particular duets, Adrian. Did you envision Katie would be part of these songs during the time of writing them? 

AC: The similarity in the title isn’t necessarily a coincidence but neither is it an ode in that way at all. The title, the phrases, the words I use resonate and have purpose in the songs I write, so I don’t try to mirror a song by someone else. But I often say, subconscious plays a part in how I work and I am always surprised when I wake up and see what I’ve written.

Gosh, I adore the duets of Nancy & Lee. They are gold to me. One of the decisions I’m proudest of in the making of this record was asking Katie to be involved. When I wrote the songs that she ended up singing on, I wasn’t necessarily thinking of duets. At first I heard wordless distant notes sung by a woman. It was very clear to me. For instance in the ‘The Magpie Song’ I heard a kind of haunting and dispossessed voice in the wilderness. And in ‘Follow If You Must’, I had already started recording the song and soon I imagined another voice there as part of the narrative and in a way to bring a different meaning to some of the passages.

It was uncharted territory for me, though, to invite someone in and give them my songs to sing. Sometimes the answer is with us all the time. I had spoken to Katie about the idea of making a record together. But it was a case of “when my record is done and when your record is done…and when we’re finished all the things that go with making a record…” Then I thought, that could take years… So I thought, why not get cracking now? And we can always do more later.

So I gave Katie a couple of songs and she came back with magnificent parts. So I gave her a couple of more songs and then I said, “here have more songs”. And then I said, “stop me if it’s all too much”. And she said, “keep them coming, Adrian, sure it’s grand”. And that was that. It was clear it had been a good idea.

In terms of contributions, the wonderful London-based string ensemble of Geese and Seti The First’s Kevin Murphy further heighten the rich sonic canvas of immense beauty. I would love to gain an insight into the arrangements of these new songs and the collaborative process that exists between you and these cast of musicians. 

AC: Well it’s more the case that Emma from Geese played on two songs: ‘The Magpie Song’ and ‘The Hatchet Song’ . Vince from Geese played viola on the latter. Emma, Vince and I had played ‘The Hatchet Song’ live before a few times, like in St Pancras Old Church in London and on a short tour in The Netherlands. We had developed that cascading, overlapping motif that grew and grew. Then in a bar in London I told Emma about a song I’d written about being incessantly assailed by a bird. I told her it had loads of verses and that I imagined her helping the narrative with her violin. She seemed intrigued. Then she played like a woman possessed.

Yes, Kevin Murphy plays cello on several of the songs. We have been working on live shows together too for quite a few years now and I like to think we have a special rapport. Mary Barnecutt who is also a member of Seti The First plays some cello on the record too. Both Kevin and Mary are part of my live show now. We just work intensely and quickly and then we arrive at the treatment that feels right. Many of the parts we developed further with Steve (Shannon) in the studio. Steve is very gifted, I’ve said that before and I’ll say it again. It really is an exciting thing to have the string parts grow and grow. The song kind of tells you what it wants sometimes. It could be either sparse and skeletal or lush and resplendent.

There are an infinite array of moments distilled in each and every song on ‘Some Blue Morning’, like movements contained in a concerto. I wonder were there any happy accidents, so to speak that happened by chance during the making of the record? I can only imagine there must be quite a few stories behind each of these special songs.

AC: One thing I must say is that the vocal takes were far from laboured. I would say 80 or 90% of the vocals on the record are the first take. I am always aware that even if you are planning to put a vocal down as just a guide, it’s worth keeping in mind that it may be a keeper. I remember on one of the first days of the recording sessions Steve asked me to sit down in the live room and run through some  guide vocals to just get a handle on how it all wad sounding . Then a short few moments later we had what turned out to be the final vocal takes of about seven songs of the album. I think there is probably some kind of character in each song and what Steve calls artefacts in each song that have their own idiosyncrasies that probably would be impossible to replicate or repeat.

And speaking of happy accidents…I accidentally discovered I could play clarinet during the making of the album. I’m happy about that! I was browsing in my local charity shop one day and saw a black box on a glass shelf. I looked inside and there was a clarinet. I got the feeling that it should be mine. I bought it there and then and later that afternoon I started getting a sound out if it. Then I showed up in Steve’s studio with the black box tucked under my arm. Steve said “what have you got there?” Then we set about laying down clarinet parts. All as a result of walking into that charity shop by chance that day.

One of the album’s (many) defining moments arrives in part B with the cinematic spoken-word opus, ‘The Wild Boar’, conjuring up the sound of a Cormac McCarthy travelogue and the likes of ‘My Sister’ or ‘Chocolate’ by Tindersticks. I particularly love the lyric “He felt like a hunter for the first time in his life”. I would love to gain an insight into the narrative of ‘The Wild Boar’ and your memories of writing this poetic work? In some ways (in reference to the “miles of pines”), the song feels a distant companion to ‘Alice Among The Pines’. 

AC: It was exciting and revealing to me how ‘The Wild Boar’ came about. (And I love those two pieces by Tindersticks, especially ‘My Sister’). I spend a bit if time in France and once I had heard about something happening to a guy driving down a lonely road along the pine forests. The story became embellished in my mind and I told it a few times to different people. Then on tour I was telling a friend of a friend this story… we were in a venue in Berlin just sitting at a table before the show started. Then during my set the same person shouted out to me to tell the story about The Wild Boar. So I did and it went on and on.

Then a couple of weeks later I told it again during a show in Brighton. Eventually I wrote it all down in the form of a short story. It just seemed right to me to record it and in some strange way it fits on the album, I think. It’s interesting what you say about ‘Alice Among The Pines’. I like the idea of some things coming from the same landscape… a bit like aspects of a story that is told over time.

I fondly recall the central lyric to ‘Trouble’ originated from your European travels in which a local told you, “the only trouble you get around here is when the leaves stick to the rail-road tracks.” Please recount for me your memories of this particular song and indeed, the influence the act of travelling must have on your song-writing?

AC: Yes, I fondly recall the event that sparked off this song. I was on tour in Europe and this particular day I was playing in a small town in The Netherlands. When I arrived in town for the show, I looked at my map and saw the venue was in walking distance from the station, so I set off on foot carrying my two guitars and dragging along this big suitcase. I crossed the road and there was a guy on a bike facing me, waiting at the traffic lights. He was watching me as I trudged and shuffled along. Then he smiled and nodded to me, and said something in Dutch. I said “Pardon?” and this time he spoke in English… “Are you okay?” He was looking at all these things I was carrying. “Yes, I’m fine, thanks”. I answered. The lights turned green and he cycled off.

Then I continued down the road and a woman with a child and a dog were coming towards me. They were all looking at me curiously. Then as I approached them, the woman asked me something. “Are you okay?” I nodded and continued along my way. Then a couple of minutes later, I heard a car slowing down behind me. I looked over my shoulder and there was a police car. I stopped and the window rolled down. Two cops were looking at me. One cop leaned out the window and nodded at me. He said something in a low voice. I looked quizzical. He repeated “Are you okay?” I said “Yes, I’m just on my way to play a show”. And I pointed at the venue at the end of the street. The cop nodded and looked a bit disappointed, then rolled the window up again and they drove off.

Then after the show, I told the story to three chaps who had come over to talk to me. They nodded knowingly as I was telling the story. When I finished, one of them said… “Yeah, we don’t get much trouble around here”. Then he said, “The only trouble you get around here is when wet leaves stick to the railway tracks”. I thought it was sweet and funny and sadly beautiful. A song emerged over the next few weeks about someone moving to another town, a small town to lead a simple life and not get into any more trouble.

In terms of writing, would you find yourself writing words on a page before the music is ever thought of or considered? The lyrics to your songs are sheer poetry and the poetic prose contained on ‘Some Blue Morning’ offers everlasting inspiration. Are there certain writers/literature/song-writers that hold a particular resonance for you, Adrian?

AC: Thank you, that’s a very nice thing to say. I don’t know if I really settle on any one songwriter. I just love words. I love it when you hear a song somewhere for the first time and it has a kind of spark that gives it a kind of transcendence. In terms of literature, I love the writing of Richard Brautigan, Raymond Carver, John Mc Gahern… There are others of course but I find these deeply inspiring. Charles Bukowski and Henry Miller were/are longtime favourites of mine too. In terms of contemporary Irish writers. Kevin Barry, I think is brilliant. Songwriters…there are so many great ones.

I was really interested to hear how you spent time over the past year devoted entirely to writing. How has this technique of yours developed or changed during the course of this time period? Can you discuss the mind-set and transformative process that must occur during writing? How has this affected the song-writing process of yours, Adrian?

AC: I did decide at one point, when I could see that I had no trips planned for a while, that I was going to set a few hours a day writing words and stories. I had finished recording the new album and I felt I needed to get something more out. It’s still coming out. I am very happy with the discovery. It’s funny, sometimes I touch on something that clearly needs my further attention, then I think… “okay, I’ve just set myself a goal, I better do justice to the idea and see it through”. So in that way I’ve been building something just on paper…words on paper. I see sometimes songs growing out of those pieces, sort of like a parallel counterpart. And that has influenced how I write songs, I think. Almost approaching from a new direction. There are always words to be written.

 


 

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‘Some Blue Morning’ is available now on Chemikal Underground.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Adrian-Crowley/
http://www.chemikal.co.uk/

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Fractured Air 23: You’re Quite Alright (A Mixtape by Adrian Crowley)

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Irish songwriter Adrian Crowley returns with his hugely anticipated seventh studio album, ‘Some Blue Morning’, this November via Glasgow-based independent label Chemikal Underground. ‘Some Blue Morning’ is the follow-up to Crowley’s masterful 2012 Choice Music Prize nominated ‘I See Three Birds Flying’, and features contributions from Seti The First’s Kevin Murphy on cello; Dublin-based songwriter Katie Kim on vocals and members of London string ensemble Geese, amongst many more. After a series of wonderfully received live performances last year across Europe, Scandinavia, UK and Ireland, Crowley returns to the stage to promote ‘Some Blue Morning’ this Autumn. ‘Some Blue Morning’ will be released on 10th November 2014 via Chemikal Underground.

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Fractured Air 23: You’re Quite Alright (A Mixtape by Adrian Crowley)

To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/fractured-air-23-youre-quite-alright-a-mixtape-by-adrian-crowley/

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Tracklisting:

01. David Bowie ‘Art Decade’ (RCA Victor)
02. T Rex ‘Cosmic Dancer’ (TELDEC)
03. Robert Wyatt ‘Sea Song’ (Virgin)
04. Codeine ‘D’ (Sub Pop)
05. Diabologum ‘La Maman et La Putain’ (Lithium)
06. Rachel’s ‘Rhine And Courtesan’ (Quarterstick)
07. Tindersticks ‘Marbles’ (This Way Up)
08. Nico ‘The Fairest of The Seasons’ (Verve)
09. Cora Venus Lunny ‘The Known (Calcination)’ (Diatribe)
10. Blixa Bargeld & Teho Teardo ‘A Quiet Life’ (Spècula)
11. Big Star ‘Take Care’ (PVC)

 


 

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‘Some Blue Morning’, Adrian Crowley’s seventh studio album, will be released on November 10th 2014 via Chemikal Underground. ALL DETAILS HERE.

https://www.facebook.com/adrian.crowley.5
http://www.chemikal.co.uk/artists/adrian-crowley/

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To follow Fractured Air you can do so on Facebook HERE, & Twitter HERE.

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Written by admin

September 4, 2014 at 11:04 am

Road Atlas: Adrian Crowley

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

Words & Photographs: Adrian Crowley, Illustration: Craig Carry

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

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December 3rd, 2012 (Utrecht, The Netherlands)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Berlin, December 5th-7th. 2012.

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

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

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

‘Really?’,  I say.

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

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

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2012-12-06 19.30.08

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

December 6th:  Monarch , Berlin.

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

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

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

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

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

Despite all of this, the deer seems placid.

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

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

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

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2012-12-06 10.57.53

December 7th, leaving Berlin

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

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

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

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

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2012-12-06 10.20.00

Photographs and text © Adrian Crowley 2013.

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

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

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Written by admin

May 30, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Whatever You Love You Are: Adrian Crowley

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2012 saw the much-anticipated release of ‘I See Three Birds Flying’, the sixth studio album by Adrian Crowley. The album is nothing short of a masterpiece, full of heart and mesmerizing beauty. Crowley’s writing is sheer poetry. The album is a true treasure and is one of the most cherished albums of the year.

Words: Adrian Crowley, Illustration: Craig Carry

acrowley_craigcarryCurrent Inspirations…

Books recently read and currently being absorbed include works by Raymond Carver, John Mc Gahern and Kevin Barry (all short stories). The Raymond Carver one is called ‘Beginners’ and came into my possession after a couple of friends remarked that I might like him. They were right. His stories are incredible. There is a sense of anger and beauty in his writing and everyday realisms turn into magic under his hand. It took me a while to realise the connection between him and Robert Altman films.

The John Mc Gahern one is called ‘Creatures Of The Earth’. A friend of mine was telling me about it last week and then on Christmas day I saw it on my sister’s bookshelf so I borrowed it. She had two copies so maybe I’ll keep it.

The Kevin Barry book is ‘Dark Lies The Island’. It’s a beauty. He’s so good.

I’ve been revisiting some lost records of the last few years. Well, some had been lost and some were dormant. ‘La Fosette’ by French artist, Dominique A still sounds gorgeous. I first came across this record in the early nineties before I temporarily moved to France. There isn’t a voice like his, that I’ve heard anyway. Also there’s a charm to that album that isn’t like any of his later records. It’s kind of tentative but bull’s eye at the same time.

Earlier this year two friends of mine Thomas and Kevin released an album. I remember asking the guys how the recording was going for what seemed like years..there was a sense that it was some kind of beast struggling to be born, but on it’s own terms. I wasn’t sure if we’d ever hear it. Eventually I stopped asking about it and then out of the blue Tom and Kevin announced that their album was done and it was called ‘Melting Cavalry’ …and that they were called Seti The First. It’s a beautiful record and a beauty that I am sorry to say many have overlooked. It’s a massive sounding piece of work, sometimes dark and portentous sometimes tender and sweet. It surpassed my expectations, considerably. And I had already held them both in such high musical regard.

{One funny story I have to put in here is that one day I was telling Tom about a picture I was working on called ‘The Defenestration’ after the painting depicting The Defenestration of Yann Masaryk, in the infamous Defenestrations of Prague. I’ve been really obsessed with the idea of Defenestration for a while.I love the word and love explaining it to people who haven’t heard it before so I was gratified to see Tom’s face light up with delight as I went through the origins of the word ( de fenestra / from the window/ out of the window…..) and the whole concept of that way of this involuntary exit – to be thrown from the window. And so it came to be they had found a title for one of their songs that had until then refused to be named.}

Marissa Nadler, ‘Bird on The Water’ was released a few years ago. She’s an American singer. I love her voice.This is definitely my favourite of her albums. I’ve been going back to it recently. It was produced by Greg Weeks from Espers in his (analogue) studio in Pennsylvania. There is a haunted feeling to these songs and her voice is like a cross between a skylark and a musical saw.The stories in the songs are like excerpts from novels, that make you want to solve the mystery behind them. She does a beautiful version of Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat. It seems fitting that she did.

Speaking of Leonard….Another record that came out this year that I loved was by Sharon Van Etten.
My favourite song on it is called Leonard. What a beauty.

I’m (still) listening to Serafina Steer too. She’s got a new album out soon and I can’t wait to hear it.

Adrian

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‘I See Three Birds Flying’ is out now on Chemikal Underground. 

You can see our original review for the album here. 

http://www.chemikal.co.uk

http://www.adriancrowley.com

Written by admin

December 31, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Chosen One: Adrian Crowley

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Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

A special album is very soon to be released on the ever dependable Chemikal Underground label, namely Adrian Crowley’s sixth studio album. ‘I See Three Birds Flying’ is Adrian’s highly anticipated follow-up to 2009’s Choice Music Prize winning album, ‘Season Of The Sparks’. Crowley’s peerless baritone immerses you into a deeply contemplative listening experience. The prose and storytelling on ‘I See Three Birds Flying’ is mesmerizing that evokes rich imagery. ‘I See Three Birds Flying’ is timeless, in the truest sense that captivates the heart. This enchanting album is Crowley’s strongest to date, and is a fitting addition to a rich body of work.

Earlier in the summer, Adrian Crowley’s new music was introduced to audiences during the Cork Midsummer Festival. The event itself was Bowerbird: Modern folk and beyond that was curated by Adrian Crowley and Gary Sheehan. In essence, the event heralded an exploration of the folk tradition in 2012, over the course of two majestic nights. Folk luminaries such as Andy Irvine, Sam Amidon, Adrian Crowley, Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat performed their unique blend of folk music in the intimate surrounds of Triskel Christchurch that was utterly transcendent. The magical flow of emotion I felt on those two nights in June have flooded back upon the arrival of Crowley’s ‘I See Three Birds Flying’. In fact, the rich musical tapestry of the latest album is an exploration of modern folk and beyond. Albums like this do not come around very often, but when they do, a gem of a discovery is made.

‘I See Three Birds Flying’ was co-produced with long-standing comrade, Stephen Shannon. The strings were performed, arranged and recorded by London-based duo Geese (Vincent Sipprell and Emma Smith) and Cork cellist Kevin Murphy. The personnel on these recording sessions have been the same collaborators on much of Crowley’s previous works. It is clear a deep chemistry exists between this tight knit group of loyal friends that creates the rich canvas for Adrian’s vivid colours and textures. A wide range of instrumentation is used by Crowley; marxophone, mellotron, baby grand piano, electric guitar and omnichord, in turn, providing the perfect backdrop to Crowley’s glorious storytelling.

Album opener ‘Lady Lazarus’ immediately lures you in. ‘Well I took up residence/With a girl of many charms/Thousand mile eyes and hunger in her arms’ are the first words you hear, amidst heavenly strings. Many of the vocals for the album were captured in the first take and this is evident on ‘Lady Lazarus’. A directness exists in Crowley’s aching voice. There is humour with a playful turn of phrase, ‘And little did I know what little I’d forget’. The string arrangement is stunning. The swirling melody reminds me of Georges Delerue’s ‘Camille’ such is the sheer beauty created. In just over two minutes, ‘Lady lazarus’ pours with emotion and tenderness with startling effect, which could be Jacques Brel or Scott Walker. ‘September Wine’ starts with a gently picked guitar, percussion and cello. Crowley sings ‘I was never one for reunions/and never one for goodbyes’ on the chorus with a palpable immediacy that echoes James Yorkston. One of my favourite lyrics are on the final verse, ‘Got the royalest of soakings in a London shower’. Atmospheric strings brings ‘September Wine’ to a gorgeous close. Next up is ‘Alice Among The Pines’ which is reminiscent of Bill Callahan. Delicate strumming of electric guitar and piano provides the sonic backdrop. ‘Her life is a eulogy, I try to keep time/I’d sing along if she knew a line/And we enter the forest ‘deep dark and sublime’/Her words not mine, Alice among the pines’. Crowley’s lyrics is poetry. The rich imagery that lies in the heartfelt lament evokes immense beauty. ‘Deep dark and sublime’ indeed. ‘In this endless dream of mine I step from the shadows one last time’, Crowley sings on the opening verse beneath a meditative hymn like opus of sound makes you feel afloat in an age-long dream. An endless seam of lyrics on each verse lingers long after the words are uttered, ‘Where reasons are many and excuses are few/Ever spinning the reverie into this dream of mine.’ Lead single ‘Saddest Song In The World’ is majestic. If only all singles released today would sound like this, wouldn’t that be something. Gorgeous strings and electric guitar breathe beneath ‘the tear soaked pages of careworn lines and forlorn phrases’ of Crowley’s storytelling. A magical realm of sound comes to light on the chorus, ‘And I tried to write/The Saddest Song In The World’. Soaring violin, viola and cello brings the song to a magnificent climax. Sublime.

‘At The Starlight Hotel’ is Leonard Cohen’s ‘Chelsea Hotel’ for the 21st Century. A beautiful melodic guitar line leads you in to the Starlight Hotel; where ‘the shutters are down and the waltzers are under wrap’ at the nearby arcade. Some of the storytelling echoes Morrisey, ‘And inside my pocket/Is a torn ticket stub/ For the Cinema of Forgotten Matinees.’ ‘Fortune Teller Song’ is the title track of the album, and my favourite. To read the words alone is a pure delight. ‘I see three ships sailing/One is eastward bound and/One will run aground/And one will lead you home’ is the first verse. On the second verse, Crowley sings ‘I see three birds flying/One will steal your rings and/One will make you sing/And one will lead you home.’ Utterly beautiful. The closing line is: ‘I see three roads turning’. An awe inspiring ballad of a mere two and a half minutes in length and drifts in a soft whirlwind of delicate guitar, piano and string section.

‘Red River Maples’ is (yet) another gem. The descriptive imagery paints the art that’s on display here: ‘Red River Maples and Blue of the Heavens/Bitter night shade, black eyed Susan/And Blue of the Heavens’. Dreamlike vocals, mellotron and piano creates the eerie quality so prevalent throughout. The song takes you to ‘a shady arbour’: ‘In a shady arbour/I watched her sing with a locket in her hand/My bride to be/And she sang so soft and the words were wild/And I left her there in the shady arbour.’ Brooding electric guitar opens ‘Juliet In Flames’. This is vintage Smog/Bill Callahan territory and the song’s immediacy is breathtaking. ‘Carrying dangerous cargo/Steer well clear of me/Juliet I’m in flames’ is the song’s chorus that could be ‘I Break Horses’ by Smog. The song is a tour de force. The arrangement comes to the fore halfway through with meandering guitar notes and layers of vocals creating an atmospheric crescendo. ‘Seven seconds, I count the gaps/Between lightning and thunder crack/This fair warning I give you/Take heed’ builds the tension that could easily be the soundtrack to a Shane Meadows film.

Humour is found on the sparse ‘The Mock Wedding’. The lyrics of the chorus, ‘It’s a near perfect morning for a near perfect wedding/All rise for her, The Mock Wedding Bride.’ The omnichord creates a woodwind sound that recalls Robert Wyatt. ‘From Champions Avenue To Misery’ is the penultimate song on ‘I See Three Birds Flying’. A deep sense of longing and searching can be felt, ‘And I’ve come back to find you/And then bend to your will/From Champions Avenue to Misery Hill.’ Floating electric guitars and field recording creates a cinematic backdrop to these honest and touching words. ‘The Morning Bell’ brings ‘I See Three Birds Flying’ to a thrilling close. ‘So ring, ring, ring the morning bells’ is the song’s refrain, sung amidst joyous drums, bass, cello, piano and guitar.

‘I See Three Birds Flying’ is an artistic treasure and a haven for the senses. Immerse yourself in ‘the great beyond’ with ‘the catherine wheel spinning bright in the dark’, the ‘house of shells’, the ‘city of ghosts’ and ‘blue of the heavens.’

‘I See Three Birds Flying’ is released on the 14th of September on Chemikal Underground.

Written by admin

August 19, 2012 at 2:50 pm