FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Posts Tagged ‘Peter Jefferies

Time Has Told Me: Peter Jefferies

leave a comment »

Interview with Peter Jefferies.

 “But yes, it’s nice to think the album still resonates with certain people today. Now more than ever, perhaps.”

—Peter Jefferies

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry, Photographs & Captions courtesy Peter Jefferies

peterjefferies_craigcarry

New Zealand’s Peter Jefferies released his exceptional solo debut album, ‘The Last Great Challenge In A Dull World’ on cassette via the Xpressway label of Port Chalmers, New Zealand, in 1990. The deeply affecting batch of songs range from heart-rending piano ballads to desolate rock gems that shines an everlasting light on the torments of pain and despair. What is immediately striking about the debut record is the immediacy and honesty of Jefferies’ songs, where an artist’s soul is laid to bare before the listener’s very eyes and ears. I feel the spirit of Mark Linkous and Daniel Johnston float amidst the swirling guitar chords and tender piano tones. To think of ‘The Last Great Challenge’ today, an image comes to my mind of a bird in flight and a man standing alone at the shoreline. The lyrics of ‘On An Unknown Beach’ paints a vivid and touching portrait of internal struggle and endless searching: “There’s a man on the shoreline / With a white parakeet / Trying to make his / Bird go home.”

‘The Last Great Challenge In A Dull World’ and the accompanying 7″, ‘The Fate Of The Human Carbine’ (that would be later covered by Chan Marshall on Cat Power’s 1996 record ‘What Would The Community Think’) soon appeared on LP and CD, through the Ajax label of Chicago. Despite critical acclaim from various sources at the time, the album gradually fell into obscurity and would never attain its much-deserved recognition. Fortunately, some twenty-two years after the debut album’s original release, U.S. independent label De Stijl Records was responsible for the vinyl-reissue of this stellar document of towering song-writing master-class. The album includes the songs from the attendant single and the original album’s track-list with no amount of remastering done; remaining as pure and powerfully true as the moment the songs emanated to vital life at the turn of the 90’s.

The New Zealand music scene of the early nineties consisted of The Clean, The Dead C — amongst many others — unleashing their soaring rock anthems from deep beneath the underground. The recording sessions of ‘The Last Great Challenge’ features much of the New Zealand independent music scene: all three members of The Dead C (Bruce Russell, Michael Morley, Robbie Yeats), guitarist David Mitchell (3Ds), Alastair Galbraith, Kathy Bull (Look Blue Go Purple, Cyclops), Nigel Taylor and Robbie Muir (who’s co-billed on the single). The batch of songs were recorded on a 4-track in the studio where a striking intimacy and rawness is magnificently captured. The multi-instrumentalist, Jefferies provides vocals, piano, drums/percussion, and occasional guitar parts (mainly towards the album’s final section). The majority of the recording sessions took place at Grey Street, Port Chalmers between September — October 1989. Later, the album was mixed at Studio 13 by Peter Jefferies, Nigel Taylor and Alastair Galbraith.

The album’s title-track is a tour-de-force with immaculate instrumentation of piano, drums and guitar conjuring up the sound and eerie feel of early Tindersticks, Bill Callahan’s Smog output and Cave’s ‘Murder Ballads’. The undying spark lies in Jefferies’ peerless baritone that melts effortlessly into the mix. On the hypnotic and brooding ‘The Fate Of The Human Carbine’, Jefferies sings of a life drifting slowly by, beneath delicate guitar notes: “Watches a film about the evening sky / And lives someone else’s dream.” A meditative feel permeates throughout ‘While I’ve Been Waiting’ that releases a cathartic energy, before the sublime piano ballad ‘Neither Do I’ heightens all that surrounds you. Jefferies sings beneath fragile piano notes, “Tell me it’s too late to repent” on a verse that could belong on any number of Daniel Johnston’s sonic creations.

The soaring piano notes of ‘Likewise’ closes part A. On ‘Domestica’, Jefferies sings “I don’t want to be the victim of my own mistake” while cleaning the dishes. The eclectic range of sounds from raging punk and lo-fi indie/rock cuts to intimate ballads casts a spectrum of emotion as moments of tenderness and bitter-sweet beauty are closely interwoven with feelings of alienation, fear and pain. The album’s centerpiece is the piano ballad ‘On An Unknown Beach’. The lyrics are sheer poetry. The piano melody is steeped in stunning beauty. A tenderness comes to the surface as Jefferies describes himself as a “pale intruder on an unknown beach” on the opening verse. The defining moments of ‘The Last Great Challenge’ comes into focus some bars later as Jefferies sings “My back to the water / My feet in the sand / Finding no recognition / As each sign of life / Invades the precision of this / Aging land.” A deeply personal journey is created by Jefferies here — and throughout this remarkable debut solo record — that remains as vividly engaging and vital today as it has ever been.

————

‘The Last Great Challenge In A Dull World’ is available now on De Stijl Records.

————

Evans Street 1988

‘Evans Street 1988’

Chain or Reaction, Unknown Beach, Carbine, Listening In and the title track were all written here. The painting behind me is by Sally Lonie, who designed the cover for “At Swim 2 Birds”.

——

Interview with Peter Jefferies.

It’s a real pleasure to ask you some questions in relation to your music and particularly your solo 1990 album ‘The Last Great Challenge In A Dull World’, which was re-released this year on De-Stijl Records. First of all, it must have been a wonderful feeling to have your music introduced to new audiences and have a sense of (richly- deserved) recognition shown towards a record that remains as timeless today as it did 22 years ago?

PJ: It was a surprise more than anything else. It meant I had to listen to it, which I hadn’t done for at least 10 years. And that was a surprise too. But yes, it’s nice to think the album still resonates with certain people today. Now more than ever, perhaps ( at least that’s what it feels like at the moment).

————

Can you please take me back to the recording of ‘The Last Great Challenge’. The most striking aspect to the songs for me is how deeply personal and affecting the collection of songs are. Also, the range of sounds and styles – from the sparse piano-led melodies and achingly beautiful ballads to the more post-punk creations – that results in a resolutely unique journey. You have a great ensemble of musicians with you, from the New Zealand underground. How long did these sessions take? Were the songs pretty much fully formed prior to the recording sessions?

PJ: Sessions took about 5 weeks. Chain or Reaction, Unknown Beach, Carbine, Listening In, and the title track were written coming in. So there was a kind of framework there. The rest was written during the sessions.

————

My favourite song from the album is ‘On An Unknown Beach’. There is a tenderness inherent in this ballad that never ceases to amaze me. I would love to gain an insight into this song please and the magical moment when you saw the song unfold before your eyes? The lyrics are sheer poetry that invites you to an entire new world of significance.

PJ: Unknown Beach had the lyrics written first. Well, sort of. I thought I had a tune for those words, but it turned out they didn’t really work together, so the words sat around for a while. But when I was writing Chain or Reaction, I accidentally pushed the play button on the tape I was using, and this little fragment of a tune I’d done at some other time came on, and I just knew that was gonna work for Unknown Beach. So I stopped in the middle of what I’d been doing, and worked out the rest of the tune based on the little fragment from the tape. So then it sorted itself out pretty quick. Then I went back to Chain or Reaction and finished that too. I can still picture the moment in my mind, and yes, it did feel kind of special, or significant, at the time. Sometimes you just seem to get a bit of help with these things, and if you do something good almost always comes from it. And that was definitely one of those times.

————

Cat Power covered your song ‘Fate’ which was released on her 1996 record ‘What Would The Community Think’. The song works beautifully on this record that serves a fitting testament to your songwriting prowess. Can you remember when you found out about this? I imagine you must have been a big fan of Chan Marshall’s similarly beguiling songs?

PJ: Well, it should be remembered that Robbie Muir helped write Carbine. Have you heard the recording that I sent De Stijl of us actually writing it? It’s easy to find. Kind of amazing that I still had it. That was another one where the words had been done first. And I could just kind of hear Robbie playing it in my head, so one evening he came over, and we did our first writing session together, and that was the result. Chan covering it was really special. We had actually been corresponding for a few years before that, so we knew each others stuff anyway. But her album was very popular, and it gave the song a profile that I hadn’t been able to give it. So thank you Chan. Lots love. As to when I found out about it, I think Matador told me she was planning to do it. Probably a few months prior to recording. They were always such an easy label to deal with, so it wouldn’t have been a problem.

————

Can you reminisce on the New Zealand music scene of the early 90’s for me please? You were involved on a whole host of musical projects throughout the 80’s and 90’s. Looking back on the hugely diverse body of work, do you have particular favourites that today you feel most proud of?

PJ: The music scene of the 90’s. Such a long time ago. For me it was working on Xpressway with Bruce Russell, and being in Dunedin with all these incredibly talented people, and having that develop into the deal with Ajax, and that leading to a lot of other labels and people getting involved. It was life changing, and probably the defining time of my existence. As for the various songs, and releases. Yeah, I do have some that I like more than others, but I don’t really think the opinion of the artist has much to do with what the public perceive as your best or your worst work, so I’d really rather not say. If I do, then I’m stuck with that opinion forever.

————

I can imagine you and your brother Graeme (who comprised of two bands from the 80’s: Nocturnal Projections and This Kind of Punishment) must have been immersed in music from a very young age? What were the records that inspired you the most to take up music? What instruments were lying around your home?

PJ: Yes, we were both into music from very early on in life. Instruments were drums and guitars, and a microphone. Even at that age we had an old reel to reel recorder. It was an old half track. Started playing real instruments as teenagers. Stuff that made a difference to me early on were things like The Velvet Underground (plus Reed and Cale solo), Syd Barrett, Mott the Hoople (plus Ian Hunter solo), Bowie, Queen. Later on it became Wire (esp. 154), Joy Division, Swell Maps, The Fall. Colin Newman’s first solo album ‘A To Z’ had a big influence on me as far as lyric writing went. The album I was playing all the time during Last Great Challenge was Daniel Johnston’s ‘Hi, How Are You’.

————

How do you feel the music industry is like today? Are there bands and artists you admire from these past few years?

PJ: Well, the music industry today, for me, is De Stijl Records. That’s as much involvement as I have really. And as far as that goes it’s great. I think the vinyl pressing they gave LGC is the best I’ve ever heard it sound. Definitely my favourite version of the album. As for the rest of the industry, I’m not really involved, so I can’t really say. Artists from the last few years that I listen to: Kurt Vile, Amanda Palmer, Salvi Stone, Jack White, Rival State, Strange Boys, Darkwater.

————

In 2002 you retired from professional music. I was very interested to read that you currently teach high school music (drums, composition, recording). This must be a fulfilling practice to carry out on a daily basis, and a different perspective to music-making and releasing records?

PJ: Teaching at school has allowed me to keep music as the centre of my life, without having to watch it all get old and tired. The feeling I get when I help a student work on that very first song, has so much more life in it for me, these days, than writing yet another Peter Jefferies song. I think rock music has an inbuilt life span, and if you ain’t got it done by the time you’re between 40—45, then you ain’t gonna get it done at all. I don’t want to be someone who just dribbles on because they haven’t figured out how to quit. Maybe that’s just me. Other people seem to be able to do it, and be ok with it. But I ask you: how many musicians ever made their defining work beyond the ages of 40—45? I can only think of maybe one or two. And I don’t see myself as being one of them. You have to know when to get out of the water, and make way for the younger people coming through. Otherwise what’s the point? I finished writing my last album 9 days before my 40th birthday. Just got it in under the wire. I knew it was going to be my last album. Since then I’ve only written one new song that I think adds anything else to the story. The rest have just been more of the same (and more of the same isn’t new). Ouch!

————

PJ: P.S.
On New Year’s eve I went to a gig at the Mayfair, and saw (for the first time) my (as from now on), favourite New Zealand band.
They’re called Little Moon. So if you want to know what is REALLY HOT from New Zealand right now, then that’s the one that gets my vote.
Little Moon! Look out for them.

————

Port Chalmers 1989

‘Grey Street 1989’

With Robbie Muir, on the roof at Grey St. where most of LGC was written and recorded. Part of the photo shoot for the Catapult/Carbine 7”, 1989.

——

Grey Street

‘Port Chalmers 1989’

Robbie and me with Port Chalmers in the background. Also taken at Grey St. (where I was living with Bruce Russell and artist Jane Davidson), 1989.

——

‘The Last Great Challenge In A Dull World’ is available now on De Stijl Records.

http://www.peterjefferies.com
http://destijlrecs.com

————

Written by admin

January 13, 2014 at 9:43 am

Ten Mile Stereo

leave a comment »

10_web

Howe Gelb ‘The Coincidentalist’ (New West)
“The Coincidentalist is someone who can read the coincidences but who doesn’t try to figure out their meaning. For if one tries to figure out the meaning it will be lost. The coincidences aren’t there to figure out but to point the way.” (Howe Gelb)
Since last year’s excellent Giant Giant Sand LP ‘Tucson’ – where Gelb draws from his beloved hometown for inspiration – legendary Giant Sand leader Howe Gelb will return this November with has latest solo work ‘The Coincidentalist’. The album is Gelb’s first release for New West Records. Over the last three decades Gelb has produced a mightily sprawling body of work – whether as Giant Sand or under his “solo” guise – and has peerlessly fused myriad genres and traditions into his own dusty, earthy trademark sound. Highlights are too numerous to list but personal favorites include Giant Sand’s ‘Center of the Universe’, ‘Glum’ and ‘Chore of Enchantment’, as well as Gelb’s ‘The Listener’ and ‘Sno Angel Like You’. ‘The Coincidentalist’ proves to be yet another career peak for Gelb, and is available on 5 November via New West Records. 

————


Rachel’s ‘Systems/Layers’ (Quarterstick)
Rachel’s wonderful “System/Layers” sounds as immaculate today as it did a decade ago on its release on US independent label Quarterstick Records. Recently, Rachel’s – formed in Louisville, Kentucky in 1991 – can be heard on the soundtrack to the visually immaculate Paolo Sorrentino film “The Great Beauty”, a film set in present-day Rome. The song used by Sorrentino is ‘Water From The Same Source’, a heavenly ballad and a timeless piece of music. Rachel’s are responsible for some of the most breathtaking and ambitious music over the last couple of decades. Tragically, founding member Jason Noble passed away in 2012 but has left behind a truly remarkable musical legacy in the form of Rachel’s beloved chamber music output. Also essential is the fabulous ‘The Sea And The Bells’. For all information on Rachel’s please see here.

————


Zola Jesus ‘Versions’ (Sacred Bones)
Nika Roza Danilova returned this year with ‘Versions’, her fourth Zola Jesus studio album, released at the end of August by the Brooklyn-based independent label Sacred Bones Records. The album’s genesis began when Danilova was asked to perform at New York’s Guggenheim and, on accepting the invitation, she requested her wish to work with a classical composer who could arrange her songs for a quartet. The pioneering and versatile JG Thirlwell (Foetus) who is best known in industrial music circles, was recruited for this purpose and to fulfill Danilova’s artistic vision. According to Danilova: “Versions is about the bone of the music; taking approximations from past records and turning them inside out. With all framework exposed, the songs are given a new medium in which to evolve and bloom into their own tiny worlds.”

————


Lucrecia Dalt ‘Syzygy’ (Human Ear Music)
Hugely talented Colombian-born artist Lucrecia Dalt – now based in Berlin – returns this year with the mesmerizing ‘Syzygy’, the much-anticipated follow-up to her second full length ‘Commotus.’ The record took shape quite by accident. When Dalt moved to a new place located in close proximity to a metro station, she soon discovered that the magnetic field of the metro affected the sound of the bass. Whereas her previous album ‘Commotus’ was largely centered on bass-driven melodies, ‘Syzygy’ sees a shift to a more dreamy, ambient-textured palette, as Dalt could only record the songs in the dead of the night, as she recounts: “I could only record at 4:30 am when the metro wasn’t working. So I love these kinds of accidents. I’m not sure if the new record would have shaped the way it did if I wan’t under that circumstance.” ‘Syzygy’ is available now on Human Ear Music.

————


Chequerboard ‘The Unfolding’ (Lazybird)
Chequerboard is the moniker for Dublin-based composer John Lambert who released ‘The Unfolding’ – Lambert’s third LP – this year on independent label Lazybird Records. It has been five years since Chequerboard’s previous album, ‘Penny Black’, and ‘The Unfolding’ sees Lambert expanding on a more complex and panoramic sound than before. Collaborations on the record feature Seti The First’s Kevin Murphy and Crash Ensemble’s Kate Ellis (both on cello) as well as guest vocals from Eileen Carpio. Much like the beautifully textured and multi-layered sonic palette of Thrill Jockey’s Mountains, Chequerboard’s music is stunningly complex, mixing soft focus ambient vignettes with highly detailed, intricate guitar patterns. An album which reveals more upon every listen, ‘The Unfolding’ is a true delight.

————


Lisa O’Neill ‘Same Cloth Or Not’
‘Same Cloth Or Not’ is Lisa O’Neill’s second album and follow-up to her 2009 debut ‘Has An Album.’ ‘Same Cloth Or Not’ confirms County Cavan-born O’Neill as one of Ireland’s finest and most unique young songwriters and was recorded with Dublin-based songwriter (and occasional Tindersticks contributor) David Kitt as producer with Karl Oldum on engineering duties. In the past O’Neill’s name has become better known with support slots with the likes of David Gray and Glen Hansard. A tour with the wonderful Scottish musician James Yorkston this November should be particularly special occasion for music audiences across the UK. O’Neill supports Glen Hansard on his solo Irish tour this October. ‘Same Cloth Or Not’ is released on 18th October.

————


Joni Mitchell ‘The Studio Albums 1968 – 1979’ (Warner Music / Reprise / Asylum)
Since last year’s Joni Mitchell boxset release – comprising Mitchell’s studio albums from her most prolific and creative period of the late sixties and seventies – the astonishing music and artistry of Mitchell’s can be explored by a whole new generation of music-lovers. The set contains Mitchell’s best-loved and most revered albums including the timeless string of albums at the turn of the seventies – 1971’s ‘Blue’, ’74’s ‘Court and Spark’ and ‘The Hissing Of Summer Lawns’ from 1975. The set also features such slightly less known gems as ‘Hejira’, ‘Ladies Of The Canyon’ and ‘Mingus’, Mitchell’s beautiful Asylum Records album from 1979 dedicated to the life and memory of Charles Mingus who passed away in January of the same year.

————


Peter Jefferies ‘The Last Great Challenge In A Dull World’ (De Stijl)
Originally released on tape cassette by Xpressway, a label based in Port Chalmers, New Zealand, in 1990, the mystery and allure surrounding Jefferies’ debut solo album has only grown since. Hence, this year’s reissue of the New Zealander’s ‘The Last Great Challenge In A Dull World’ via De Stijl Records (the first time that the vinyl has been repressed since the LP version of the album on Chicago’s Ajax label was out of print some twenty years ago). The collection itself is an engrossing set of songs highlighting the raw talents of Jefferies as a songwriter whose songs reveal much pain, sadness and indifference to a world which seems at complete odds to it’s author, while ultimately the album conveys a sense of fragile hope and soft light which diffuses Jefferies’ stark shadows with soft edges. A redeeming and life-affirming record.

————


Kwes ‘ilp.’ (Warp)
‘ilp.’ is the debut album by Warp’s hugely talented London-based producer Kwesi Sey (who has worked with the likes of Bobby Womack and Damon Albarn in the past). The album’s ten tracks cut through every conceivable genre and style so effortlessly, fusing pop, electronic, hip hop, found sounds and ambient traditions to a mesmerizing effect (at times recalling Warp’s Bibio at his most expansive). The album’s hallmark is Sey’s vocal work, adding heart and soul to the beguiling, multilayered soundscapes beneath. Sey’s journey in music began when he was given a present of a keyboard from his grandmother (an instrument he still uses), and from the evidence of the hugely promising ‘ilp.’ expect a very bright future indeed for Kwes.

————


Pharaoh Sanders ‘Elevation’ (Soul Jazz, Re-Issue 2013)
Soul Jazz Records’ Universal Sound recently re-issued Pharaoh Sanders’ classic ‘Elevation’ which was originally released on Impulse Records back in 1973. This was a golden era for Impulse when such jazz greats as Pharaoh Sanders, Alice Coltrane, Sam Rivers and Marion Brown were making records for the label. Sanders was one of the greatest saxophonists of all time, and worked with both John Coltrane in the sixties as well as Alice Coltrane in the following decade. Beginning with the album’s majestic title-track, ‘Elevation’ is a key cornerstone to the spiritual jazz genre and highlights Sanders as one of the greatest tenor saxophonists there ever was.

————