FRACTURED AIR

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Posts Tagged ‘Second Language

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.

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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/

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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.

 

Fractured Air 29: Road Of Dreams (A Mixtape by Mark Fry)

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English singer-songwriter Mark Fry’s name has become synonymous with his psych-folk masterpiece ‘Dreaming With Alice’ released on RCA Italy in 1972 when Fry was only 19 years of age. Some 39 years later (Fry would become an internationally renowned painter while music would continue to play a vital role in the intervening years) Fry released the long-overdue follow-up ‘I Lived In Trees’, an album recorded with The A. Lords (English musicians Michael Tanner and Nicholas Palmer) in Dorset, Normandy and Oxfordshire, released in 2012 via Second Language. The fact that the legend of Mark Fry’s utterly transcendent music still burns so brightly can also be attributed to the many contemporary musicians — Mercury Rev, Four Tet, Colleen, Super Furry Animals and Jim O’Rourke, to name just a few — who have become some of Fry’s most passionate and ardent of believers. This year Fry returns with his latest soul-stirring and dreamlike collection, ‘South Wind, Clear Sky’, available now on London-based independent record label Second Language.

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Fractured Air 29: Road Of Dreams (A Mixtape by Mark Fry)

“Songs can lead you down a road of dreams. These are just some of them, old and new, that made me want to become and continue to be a songwriter and musician, and whose echoes, like pebbles in a pond, still ripple through my life today.”

—Mark Fry

To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/fractured-air-29-road-of-dreams-a-mixtape-by-mark-fry/

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Tracklisting:

01. Traffic ‘Hole In My Shoe’ [Island]
02. The Beatles ‘A Day In The Life’ [Parlophone]
03. Procol Harum ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’ [Deram]
04. Joni Mitchell ‘River’ [Reprise]
05. Lucio Dalla ‘Com’è Profondo Il Mare’ [RCA]
06. Joan Armatrading ‘Love And Affection’ [A&M]
07. Kaouding Cissoko ‘Kana Kassi’ [Palm Pictures]
08. Nirvana ‘Something In The Way’ [DGC, Sub Pop]
09. King Creosote and Jon Hopkins ‘Bubble’ [Domino]
10. Bill Callahan ‘Small Plane’ [Drag City]

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The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or their respective record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

 


 

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“South Wind, Clear Sky” is available now on Second Language Records.

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http://www.markfry.co.uk
http://www.secondlanguagemusic.com

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November 4, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Fractured Air 09: Love Is Everywhere (A Mixtape by Directorsound)

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To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/fractured-air-09-love-is-everywhere-a-mixtape-by-directorsound/

“Its kind of themed. Trying to splice my twin loves of jazz and psych-folk essentially. It was great fun to make. Turns out I’ve got a lot of flutes in my record collection. And a surprising amount of sitar.”
(Nicholas Palmer)

Directorsound is the moniker for Dorset-based musician Nicholas Palmer. As well as comprising one half of The A. Lords (alongside Michael Tanner), Palmer’s Directorsound project has thus far created a string of gorgeous pastoral folk, jazz and exotica-inspired albums, culminating with the release of current studio album ‘I Hunt Alone’ (Second Language) and ‘Other Rivers’, a collection of fourteen previously unreleased Directorsound tracks (available now on Direcotrsound’s Bandcamp Page HERE).

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Tracklisting:

01. Marion Brown – Introduction
02. Django Reinhardt – Bolero De Django
03. Pharoah Sanders – Love Is Everywhere
04. Synanthesia – Shifting Sands
05. People Band – Part 1 (excerpt)
06. Harry Partch – Study on Olympos’ Pentatonic
07. Incredible String Band – Yellow Snake
08. Alain Goraguer & His Orchestra – Les Loups Dans La Bergerie
09. Brigitte Fontaine – Le Goudron
10. Davy Graham – Majaan (A Taste Of Tangier)
11. Art Ensemble Of Chicago – Sangaredi (excerpt)
12. Sun Ra – Ancient Ethiopia
13. Charlie Byrd – Interlude
14. COB – Let It Be You
15. Don Cherry And Ed Blackwell – Sun Of The East (excerpt)
16. The Trees Community – Psalm 46
17. Menelik Wesnatchew – Tezeta

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To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/fractured-air-09-love-is-everywhere-a-mixtape-by-directorsound/

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The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or their respective record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

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‘I Hunt Alone’ is available now on Second Language. 

http://directorsound.bandcamp.com
http://www.secondlanguagemusic.com

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January 6, 2014 at 11:21 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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Chosen One: Directorsound

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Interview with Nicholas Palmer, Directorsound.

I very quickly heard how beautifully constructed it was, and what unusual arrangements they had – they ached of a lost England, beautiful and evocative pastoral landscapes – I soon became hooked.”

Mark Fry

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

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Directorsound is the alias for Dorset-based multi-instrumentalist and composer, Nicholas Palmer. The latest release from Directorsound – the follow-up to 2010’s ‘Two Years Today’ – is a record that showcases the album as an artform in itself. The name of this gorgeous album is ‘I Hunt Alone’ where Palmer’s distinctive blend of transcendent instrumental folk music wanders into the pools of your mind, and lingers there like the scent of a flower during spring. The instrumentation of guitars, piano, accordion, drums, cello, flute conjures up the sound of an English countryside – Dorset perhaps – but more so, a world in itself, alive with vivid imagination and artistry in full-flow. ‘I Hunt Alone’ is the latest chapter in Palmer’s treasured songbook.

The warm tapestry of sound contained on ‘I Hunt Alone’ derives from an all-acoustic lineup, including guitar, piano, accordion, harmonium, clarinet, trumpet, recorders, bouzouki, balalaika, banjo, ukulele, autoharp, bass, percussion/drums, and a vast collection of bells collected from around the world. The result is a musical feast of many styles – Eastern European, Balkan, English folk, traditional – gorgeously fused together, mapping a glorious travelogue of the places and paths ventured down by the artist. Interestingly, the place that became the source of inspiration for Palmer, was in fact, Transylvania. The record was recorded in the summer of 2011, as an attempt to produce “a cohesive, narrative-driven folk horror symphony”, inspired by a holiday in Transylvania the previous year.

To term the record a symphony serves justice to the breathtaking music on display throughout ‘I Hunt Alone’. Guest musicians include Chris Cole of Third Eye Foundation, Matt Elliot’s ensemble, and Many Fingers, on cello, Ian Holford (Nectarine No. 9) on drums, and Jess Sweetman on flute. A wonderful addition to the sonic tapestry is the myriad of field recordings that find their way in the music. The sounds of the locality – bells of church towers, rattling train journeys – are dotted across the album’s narrative. ‘I Hunt Alone’ was recorded in Palmer’s native Dorset and partly in Mark Fry’s rural Normandy home. Most of the music was written before the recording process took place.

My first introduction to the music of Nicholas Palmer was under another guise, namely The A. Lords – a wonderful collaboration between Palmer and Michael Tanner (he of Plinth, Cloisters, Taskerlands fame) – and the record was a beautiful collaborative venture between like-minded artists, English songwriter Mark Fry, and the A. Lords. The album ‘I Lived In Trees’ was released on London-based Second Language – also home to Directorsound’s ‘I Hunt Alone’ – that forms an indispensable part to any invaluable music collection. The musical telepathy between the A. Lords and Fry is a joy to behold, where the poetic lyrics of Fry and mesmerizing passages of music meanders, like a river-flow, into the sea of your heart and mind. One song in particular, ‘All Day Long’ epitomizes the masterful artistry of Palmer. A musical interlude arrives as the song fades out, containing achingly beautiful tapestries of nylon guitar, flute, and many other sources of acoustic sounds. The sonic palette – just like that of Palmer’s other projects – is forever immersed in a divine sound of impossible beauty.

The title-track ‘I Hunt Alone’ begins with church bells, before delicate notes of nylon guitar ascends into the atmosphere. This solo piece of music is reminiscent of The A. Lords and takes me back to Mark Fry’s gorgeous ‘I Lived In Trees’. The chord progression is gradual and the lovely diminished chords float peacefully by. ‘Serpents In The Jaws Of October’ – as the title itself suggests – is one of the album’s milestones. The opening sounds of music boxes conjures up the sound of label-mate Colleen. The sound of a passing train is placed in the background of the mix. A haunting soundscape of bouzouki and collection of many instruments moves at a slow tempo for the first half. Soon, the tempo is increased, and drums/percussion and a guitar groove comes to the foreground, sharing the spirit of 70’s folk of The Strawbs and Fairport Convention. An utterly timeless sound is formed.

‘Pan In Paradise’ is a mini-folk orchestra containing nylon guitars, woodwind instruments, drums, piano, and accordion. The windswept sound provides yet another special moment. The gradual layering of sounds and pristine arrangements by Palmer, is wonderfully showcased here. The accordion blends effortlessly with the soft chords of piano and gentle drum beat. The perfect prologue to the fulfilling journey of ‘I Hunt Alone’. ‘Sun Dazed & Dancing’ conjures up the sound of Eastern Europe and Balkan sounds, reminiscent of A Hawk And A Hacksaw. The feel to the piece is immaculate, as the dynamic changes from frantic polka rhythms to mournful embellishes of accordion waltz. Palmer can do no wrong. ‘Nocturne For Grace’ is a tour de force, encompassing many worlds of sound, from film score and gothic worlds to Eastern European traditional forms. The enchanting piece of music contains several glorious movements. The romantic bliss of the piano-led melody could be ‘As Time Goes By’ from the 1942 drama, ‘Casablanca’, where scenes of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman comes to mind. ‘I Hunt Alone’ is a musical world, belonging in its own separate realm, where you are invited to wander and get lost in its endless wonder and marvel.

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‘I Hunt Alone’ is out now on Second Language.

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Interview with Nicholas Palmer, Directorsound.

Congratulations on the newest Directorsound album, ‘I Hunt Alone’. It is a truly gorgeous and breathtaking tour de force. The instrumentation and arrangements, as ever, are things of pure beauty. Please tell me about the new album and the inspiration of a holiday in Transylvania that led to the inception of ‘I Hunt Alone’?

Why, thank you Mark! I’d had the seedlings of the general idea of an album that would then later become ‘I Hunt Alone’. Then a trip with my partner to Transylvania helped to shape the mood and direction of it. I love the idea of the album as an artform in itself. So not as not just a bunch of songs but a cohesive, narrative driven whole. This is probably more so important with instrumental music, where the lyricism must come only from the instruments.

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Please tell me about the stages involved in recording ‘I Hunt Alone’? The found sounds of church bell towers, trains and a myriad of other sources find their way, wonderfully in the music. The wide array of instrumentation is something to truly behold, where a whole spectrum of emotion and texture is etched across the sonic canvas.

So I used the field recordings I made in Transylvania as the starting point. Unusually for a Directorsound record, most of the music was written before I started to record with many of the pieces having been refined and practiced while on tour as part of my one-man-band stage show promoting the previous album ‘Two Years Today’. The bulk was then recorded over a few months during summer 2011. Arranging pieces for various instruments is probably my favourite part of the process.

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The piece I’ve been obsessed with lately is ‘Nocturne For Grace’. This piece of music is hauntingly beautiful. The lead piano melody is steeped in mesmerizing beauty. There are worlds of sound created, from Balkan and Eastern European, to gothic and film score works. I would love to gain an insight into this composition, and your memories of writing/composing ‘Nocturne For Grace’?

Thanks again Mark for your very kind words! I believe I wrote the first section years ago and then the remainder building up to the start of recording. Essentially I see it as a piano work. It took a lot of practising, especially as I write nothing down! I then recorded it over one weekend while I was house-sitting/watering the greenhouses for my folks where my main piano is still housed. I seem to remember it being fairly nerve-wracking. Being 10 minutes in length, so many times I got so close to the end of a take only to bottle it and fluff the ending. As an Irishman you may recognise that the translation of Grace into Irish is Grainne, the name of my now wife who I met while on an Irish Directorsound tour nigh on 5 years ago. I’m not sure how she feels about its dark undertones but in fairness, not every gal gets a ramshackle gothic opus written for her!

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Tell me please about the instrumentation used on ‘I Hunt Alone’. What were the first instruments you learned to play?

I had lessons on an old 2-tier furniture organ from about the age of 9. And before that, I’m guessing much like for you guys and the penny whistle, we all had to learn the recorder at school. I was awful. I never did and still don’t get on with reading music and those formal introductions into playing music put me right off for many years. And then as I got to the age where you start forming a counter-cultural identity and developing a ‘taste’ in music I began to teach myself guitar. Still got loads of bad habits from self-teaching I reckon.
On this record it’s entirely acoustic, essentially as part of an attempt to create a sound without a temporal context. I’ve been lucky over the years, people have kindly off-loaded lots of archaic instruments on me. Consequently along with picking up a few bits of my own I seem to have amassed a small folk-orchestra’s worth of instruments most of which were employed on ‘I Hunt Alone’. Then I was joined by Jess Sweetman on flute who also played on the Mark Fry and the Alords record, friend and old work colleague Ian Holford from Nectarine no.9 and the Sexual Objects who plays drums on one track and old chum Chris Cole from Many fingers and Third eye foundation/ Matt Elliott’s band on cello.

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As a multi-instrumentalist and gifted composer, I would love to gain an insight into your creative process? In your music, do you normally begin with a guitar or piano and work from there, or is there no real conscious method involved?

The writing method varies but the base instruments I write with mostly are piano, accordion and guitar. If I’m working purely from music in my head I’ll write on the piano as it’s the most logical and easily visualised instrument. Accordion tracks come mostly from messing around. The guitar’s pretty much a combination of these techniques but aided these days (including the Mark Fry record) from experimenting with the possibilities of various altered tunings.

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Discuss for me please the influence that your native Dorset has on your music?

For Directorsound its main impact was the isolation, quietness and hence space for thought that it allowed. Virtually without a musical scene so to speak, other than some admirable work from a handful of promoters and musicians, it helps facilitate the creation of a little musical world of your own. I guess the “Dorset sound” if you will is most overt in my work with Michael Tanner and the Alords. The pastoral thing was definitely in mind for us albeit an idealised notion of Dorset. Michael and I have never really discussed it in detail and obviously I can’t speak for him but I guess, idealised or not it nonetheless impacted on the music we made and our sound palette. I worked in the country for years so its bound to have an influence. I mean it’s a stunning part of the country. Cider country too, so that’s almost certainly had an influence for good or worse on my music…

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Please take me back to your collaboration with Mark Fry on the stunning album ‘I Lived In Trees’? Between you and Michael Tanner, as The A. Lords, your beautifully constructed music serves the perfect canvas for Mark Fry’s endearing folk songs. Mark Fry described The A. Lords music to me in wonderful detail: “I very quickly heard how beautifully constructed it was, and what unusual arrangements they had – they ached of a lost England, beautiful and evocative pastoral landscapes – I soon became hooked.” I would love for you to share some of your memories of this dream-collaboration?

Personally it was pleasingly odd and novel-writing in mind of knowing the music would eventually become a ‘song’. And Mark has the most beautifully poignant voice. It has all the comfort of a happy memory from long ago, remembered with pathos and a hint of sorrow for a time passed. It was extraordinary getting tracks we sent to him back with that voice added. Not to mention, Mark and his wife Roxy are about the two nicest people you’re likely to meet and their house in Normandy is sublime. In fact, it’s where I proposed to my wife!

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What albums are you listening to most lately?

Marion Brown’s ‘Geechee Recollections’ and ‘Sweet Earth Flying’ a lot. And I’m still ploughing through the complete works of Mahler that I picked up last Autumn. I’m still after years obsessed with the unfinished Symphony no.10. I picked up Morricone’s ‘Moses’ soundtrack on vinyl a while back and an LP of London Barrel Organ music in a charity shop. You’ve kinda got to be in the right mood for that one though. And spring has finally appeared which tends to mean the 60’s folk comes out this time of year for me. I’ve not much money for records these days (like many) so I’ve been digging out some old favourite’s like Bridget St John’s ‘Songs for a gentle man’. Likewise another favourite for this time of year, Sam Prekop’s eponymous debut’s begun to have some airings again. My friends at Swedish label Tona Serenad who released my ‘Two Years Today’ record sent me and are about to release the debut album from the new band formed by Musette’s mastermind Joel Danell, ‘Joe Davolas’ spread over a series of 7″s which is smile-inducingly awesome. They’re like every charity shop record I own squeezed into a handful of songs. Oh and I’m re-watching a load of Argento films, so plenty of Goblin.

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‘I Hunt Alone’ is out now on Second Language.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Directorsound/148924375122494
http://www.secondlanguagemusic.com

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Written by admin

August 8, 2013 at 10:44 am

Something’s Going On: Colleen plus Seti The First & Áine O’Dwyer

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We are delighted to present Colleen (plus Seti The First & Áine O’Dwyer) at Triskel Christchurch Cork on Saturday 2 November 2013. The concert will be Colleen’s debut Cork performance and will feature support from acclaimed cello-led group Seti The First and Áine O’Dwyer. Early bird tickets are priced at €13 and are on sale now. Full details below.

Posters: Craig Carry

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Fractured Air & Triskel presents:
Colleen plus Seti The First & Áine O’Dwyer
Saturday 2 November 2013 / 7:30pm / €15/€13

Colleen is the alias of French musician Cécile Schott who, from 2003 to 2007, released three critically acclaimed albums on The Leaf Label. After a long break from music-making and live performance, she is now back with a new album, The Weighing of the Heart, out now on Second Language.

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.

The Weighing of the Heart, however, sees a significant shift in Colleen’s approach: she is now focusing her attention on the possibilities of the voice and on a more colourful and rhythmic approach, using a treble viola da gamba tuned like a guitar and various percussion instruments. The combined influences of Arthur Russell, Moondog, Brigitte Fontaine and the music of the African continent loom large in her new work, and the live show will be a direct reflection of this new direction.

Colleen has played live all over Europe, the US, Brazil, Singapore and Japan, giving more than 150 shows in prestigious or original venues such as the Victoria and Albert Museum and Union Chapel in London, the Britannia Panopticon music Hall in Glasgow, Dublin’s Spiegeltent, Brussels planetarium, the Sé cathedral of Lisbon, San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre and New York’s Society for Ethical Culture, as well as some world-renowned festivals such as The Wire’s Adventures in Music Festival in Chicago, Transmediale in Berlin, Mutek in Canada, Présences Electronique in Paris, and many more.

Colleen’s performance at Triskel Christchurch will mark Cécile Schott’s debut performance in Cork.

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Press:

“Maybe it’s the hummed choral lines with their medieval inflections, maybe it’s the Zorba-the-Greek style echoing classical guitar, maybe it’s the simple thudding drumming, earthy and minimal. Schott’s work here takes you to all sorts of places while all the while keeping your focus firmly hooked on the music, this beautiful music, at hand.”
(The Quietus)

“There is a distinct sense that this is an album that’s been stowed away in the back of her mind for years, and that what has changed in the last decade is that she has finally developed the ability and the peace of mind to finish what she started. A creative leap forward doesn’t always have to mean changing your entire identity, and few albums show that as lucidly as The Weighing of the Heart.”
(Fact Magazine)

“The Weighing of the Heart has arrived with sudden, gentle surprise, like a migrating bird that has appeared too early. It is a gleaming treasure.”
(Folk Radio UK)

“Precious folk experiments…her muse has been willingly unshackled by nature.”
(UNCUT)

“‘The Weighing Of The Heart’ doesn’t disappoint, despite a considerable burden of expectation. The oneiric shimmer of her music has its contemporary analogs in the likes of Grouper and Julianna Barwick, but on this record in particular Colleen communicates with an elegance and clarity few could hope to match.”
(Boomkat)

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Discography:

Babies, active suspension, 7’’ (2002)
Everyone Alive Wants Answers, LP, The Leaf Label (2003)
The Golden Morning Breaks, LP, The Leaf Label (2005)
Mort aux Vaches, LP (live session from VPRO), Staalplaat (2006)
Colleen et les Boîtes à Musique, EP, The Leaf Label (2006)
Les Ondes Silencieuses, The Leaf Label (2007)
The Weighing of the Heart, Second Language (May 2013)

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Links:

www.colleenplays.org
https://soundcloud.com/colleenplays
www.secondlanguagemusic.com

For our interview with Cécile, please click here.

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Fractured Air & Triskel presents:
Colleen plus Seti The First & Áine O’Dwyer
Saturday 2 November 2013 / 7:30pm / €15/€13

Early bird tickets are priced at €13 and are on sale now. Tickets are available from Triskel Arts Centre, Tobin St, Cork. Order tickets by Telephone: 021 4272 022 and online: https://triskelarts.ticketsolve.com/shows/873496800/events

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Seti The First is the much-celebrated cello-led group comprising the duo of Kevin Murphy and Thomas Haugh. ‘Melting Cavalry’ was the band’s debut album, released last year to wide critical acclaim and championed by everyone from RTE Lyric FM’s John Kelly to Copenhagen’s finest Efterklang. The band’s influences encompass a diverse array of artists, including The Haxan Cloak, Toumani Diabaté, Matthias Loibner and Hauschka to name but a few.

Since the release of ‘Melting Cavalry’, Seti The First have provided the original score to the soundtrack for Paul Duane’s film ‘Natan’, a documentary on the Franco-Romanian film director Bernard Natan. The follow-up to ‘Melting Cavalry’ is due out later this year. This concert sees the band’s eagerly-awaited return to Triskel Christchurch where they will showcase new material after last November’s memorable performance.

“We were delighted to be asked to play a triple header with Colleen and Áine O’Dwyer. It should be a really magical night. We are currently recording our second album which is obviously a big buzz for us. 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. We have also recently finished our first soundtrack for Paul Duane’s remarkable documentary ‘Natan’. It was a real privilege for us to be involved and the experience has whetted our appetite for more. We will be showcasing material from our new record in the Triskel in November.”

Kevin Murphy, Seti The First

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Press:

“thrilling soundscapes” The Irish Times

“a thing of great beauty” John Kelly, RTE Lyric FM

“Not quite classical, not quite jazz, not quite pop, they somehow manage to weave elements of a multitude of genres (including Flamenco and folk) into pieces like, ‘La Bassinette Noir’ which, to these ears, recalls the Morricone-inspired textures utilized by Calexico and Giant Sand.” Hot Press

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Links:

http://setithefirst.bandcamp.com/

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Opening the evening will be gifted musician Áine O’Dwyer, hailing from Limerick and currently based in London. Best known as a harpist, O’ Dwyer has collaborated with a wide array of musical artists; Mark Fry & The A Lords, The Cloisters, Piano Magic, and United Bible Studies amongst many others.

The beginning of June marked the much-anticipated release of “Anything Bright Or Startling?”, the first full length album of O’ Dwyer’s released on London-based independent label Second Language. The album comprises a song cycle of fragile beauty and ambitious scope recalling the likes of Joanna Newsom, Nico and Van Morrison’s ‘Astral Weeks.’ The album features stunning arrangements composed of harp, piano and pipeorgan, while the album also marks the first time O’ Dwyer enters into the world of song. In 2011, Áine released “Music For Church Cleaners” on the Fort Evil Fruit independent label, a collection of improvisations made on church organ recorded at St. Mark’s Church in Islington over a seven-month period.

Áine O’Dwyer has performed extensively in a wide range of live settings. This July Áine performs at the Museum Of Modern Art, New York, while in August Áine performs at the Fano free folk festival, on the island of Fano, Denmark. Áine has recently performed as part of the Museums At Night series in London to celebrate the 170th Anniversary of the Thames Tunnel and has toured extensively across both the U.K. and Ireland.

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Press:

“Ireland’s Áine O’Dwyer has treated us all to a beautiful voyage. It’s a voyage that sails through the golden harps of sunshine and through the thick sludges of pitch black terror. Arching over all, like an intricate, entangled vine, is an excited beauty…” (Fluid Radio)

“…[O’ Dwyer] proffers a potent combination of plangent, arpeggiated folk beauty and soaring vocal melodies alloyed to an almost feral Gaelic earthiness.” (Second Language)

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Links:

https://soundcloud.com/aine-o-dwyer
www.secondlanguagemusic.com
For our interview with Áine, please click here.

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Fractured Air & Triskel presents:
Colleen plus Seti The First & Áine O’Dwyer
Saturday 2 November 2013 / 7:30pm / €15/€13

Early bird tickets are priced at €13 and are onsale now. Tickets are available from Triskel Arts Centre, Tobin St, Cork. Order tickets by Telephone: 021 4272 022 and online at: https://triskelarts.ticketsolve.com/shows/873496800/events

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Whatever You Love You Are: Cécile Schott (Colleen)

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Cécile Schott reveals the music that has been inspiring her lately. This May marks the release of Colleen’s stunning album “The Weighing Of The Heart” on Second Language.

Words: Cécile Schott, Illustration: Craig Carry

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Records I’ve been listening to:

My boyfriend (illustrator Iker Spozio, who among other things does all my artwork) and I both got heavily into African music from the 70s and Jamaican music from the 70s/early 80s over the past few months. I was already familiar with quite a lot of traditional African music, but didn’t know that Africa had produced so many gems in the 70s, and frankly my mind’s been blown away by the beauty of some of those records. As for dub, I’ve been listening to it for a long time, but it’s one of those areas where you never get to know everything, and with the plethora of reissues these days it’s a never-ending cornucopia !

Some of my favourites:

African Brothers Band (International) – Tribute To Dk

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Alhadji Haruna Ishola And His Apala Group

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C K Mann & His Carousel 7 – Funky Highlife

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Francis Bebey – African Electronic Music 1975-1982

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L’orchestre Kanaga De Mopti

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Lee Perry
It’s too complicated for me to mention one single record as it’s almost impossible to go wrong with Lee Perry, who’s definitely my favourite dub producer.

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Burning Spear – Sounds From The Burning Spear

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The Heptones – Sweet Talking

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George Faith – To Be A Lover

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The Revolutionaries At Channel 1 – Dub Plate Specials

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Prince Douglas – Dub Roots

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“The Weighing Of The Heart” by Colleen is out now on Second Language.

http://colleenplays.org
http://www.secondlanguagemusic.com

Colleen is currently on tour, to check tour dates please click here.

Colleen’s three classic (and long sold-out) Leaf Label albums – “Everyone Alive Wants Answers”, “The Golden Morning Breaks”, and “Les Ondes Silencieuses” – are currently online at the Beat Delete Scheme website. The initiative entails fundraising to cover the pressing costs for each vinyl. If you wish to see Colleen’s first three LP’s on vinyl once more please click here.

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