Carlos Cipa

I have Seventeen Seconds blog to thank for this.  Was over there this morning and stumbled upon this.  Having been immersed in Nils Frahm first thing this is the ideal follow up.  Carlos Cipa is a german based composer signed to Denovali – also home to my friend Talvihorros – and is simply stunningly good on piano.  This is really beautiful and continues my Saturday in fine style.  So a massive thanks to Ed for supporting such wonderful music.  Who knew there were other bloggers in Scotland so moved by such beautiful classical work!  Check out more here:

Nils Frahm Free Mini Album

If you love the piano do yourself a favour and take yourself over to the wonderful Nils Frahms website where you can download a free mini album entitled ‘Screws’. I am assuming the title is in homage to his recent accident/broken thumb.  Fortunately for us, with only 9 fingers Nils is still capable of producing such simple and sublime piano pieces.  Nothing fancy, just utterly gorgeous.

Tohu Va Vohu

I am exceptionally proud to have worked on this animation by the wonderful Jamie Mills.  The EP is available now through mini50 records as a digital download but for those who love the physical product, Jamie and I are working on and planning a limited edition package including the EP and the DVD.  So keep your eyes peeled.  Your support, as always, is greatly appreciated.

Bill Fay – Life Is People

May 2007.  I am in London to see Wilco.  Two nights in a row actually, both at Shepard’s Bush Empire.  I don’t recall the night, the second one perhaps, a fellow called Bill Fay walked on stage to sing ‘Be Not So Fearful’ with the band.  It was his first on stage performance for 30 years singing one of his own songs that had become a favourite cover for Jeff Tweedy and co.

I never thought anything of that night but did decide that I should check out Bill Fay’s work.  Needless to say it turned out to be a good decision.  Two albums released in the 70s but largely overlooked, much like Nick Drake.  And, much like Nick Drake, tragically overlooked, for those two albums were pretty impressive work.  I guess it’s just one of those things; lots of great artists get missed when sales do not measure up to the quality of music on offer.  Fortunately for Bill Fay he can call Nick Cave a fan and Wilco started to cover his work.  Suddenly he was back in the spotlight whether he wanted to be or not.  And let us be thankful for this fact as his 2012 record ‘Life Is People’ is one of the most moving and beautiful records I have had the pleasure of hearing in a long time.  It’s hard not to fall in love with it actually.

Comforting.  That’s how I would describe it.  Comforting and calm.  The sort of record that wraps you up in its arms and keeps you safe from the realities of the world for its duration.  There is a quality in Bill Fay’s vocal that does not happen often.  Something that says things are going to be alright even when they seem like they are falling apart all around.  ‘The Never Ending Happening’ is a perfect example of the calmness and beauty that emanates throughout.   There is honesty about this record that is not apparent often in music.  Much like ‘Seven Swans’ by Sufjan Stevens, this record is overtly religious in tone and content and yet doesn’t suffer for it.  This is not a preachy record, it’s just a normal man dealing with the normal demons that we all experience at one time or another, that build up inside us over the years, that reappear when we least expect and acknowledging our own humanity and mortality in a poignant and moving way.

‘Big Painter’ is a dark and flowing number awash with strings and sumptuous backing vocals.  Yet, it is when Fay sits at a piano with only the instrument and his voice that the record really stuns.  ‘The Never Ending Happening’, his cover of Wilco’s ‘Jesus, etc’ and ‘The Coast No Man Can Tell’ are sublime.   And indeed, there is a cameo on the record from Jeff Tweedy on ‘This World’ where the pair trade lead vocals verse on verse before sharing them on the chorus.  World weary but full of hope.  I missed this though, took a number of listens before it clicked that it was Tweedy and not Fay singing – which is funny because the music really suggests that Tweedy was heavily influenced by Fay in his own song-writing.

Anyways, I am not sure why I feel the way I do when listening to this record but it has the same impact on me as listening to Johnny Cash’ version of ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails.  I feel at peace somehow.  I get goosebumps.  ‘Thank You Lord’ is so sublime it’s hard not too.  The piano on that perhaps?  I don’t know.  I cannot explain.  But my god it’s powerful music and it’s beautifully executed.  Whatever it is that happens to me when I listen to this record, I like it.  And I cannot get enough of it.  I wish all music had this impact on me.  Let’s hope 69 year old Fay has more of this music inside him.

You really should check out Bill Fay.  Enjoy.

The Unwinding Hours – Afterlives

The last ever show I played as The Kays Lavelle was supporting The Unwinding Hours at Electric Circus in Edinburgh.  Not only were they some of the nicest people I had the pleasure of sharing a stage with but they were absolutely stunning live.  Their debut album, born from the ashes of the amazing Aereogramme, was simply brilliant.  Their absence in the past two years appears to be have been for a number of reasons – Craig B’s studying of Theology being one of these reasons – and they have been greatly missed.  But thankfully they are now back with their follow up record ‘Afterlives’.

Second records – though it’s hard to call it that in some senses – are always the trickiest ones.  Continue with more of what made the first so appealing, do things different just enough to retain your fans yet pull in new ones, or go completely off kilter.  The Unwinding Hours opt for more of the same done differently – in my opinion – which makes a nice balance between the options listed above.  Whilst the debut record opened with the repetitive, powerful and off kilter ‘Knut’, and often drifted into the more progy spectrum, album opener ‘Break’ is immediate pop more reminiscent of Aereogrammes final album ‘My Heart Has a Wsih that you Would Not Go’ than the debut Unwinding Hours record.

I want to say this record is more immediate than the debut.  But I don’t know if that’s necessarily true.  There are moments from this record that could easily fit on the debut such as the stunningly beautiful ‘The Dogs’, where Craig B’s voice is at its most delicate and fragile.  And like the first record, it is often those moments that are the most rewarding.  Yes they do loud well, the guitars of Ian Cook on ‘Break’ and the constant pounding bass on a number of the tracks being case and point.  But it is the beauty of that vocal that more often than not make The Unwinding Hours perfect.  And I do mean that.  I struggle to think of a more perfect band in Scotland at the moment.  Brilliant on record and live, can you really ask for more than that?

Unlike Dan Deacon, reviewed earlier, this is not ground breaking.  In many respects it’s pretty safe.  But sometimes safe hands are the best hands.  When I receive an album by The Unwinding Hours I do not expect challenging.  I expect quality.  And so far that has been the case.  Two albums in and the song writing bar is set.   Let’s hope they don’t wait another 2 and half years to release album three.  But if they do I am sure I won’t be disappointed.

You can check out The Unwinding Hours here.  Enjoy.

Dan Deacon – America

I’ll be honest, until I read the review of ‘America’ in the Sunday Times Culture magazine I had never heard of Dan Deacon.  That’s probably something highly uncool to admit.  But years back we established just how uncool I am.   So, upon reading said review I immediately got my hands on what sounded like a fascinating record.

And I have not been disappointed.  This is a challenging, absorbing, intelligent, and creative record.  It mixes full on electronic instrumentals with proper “power pop” moments to create an exhilarating listen from beginning to end.  There is actually no let up, although the record is split in to two halves with the second half – a 4 track, 20 minute ‘ode to america’ for want of a better description, being the more successful. ‘USA: I. Is A Monster’ actually does provide a breather between the ferocious electronic pop of the first half of the album but it is short lived.  Strings suddenly disperse and the electronics and frantic chanting reappear to drive the album onwards.

This is intense.  It’s a massive amount of information to process in one listening and needs frequent plays to really be able to compute the overload.  Much like Sufjan Steven’s brilliant and challenging ‘The Age of Adz’, this record is not for your casual music listener and is bound to get hit with the ‘over the top’, ‘wanky’, ‘up his own arse’ tags that that Stevens record received from some quarters.  But like Stevens this is experimentation to a delightful degree which should be embraced, not criticised.

A good friend actually described this as ‘migraine music’ which, whilst amusing, is actually quite an astute observation if you, like me, have suffered from migraines in the past.  When I say ‘pop’, there are no 3 minute wonders on here.   This is as expansive as it is dense, which to some is never an easy combination and can lead to that feeling of needing to lie down, switch the lights of and recover.  This is a sensory onslaught, no question.  Fortunately Deacon has the skill to propel the record forward without ever sounding overly repetitive and as the four linked tracks develop the title of the album ‘America’ comes into focus, as Deacon takes us on a journey which, in my mind, resembles a trip across the varying and vast landscapes of that country.

A triumph?  Well, it is not the best thing you will hear this year I don’t think.  But as far as pop music goes it is definitely the most interesting, creative and challenging record of 2012 thus far.  I love when you put a record on and get excited about what you’re hearing.  This record certainly has done that for me.

You can check Dan Deacon out here.  Enjoy.