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Winter listening 2018-19

So, as Spring begins, it’s time for a little catch up of some of the music that I have been spending my time with, over the darker months of the year. Pleasingly quite a lot of the material is from Bristol based musicians. So let’s investigate.

CUTS - A Gradual Decline

We first wrote about CUTS back in January 2014, when we spoke about some intriguing videos that had emerged during the previous year. We now know much more about the project then we did then. It’s the brainchild of local composer and filmmaker Anthony Tombling Jr and it’s clear that both of these disciplines are mutually important when it comes to informing, and driving forward the creative impulses that find form in the CUTS project.

Nature, and the insane battle that humans are forging against it, sets the emotional heartbeat of the album. The music veers between the contemplative and the impactful, broadly electronic and instrumental in form, it also features sound samples form nature itself alongside piano and some etherial vocals. As you would expect from a filmmaker the sounds are cinematic though subtle. It’s clear that simmering rage and sadness, at man’s carelessness towards it’s greatest asset, is within all the dynamic soundscapes that make up the 13 tracks on the album. The films that CUTS had made alongside the record are both beautiful and depressing. Many of them can be viewed on the Village Green website and are worth investigating.

PHONSECA - Between A Dream

Phonseca are another local electronic music project that we have written about before. Back in March 2017, we spoke about the debut EP Afterglow, happily we now have a full length album to spend some time with. Phonseca is the name used by Bristol based keyboard man Matthew O’Connor. The tracks are mainly instrumental and have a warmth that make them very engaging. Subtle melodies abound, and they gracefully envelope you. This is particularly evident on, I see Stars, which is my favourite track on the album. There are also 3 tracks with vocals, these are provided by Kristina Sheppard. Her voice is used to gorgeous effect, on the shimmering beauty of Wait For Me, an understated yet poignant, lament. Fans of New Order will enjoy the bass driven track Maybe Tomorrow and there is a cheeky cover of Bizarre Love Triangle on the album as well.

Lot’s to enjoy here if you are a fan of Craig Armstrong, Brian Eno and the aforementioned New Order. Things take a more fractured turn on the final track where there is a remix of I see Stars by Scanner. Tracks from the album have already picked up quite a few plays from BBC 6 Music and it’s good to know that more music is in the pipeline.

Davey Woodward and the Winter Orphans - Self Titled

Our third offering is also from a local musician. Davey Woodward has been making music in Bristol for as long as many of us can remember. He first came to prominence in The Brilliant Corners who made big waves in the 1980’s indie scene both in the UK and and around the world. This was followed by his time in The Experimental Pop Band who also made some fine records which didn’t quite get the success they deserved.

So here we are with one of two projects that he has been involved with recently (the other being Karen), pleasingly he and the Winter Orphans have some lovely songs to share with us. The sound could maybe be compared to his earlier work with The Brilliant Corners, basically guitar driven songs (although piano, cello and trumpet make some pleasant appearances) with the benefit of a few decades of weary realism. Plenty of local and autobiographical reference points, give the album a real sense of place.

We learn of Davey’s formative years in a suburb of the very edge of Bristol, dealing with racism and shopping in legendary local shop, Uncle Sams. There is a mournful, contemplative air to many of these songs. However the final track Dylan’s Poster has a skip in it’s step and maybe a nod to a classic tune with it’s joyous little guitar riff. The album is on German label Tapete Records, home to many good indie records over the last few years. It’s been around since the end of last summer, we were just a little slow to get to it.

Robert Forster - Inferno

Talking of Tapete Records, our next choice is also from that fine label and much more recent. Robert Forster is still probably best known for being a key component in the Go-Betweens, one of Australia’s finest bands. Since then, he has written a couple of great books and made many solo albums. His latest record is a real joy, with some of his finest work upon it.

As ever with Forster it’s brilliantly engaging. Often funny, sometimes touching, it’s a record of charm and grace. It was recorded in Berlin last summer with Forster as part of five piece band that all bring something to the record. I particularly love the vocal pairings with Karin Bäumler. Their work together on The Morning and Life Has Turned A Page is so beautifully sung and arranged that it lifts these already wonderful songs toto higher level. Just lovely.

The songs are full of wit, verve and energy in addition to the wisdom of life experience. It’s a life that hasn’t always worked out the way that it should have done but this helps the record rather than hinders it. The record is a beauty and what’s more he’s even coming to play a gig in Bristol, should be quite a night. Until then here’s the splendidly daft video for the title track.

Jessica Pratt - Quiet Signs

I first encountered Jessica Pratt in the most unpromising of circumstances. The ATP arranged Nightmare Before Christmas was taking place (for the final time as it subsequently emerged) in the frankly bleak surroundings, of an out of season holiday camp, in a storm battered North Wales town, which had seen better days. The weather and murmurings of impending financial doom for the organisers and the impact on the bands, made for a very downbeat mood.

It was here that we saw Jessica Pratt edge onto a small stage and sing her songs of gentle, tender, other worldliness and for 30 minutes or so we were transported to an entirely different place.

Somehow, I lost touch with her and her work. Luckily that that his been corrected with her new record. It’s short, just nine songs but those songs create a mood that lasts well beyond that. Her voice and the arrangements are fragile, yet beautiful, sparse and simple arrangements but that seemingly timid voice is at the centre of things and lets the beguiling magic take you over.

This Time Around, is typical of the mood that the record creates. It the perfect record for listening to, in front of a roaring fire in the dark. It will be the perfect record for sunset on a warm summer evening. A voice this tender and gentle must come from a person of great strength, who else could so bravely put their soul on display? A fascinating record.