Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Any old port in a storm.



It’s actually quite difficult to compose music in a storm. There are many strands of uncertainty to contend with, not to mention the ambient noise of wind and rain battering the structure in which you’re working. It’s certainly exhilarating, I’ll say that.

I spent the last couple of weeks or so of December 2016 making music in one of the remotest corners of the Isle Of Skye. An experience unlike any other, island life is truly inspiring when it comes to art, especially if you remain open to the subtleties of the culture and landscape; the geography and weather, the wildlife and farming. Each element inspires and enriches; an emotional nourishment that could only really happen on a remote island.

The trip from the cityscape of Glasgow to the Isle is astonishing; the sheer scale of the mountain terrain as you get closer becomes quite overwhelming - there’s a sense of vulnerability in the presence of the volcanic landscape. The seasonal weather adds a brutal, yet familiar edge - a reminder of how we are supposed to experience nature at this time of year.

Storm Barbara was just being announced and forecasted when I travelled over the Skye Bridge. Sometimes in adverse conditions, the bridge is closed, by the decision of BEAR Scotland. I had visions of an actual bear making these decisions, but as I found out, it’s merely an acronym. In the relative calm before the storm, however, it was eerily serene. Only when making the approach to the remote hamlet where I was staying, did the squally showers begin to make themselves known.

One of the first things I noticed about the island is how well the infrastructure is implemented. Snowploughs, snow gates, very sturdy-looking pylons and even buildings all seem oblivious to the elements, as if they’ve all stood there for centuries, braving storm after snowfall for pretty much eternity. It seems that Skye’s default weather position in Winter could be billed as ‘wild’.

Before I had even set up my instruments and recording gear, it had become apparent that central to the community on the island was its one (fairly) large supermarket, based over half an hour’s drive away from where I was staying. From my first visit, I became fascinated by the interaction of shoppers with the staff, the things they discussed, the questions they asked, their concerns (home deliveries on the island had been cancelled for the week, which had thrown some people completely; understandably so). I’m under no illusion that part of this feeling was ascribed to the situation by myself, but the sense of community was unmistakable. I began to wonder who these people were - what their stories were, where they had come from. The woman on the checkout, who told anyone who would listen, about her history of wearing enviably eccentric Christmas hats each year, since she moved to Skye - each years’ choice more outlandish than the last. The toothless chap behind me in the queue, who, after noticing both my wine carrier and the fact that I had neglectfully left behind the accompanying Ibuprofen near the till, handed them to me with a look of knowing. The mischievous-looking blonde woman in the car park, peering over her glasses at her partner, who was struggling to bring several bottles of wine back from the shop. Who were they all?

What’s your story?
Faces, expressions,
Words fall where they stand.
Fragments and images.
Memory, anticipation,
Lives without a biography.

I wrote seven pieces of music while I was on Skye, with the first being written just as Storm Barbara was approaching. After being warned that I may lose power at any time, I had to make compositional decisions relatively quickly. This feeling, combined with the visual cues of the constantly changing skies through the huge window from where I worked, formed a powerful creative environment.
Barbara put on quite a show. The massive window physically caved and contorted with the gusts of wind, as they reached over 100mph. I recorded the sound of the storm as it battered against the glass and walls. The storms continued long after ‘Barbara’ had moved on, with storm Connor arriving two days or so later - even more fierce than before, as I continued to work at the window, looking out into nature. Luckily, I didn’t lose power, or get struck by lightning, but the risk of frying the instruments, recording gear, or myself, was ever-present.

Listening back to my recordings now, there is a naturally occurring underlying tension in the work; very apparent in some places and more subtle in others, but it’s there - a product of the inspiration I felt on the island, its’ weather systems and culture. Those pieces couldn’t have been composed anywhere else, in quite the same way. They need some arrangement and mix work, which I’ll attend to later in the year, but overall I’m really happy with the way they’ve turned out. They’ll make a good album at some point.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Sequences.



Sarah Davachi, Karl Fousek, Suzanne Ciani... three artists whose music I play a lot; like, a whole lot. To be sometimes mentioned alongside them is great for me - but to be part of an album with them is an honour. I'm very proud to have taken part in 'Sequences'.

Jonathan Fitoussi (whose album with Clemens Hourriere, 'Five Steps' made my end of year list last year) asked some of his favourite artists to get involved with a library album he was curating in France. I made a piece called 'Aussi (for Buchla Music Easel)'.

Being library music, it's intended for use on TV, film and other audio-visual productions.

It's not available for sale... yet. At the moment, you can stream the album from the link below, but the good news is that there will be a limited edition vinyl edition for sale in the new year. I'll let you know more about that nearer the time.



Thursday, 15 September 2016

The Pattern Forms - Peel Away The Ivy



I’m not entirely sure when the decision was made that we would make an album; I don’t think any of us really made any plans past the single, at first. My mind’s a mess of stuff at the best of times, when it comes to what happened, when.

TPF was born out of a longing to create something… different to things that any of us would usually do. Not to abandon what we had all done before, or since, but just to explore new ideas. Putting the single together felt like a new entity taking shape - I remember Ed writing the guide vocal for Fluchtwege very late one night and explaining that it felt really different for him to sing a lot more softly than usual; the arrangement lent itself to that and everything else followed quite naturally.

So, at one point after the single release, we decided to write material for an album. We’d been listening to a ton of different stuff; but all with a sense of the pastoral and an unabashed air of romance and intrigue about it. Through trial and experimentation, we learned what the many elements of the ‘TPF sound’ were and the many (sometimes unlikely) places we found it. Rather than spelling it out here, hopefully you’ll hear it all in the album’s fabric.

I am but one third of our band. I mentioned to Ed a few days ago that I felt that being part of a triangle of sorts helped me to enjoy listening back and feel proud of what we’ve done with all of this, because it doesn’t all rest on my shoulders - only 33.3 percent of it. The magic happens when we all contribute our parts and basically vibe off each other’s input, but it’s hard to pin down how it works. I suppose that’s the very enigma of the best part of writing music with others.

This was really brought home to me when we wrote A Simple Walk. I’d sketched out a rough arrangement of the song and handed it over to Ed and Edd to hear their thoughts. You can never tell what someone’s going to do to a song, or the direction they may take it. Suddenly, we had a vocal and some very evocative textures added and it was interesting for me as someone who usually works on music alone. The final chorus of the song remains my favourite part of the album, because it’s a soaring, in-full-flight picture of three people giving it 110%. The textures that Edd added didn’t quite sound like guitars sometimes; they were unique tones to my ears, and became a staple and constant throughout the writing process, adding an air of mystery and a grounding influence at once.

We mixed the album at my room in January & February. My enduring memory of this is Ed and I listening closely to some fairly tricky moments on certain songs, tweaking things in the arrangements to make them exactly as we wanted, grinning at each other when we got it right… and constantly taking the piss out of each other as we went along. How it should be, I think.


Jb.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Cafe Kaput Facebook.



You can keep up with all the release news and goings on, with the Cafe Kaput Facebook page. Finally up and running - it actually contains stuff now!

https://www.facebook.com/cafekaput/

Friday, 22 April 2016

Walberswick - Digital Edition.


If you missed out on the Walberswick vinyl pressings, the Digital Edition is available now from the Cafe Kaput Bandcamp.

Friday, 19 February 2016