By and large pop music tends to follow some pretty tried and tested templates. Most chart bound offerings fresh off the music industry production line seem to have more in common than the things that instead make them stand out from each other. Homogenisation thy name is modern pop music. But even if the creative benchmarks in the genre weren’t currently so low, Jaguar Grace, perhaps the coolest name in music, would still shine like a beacon in the murky musical night.
Music can mean different things to different people, we all remember the song that was popular or was playing when we had our first kiss or our first dance at a disco, and music, be it good or bad, becomes intertwined with the good times and, sadly, the bad times. Music we heard in our parents’ car on the way to a holiday, music playing at a funeral or while the sun sets on a memorable day, we carry these songs with us everywhere and it quickly becomes the soundtrack to our lives.
Another thing that music manages to do so effortlessly is to bring people together, people are drawn to it, either in its appreciation or, in this case, it’s creation.
For those of you not familiar with Buswell (I should also include Erik Nyberg here, his influence seems central to everything Shaun Buswell does), it’s a tricky thing to explain without missing any of the history out; part band, part conjurer, part mad scientist, what you get with Buswell is the belief that music is it’s own language and those lucky enough to speak this language can, with a little faith, become part of Buswell and the project that he has his sights set on at the time.
This is the man who decided to form an orchestra from people he met on the London Underground. If you were carrying an instrument, you were in! (There is plenty of information about his various projects online, simply go to the website – http://buswellmusic.com/about/the-challenges/)
‘Stitched Shoes and an Irish Wristwatch’ is an album six years in the making and each of the eleven tracks are poised patiently waiting to be your new favourite song.
What we have here is a group of musicians armed with anything ranging from guitar, drums, flute and mandolin to instruments associated with an orchestra such as clarinet, cello, violins and trumpet, this is by no means a stripped-back album.
The music merges and melts from track to track, often without realising you have moved into a different song (the transition from opening track ‘For the Family’ into second track ‘Language is a Virus’ is seamless) and helps the listener enjoy the album as a whole rather than individual chapters. There are moments of such deliciousness within the music that somehow this level of quality becomes the norm, the quiet moments of track 5 ‘It’s You’ that nestle the listener in a bed of strings and calm before lifting and guiding you towards the soaring finale is breath-taking. The short, yet poignant ‘Fur Mein Klavier’ (roughly translated as ‘for my piano’) sits perfectly in the track listings and conjures up images of Doctor Zhivago, you can almost smell the varnished flooring of a St. Petersburg palace.
The vocals are played out with a delicacy and fragility of a voice similar to Irish singer Damien Rice, in fact the vocals sit above the music very nicely – as you would expect from something so obviously so well planned – and, add to that the inclusion of female vocalist Zoe Mead, you have a wonderful complimentary vocal performance. I think the songs benefit massively from her voice, giving each track she appears on more balance.
There are some wonderful moments within this album, far too many to list here, and on repeat listens you find more. Interestingly the album was recorded in Sweden and I think this influence comes through in the overall sound of the album, there are spaces of calm, spaces of openness and reflection and no sense of urgency, it’s a very laid-back sounding album which gives it an other-worldly vibe.
This isn’t an album to play while you do the housework or fix a leaking bathroom tap, this is one to play while the kids are at school, when your telephone is switched off and next doors dog is asleep, it’s an album to step into and become part of and acknowledge each note, so if you’re tempted to take a step inside this collection of 11 songs, just remember to give it the time it deserves, six years of work is worth it.
Gothic music all had a touch of the melodrama and theatre about it, even those embryonic bands like Bauhaus who held the keys to the musical crypt revelled in a filmic, widescreen persona. By the time you get to the likes of The Mission and The Nephilim and the lines are completely blurred. Church of Lies uses this vibe as a touch stone but it mainly comes from the opposite direction. If they were goth bands bending the majesty and grandeur of classical music and wide-screen orchestration to their dark will, Rebecca Relansay comes from a more classically pure place but adopts something of their dark mantle.
The result is a song which wanders freely between a classical sound, pop accessibility and gothic charm. It toys with almost musical theatre poses and lyrically has something of the folk ethic about it. It sweeps rather than punches, shimmers rather than shocks and deftly blends minimalist dream-pop interludes to create some wonderful dynamic balance. Whilst it may not be goth in the literal music genre sense, more akin to Dead Can Dance exploring such territory, it would grace the sound track of any gothic-esque or noir movie more comfortably than most.
A message can be a powerful thing, connecting and resonating far beyond its intended destination. And so this debut album from Forest Robots may have started as a love letter to the daughter of the man behind the music but now it is out in the wider world it is sure to reach and effect a new swathe of listeners. It is an album which uses orchestral sweeps, synthesised instrumental layers, electronic textures and skittering dance beats to create its soundscape, one designed to reflect on the beauty and delicate harmony of the world around us.
Even the titles evoke the majesty of our natural surroundings, Shapes Shift in The Distant Shadows explores the dark corners of the outside world, a shaded and brooding piece but one driven by a vibrant beat and While Birds Dream of Dawn and Wind reminds us that the world is populated by myriad creatures all with their own instinct and thoughts. Do birds dream of the early light and a wind that will carry them to new climes? I like to think so. My favourite is Mandlebrots in Winter, perhaps a reminder of the ultimate complexity, circles within circles, of the world at large.
Super Moon Moonlight is less about individual song and more a suite of musical pictures and is best treated as such. Whilst any individual track can be taken on its own, this record is much more than the sum of its parts, a reflection of the world around us, a majestic sonic re-interpretation of the yet unspoilt beauty of our world and a prayer that it remains so.
Music too is a powerful tool and this suite of delicate yet potent moods and thoughts is perfect to induce thoughts about the damage we do to our home planet. It seems at a time when man is ever more driven by his own desires and material needs and the considerations for the havoc we reek less and less important, this meditative piece couldn’t have arrived at a better suited juncture.
The artist himself describes his music as sad and epic, and to be fair, those are exactly the right words. His brand of orchestral music is build on dark swathes of classical grandeur, a bristling nervous edge which occasional spills over into outright terror and wonderful dynamic highs and lows. It broods and bristles, shudders and sighs…a manic church organ painting chaos one moment, a plaintive piano or gently sweeping strings tugging at your emotions the next.
Without the limitation of words, the music paints pictures and suggests scenes and scenarios that are limited only by the listener’s imagination, irrespective of the composer’s intentions, you are the interpreter here, this is your dream. Its very nature has your mind writing the film it should accompany, a film of high drama and unrequited love, of loss and longing, of dark intent and the colliding of worlds. When was the last time a pop song gave you that?
Find out more about Roberto Cavallo here
Some of the most interesting music comes out of nowhere, bowls you over, is gracious enough to help you back on your feet and then races off in random directions whilst you are still flicking the dust off of your jeans. The RPM Orchestra is just such a band. Its difficult to describe what they do easily, again another tick against their name, imagine a silent movie score mixed with Balkan folk or lo-fi klezmer film scores crashing into experimental post-punk doing a spot of avant gardening or cutting edge, minimalist classical music performing a piece based around a marching band tuning up. Then through in old-time jazz and Americana undertones. I don’t know, it’s sheer madness, but you know what they say about the fine line between insanity and genius!
But it is good madness, amusing madness, challenging and exploratory madness, like Syd Barrett becoming the conductor of The London Philharmonic Orchestra. It is pointless trying to convey anything specific about what they do, beyond those strange analogies I have struggled with so far. Best you just dip your toes into their strange and exotic waters. You will either love it or hate it, but I bet if you are someone who reads this site regularly, who has a broad musical mind, who understands that music is art and vice versa, then it is more than likely to be the former.
Shaun Buswell and 100% Swedish Erik Nyberg have made a name for setting themselves unnecessarily difficult musical challenges, ones which normally see them forming scratch orchestras from random but generally musically adept strangers, teaching them new, uniquely scored sets and then performing for public delectation and amusement.
Well, like a couple of musical Dave Gorman’s, they are off again, with trusty and unpaid cameraman Matt Green in tow, for another round of fun, frolics, chaos and possible cacophony, this time in a Paris bound direction. But let’s here it straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were….