I tried my best to use analogue instruments, technologies and processes as often as possible in this project - that meant no programming or editing (my comfort zones) and recording layers of human imperfection and straight-up ERROR to tape and having to live with the results (certainly NOT my comfort zone). The "rococo" reference in the title is all about a fresh style shift. I was feeling personally a bit bogged down in the 'ambient' piano-triads-with-lots-of-reverb-plus-chopped-beats world, so I thought of the Rococo artists with their humour, wit, eye for left field detail and general lightness of being, and tried to adopt some of that into what I was doing.
I read over and over again that Bowie's process regularly involved a risk, make oneself uncomfortable, going out into the water to the point where your feet no longer touch the bottom. So that's inspiring and comforting. I don't really make music for any other reason than the sheer love and absolute delight of the creative process, so why stick to the well-trodden path?
This is a long, roundabout way of saying I hope some people enjoy listening to it, as vulnerable as it made me feel to create it, and as much as the process of making it taught me new things about music and myself.
Available tomorrow to stream on Spotify and Apple Music, and to buy from iTunes and Bandcamp. Photo of my face below, by the very talented J.Slee.
This record is my palate cleanser, something to counter a growing feeling in myself and how I perceive my little corner of the ‘contemporary classical’ landscape, which can sometimes feel very serious and a bit humourless. For my own personal rococo statement, I wanted my music to feel fresh and fun again: to make space for moments of wit and charm; use strong colours; to completely shed any self-seriousness and be open to possibilities.
The album has been created using analogue instruments and recording techniques at Visconti Studio in London. I brought in some amazing players: Paul Glover on drums, Ben Dawson on piano, Lara James on sax, Charles Mutter, Patrick Savage and Richard Harwood on strings. I turned my inexperienced hand to tuned percussion (vibes, marimba, glocks and bells), and vocals. Rather than use virtual instruments and samples (like I usually do) this time I played the CP40, MiniMoog, Moog Sub37 and Mellotron.
I can't wait for people to hear it. x
Our partners on this project include the British Library and the Science Museum, and Tony Visconti will be a key contributor to the project's research and enterprise outputs. One of record production's great innovators, he is synonymous with ground-breaking music and has worked with some of the most dynamic and influential names in pop, from Marc Bolan / T-Rex and Thin Lizzy, to David Bowie, Morrissey and U2. The project will see him working with students and staff of Kingston University, as well as invited artists, to produce records. The studio will also be available for commercial hire.
Based around an extraordinary 300m2 octagonal live room and stocked with vintage and rare recording equipment (Studer, Neve, Neumann, Universal Audio), the tape-based studio also features a unique collection of instruments including a Mellotron, a Hammond organ and Steinway concert grand piano.
The Visconti Studio will officially be opened on the 19th September 2016.
Full site launch will happen soon (with info about courses, events, research opportunities and studio hire)... for now we have a holding page with some information about our launch event in September:
You can also like our FB page if you're interested in following our progress:
Can't wait to meet the students and get stuck in!
May I draw your attention to this beautiful little compilation from Bigo & Twigetti. Click the artwork to go to the Bandcamp page, where you can stream the tracks. Listen to it while you watch the rain through the window.
If you like what you hear, you might be interested to know that the label is holding another "Name Your Price" day. It works just like it sounds, you can pay anything (even zero*) to download anything in the label's catalogue. Starting at 12.00am the 11th of February, for 24 hours you will be able to decide what you wish to pay for any and all of Bigo & Twigetti's releases on Bandcamp. Set yourself a reminder to check it out, you could get a whole heap of brilliant music for a bargain.
*if you decide to pay 'zero' to download my stuff, can you promise me that you'll listen closely, all the way through at least once? thx
Finally, I feel like I need to share this great review of Three Preludes by R. Andrew Lee, that has just been posted on I Care If You Listen. Obviously it means so much when a pianist you admire greatly praises the piano music you have created. BTW if you're a fan of piano music and minimalism you should drop what you're doing and check out his recordings, if you haven't already. I recommend it all, but especially Duckworth's Time Curve Preludes and Dennis Johnson's November.
A limited edition of 50 hand painted physical copies with artwork by Jim Perkins can be purchased here. I've even written out the CD inlays myself...
Laura Wolk-Lewanowicz & Leah Kardos (photo by Jez Brown, Feb 2013)
One can’t fail to be impressed by Kardos, her debut album was a delight and Machines is not content with delivering more of the same, but strives to push new angles and ideas, blended with verve, imagination and, most importantly, a sense of unconstrained freedom to experiment. Naturally, this brings mixed results, but ultimately everybody can take something precious from the jewel box.
- Barcode Zine
Machines has a wholeness that is quite remarkable. But equally impressive is the manner in which Kardos conceals her virtuosity. Nothing draws attention to itself; everything is deployed in pursuit of an organic integrity. I had listened to the album several times before my attention was conscious of astonishing passages such as the intertwining keyboard lines that close “The Closeness of Distance” or the poly-temporal percussive underscoring of “Highly Active Girls.” The entire album is beautifully paced, with each individual track fitting into a larger whole. The phrase “song-cycle” is entirely apt.
- David D. McIntyre for I Care If You Listen-----
Exciting times! Meanwhile, you must forgive me for laying low for the moment; usually I would be plugging an album launch event and promoting the hell out of things but it appears that I'm chained to my computer writing up my PhD for the next two months. The plan is, once I have handed everything in, to throw a belated album launch party/event and schedule some live performances of Machines in late spring/early summer. Watch this space for updates. x
At the end of the Feather Hammer show, I performed some tracks from You Can't Hide Beat, my Bowie covers EP from last year. I dedicated the songs - Sunday, Lady Grinning Soul and a new version of Heathen - to my dear departed friend Jim Hyde, whom I met on a Bowie fan site back in the late 90s. One of our last conversations was about how much he enjoyed the Bowie covers EP, so it seemed a fitting gesture to make although I very nearly dropped the idea the morning of the show; I wasn't feeling brave at all having not sung in public for years. Liz talked me back into it, and I'm glad I did it. I miss you Jim.
And here is a very cool thing; I've been sampled! During the DJ set after my show, Matt Greasley played this track and it took me a while to register it was even me. Mrs Properly from Uncle Bob's Records pillaged that hour-long ResonanceFM show I did back in September 2011 and found all the various words needed to proclaim my love of kickass beats. Who hasn't wanted to be sampled in a daft dance track? I love it!
I want to play with a very specific sound world for this one: breathy dream-pop, tiny detuned autoharp strings, warm gooey vintage keyboards (Rhodes and Wurly), body percussion, cellos. The text comes from a collection of (slightly poetic and/or poignant) spam emails I've received over the last 15 years.
Recording scheduled for May!
I'm too excited!
A few weeks ago I signed with one of my favourite new music labels, Bigo & Twigetti; they're releasing Feather Hammer properly for me and I couldn't be any more delighted! I've followed and admired their artists for a long time so to now be part of that group is a dream come true. From the 25th it will be available to buy from iTunes and eMusic and other online retailers, and there's a free download of DFACE available from their bandcamp site, where you can also pre-order the album before Friday.
The switch from selling the record DIY style to doing it properly through the label means that the 'music' link above takes you to their bandcamp site and not mine. I'm in the process of creating some new music related pages for the website dedicated to my film soundtracks and other stuff. Maybe I'll have a spare moment in December to sort that out.
There's been more radio play, this time in Ireland (Steve McCauley for the BBC - for a limited time you can listen again here and here) Outpost Radio and Lion.fm (Penn State University Radio) in the States. I still feel like pinching myself when I see the company I'm keeping in these playlists.
Finally, you have got to check out these amazing illustrations by super talented Bedford artist David Litchfield - I adore them! See you at the gig! x
I've taken down the demos from my soundcloud account - big thank you to everyone who listened and commented and helped me. The finished album will be available from Monday the 19th of September from my bandcamp page, which you can access instantly by clicking the 'music' link on the site menu above. I'll be back soon to post details about the album launch/premier performance event happening on the 25th of November at The Wilmington in London. Exciting times!