Seven months on from the last diary entry and it’s still a case of multiple works in progress.
2016 may be the first year in some time in which I haven’t released anything, but 2017 looks likely to unleash a torrent of sonic abuse. As always, I suspect I’ll still be lagging behind Bill Nelson’s release output for the year.
Bowness / Chilvers 2.0 – Ghosts In The City:
Musically, the newly paternal Lord and I completed writing and recording for the album – possibly titled Ghosts In The City – in early Summer.
As mentioned in the previous diary entry, the album definitely feels like a progression from California, Norfolk. Like its predecessor, it has a very focused identity and explores a coherent set of moods and lyrical themes. As these themes frequently relate to crushed dreams and final days, the levity quotient is conspicuous by its absence.
All that’s left before the world can sample the latest from the Laughing Boys are final mixes and textural additions. Oh yes, and a label and a release date!
The original Plenty quartet is in the process of re-recording almost all the material the band ever wrote and the results are proving inspiring.
Although the style remains bound by the era in which the music originated (the 1980s!), the performances are undoubtedly more considered. What’s amazing is both how much some of the music still means to us all, and how easy it’s been for us to enter the spirit of the songs while retaining a sense of our contemporary identities.
The best of Plenty provided a template for a particular type of ballad that no-man and Bowness/Chilvers continue to mine and it’s been good to finally do justice to some of the strongest unreleased songs I’ve been involved in co-writing (I’m genuinely looking forward to the likes of Strange Gods and Broken Nights finally being given an official release).
As Plenty also occasionally operated in an upbeat Art Pop territory, I’ve sometimes had to sing in (and re-personalise) a style I’d long since abandoned. The old feels new again, and in contrast to most of my projects, there are some songs that could even be called optimistic (the horror, the horror)
The results so far are unlike no-man, Bowness/Chilvers, Third Monster, Henry Fool or anything else I’m working on, and that alone justifies what’s been an enjoyable experience.
Bowness 4.0 – Third Monster On The Left:
As with the Bowness / Chilvers album, all the writing has been completed for the album, and only* overdubs and mixing remain.
Since the last entry, Andrew Keeling has added some sumptuous strings to the 10 minute opener You’ll Be The Silence, which, along with Ghost In The City and Sleeping Face from the forthcoming Bowness/Chilvers album, is fast becoming a favourite of my own pieces. Kit Watkins and Andrew K have also sprinkled flutes over various tracks (oh yes, there will be flutes!).
Next come the guest guitar parts, the final touches, and the superstar mixer.
* Always the most time-consuming part of the album making process.
Banco De Gaia – Nine Hearts:
After the two gigs earlier in the year comes a guest appearance on the band’s new album, The Ninth Of Nine Hearts. My contribution is on the atmospheric opening track and, as with the rest of the album, it shows that Banco can function very comfortably outside the World Trance Electronic Dance style expected of them.
Neve / Gregory / Bowness – Speak For Me:
Andy Neve – who contributed some lovely backing vocals to Nick Magnus’s excellent N’Monix album – asked me to sing on a song he’d written for a charity album highlighting the plight of African elephants. The piece is a seven minute epic ballad featuring some sweeping semi-orchestral arrangements and backing vocals from Andy, some great guitar from Dave Gregory (XTC/Big Big Train) and an atypical vocal from me.
A genuinely enjoyable session with a decent result (and for a decent cause), it recalled my experience at ‘The Nick Magnus Vocal Boot Camp’ in that it introduced me to a very different way of recording, which in turn encouraged a noticeably different approach from me.
Watkins / Bowness:
Apropos of nothing, I’ve continued to work with Kit and we’re slowly building up a nice body of cinematic material, plus the occasional unlikely cover version. Peter Coyle from The Lotus Eaters has also co-written a track with us, so the strange musical collisions continue. Kit is an intelligent and talented musician and it’s been nice to find that we’ve established a very natural musical chemistry without any forethought at all.
The (Half) Live Release:
A five track live (and live in the studio) mini-album’s worth of the 2015 T-Bo Band in action may or may not be available from an online store or merchandise table near you. The pieces prepared for release include very different versions of Know That You Were Loved, Dancing For You and The Me I Knew, plus the semi-raucous Rock outs of Housewives Hooked On Heroin and The Warm-Up Man Forever.
And talking of live, beyond my two Banco De Gaia guest appearances earlier in the year, my shows at the IO Pages Festival and The Bush Hall will be the only dates I’ll be doing for some time. I’ll be playing with the nifty no-man live combo minus the mighty mite Steven Wilson. Steve Bingham and ‘Captain’ Pete Morgan are back on board, and along with material from the recent solo albums, attendees can expect a fair sprinkling of no-man songs.
The gigs will be extra special as they’ll involve a link-up with Russian band iamthemorning (the band’s rather lovely Lighthouse deservedly won the 2016 Prog Magazine album of the year award). iamthemorning’s music is located in a Kate Bush / Tori Amos territory and should provide an interesting contrast to what it is I do. Memories of the 1991 no-man / Tori Amos double bill at The Borderline may well be evoked.
Buy a ticket (or four) why don’t you.
Beyond the above, there have been some positive discussions that I’m hoping will lead to some unexpected activity in 2017. Then again, it could be the year of crushed dreams and final days as predicted by those masters of misery Messrs Bowness and Chilvers.
The Bathers – Pandemonia (1999)
Big Big Train – Folklore (2016)
Caravan – For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night (1973)
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree (2016)
Bruce Cockburn – Bruce Cockburn (1970)
It’s Immaterial – Life’s Hard And Then You Die (1986)
Rickie Lee Jones – Flying Cowboys (1989)
Bill Nelson – Fantasmatron (2011)
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)
The Smiths – Strangeways Here We Come (1987)
Van Der Graaf Generator – Do Not Disturb (2016)
Ryley Walker – Golden Sings That Have Been Sung (2016)
The Who – Who Are You (1978)
Neil Young – Earth (2016)
BS Johnson – Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry (1973)
BS Johnson – House Mother Normal (1971)
Pete Townshend – Who I Am (2012)