At last, a seven-song mini-album which you can listen to with your ears! Right here. This weekend it’s exclusively on Bandcamp, where you can hear the songs in their entirety, download them in whichever format you like, and see the full lyrics and credits. As I’m still rather tired and beatific like a student after an all-nighter, let’s go full nerd and look at everything track by track:
|1.||Kingfishers Catch Fire 05:00|
|2.||St. Cecilia Dream 01:25|
|4.||The New Direction 04:17|
|5.||Purple Emperor 02:24|
|6.||Charm of Goldfinches 03:03|
1. Kingfishers Catch Fire
A small intake of breath, and we’re into the opening song. For the full story behind it, I refer you to last week’s blog.
2. St. Cecilia Dream
A short piece for string quartet – which actually turned out to be a virtual string quartet with three players, recording from Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol.
This album has a thread running through it about the patron saint of music. She was an Italian woman, & her story as it’s passed down is one of generosity to her community, unswerving dedication to who she was despite an arranged marriage (‘Mate we’re definitely not gonna be sleeping together, and you have to genuinely convert to my faith’ – paraphrase), and martyrdom at the hands of the authorities. What of that is true?
I didn’t dream about her specifically, but I did have a dream where I was on my computer mixing a piece for chamber orchestra, played in chords. The finished song is my best attempt at recreating the dream-piece, featuring:
Violins: Joanna Karselis. Through her, this short instrumental shares DNA with the opening track.
Viola: Alan Keary, a great instrumentalist I found on soundbetter.com
Cello: Rachel Woolmer, our talented neighbour who delighted Bristol with her on-street Thursday evening recitals in Lockdown 1.
Yes, I’ve already written about this one, too culturemeup.com/2021/02/19/scratch-out-our-songs-on-little-stages/
4. The New Direction
Hope you like the groove. This is silly and profound, and I’ll save the full story for a future post. But it has a co-dedication to my wife, Emma, whose vocals appear herein; and to Stephen on whose piano I first sketched it out, and who recommended to me the Donny Hathaway song I namecheck at the end.
5. Purple Emperor
This little ode to urban ramble during a pandemic (and the elusive majesty of a butterfly that drives people to write purple prose) sees Emma take centre-stage. I’m so pleased! When we were dating we were each massively relieved not to be with somebody tone-deaf. Now I’m married to somebody with a larynx of gold.
6. Charm of Goldfinches
Speaking of gold, here’s a blank-verse poem. I wrote its first draft in 2012, just because the birds visited me in East Oxford. This was really fun to record – I whistled in the echoey stairwell of my work building in Bristol, concocted the drum sounds in a rare pre-breakfast sesh at home (gotta love those alpha waves), and even the night before release found that just what it needed was an acoustic guitar take recorded on my phone.
A 2020 song through and through, it was partly inspired by lecture classes I audited, about apocalyptic literature. They were actually about the book of Revelation specifically, but the class examined that divisive text as one that encouraged resistance to Empire, and encouraged those under imperial persecution. Eye-opening (appropriately, revelatory). So it views an uncertain future through a Bob Marley-ish prism. And among the avian sound samples are all the birds mentioned on Side A, from the redwings right back to the kingfisher.