Sunday, December 13, 2009

Syd Arthur - "Willow Tree" + "The Tale of As Is" (free download)

Joel from Syd Arthur sent me a preview of their new digital-download-single-thing on Thursday. It'll be a free download from from Monday December 14th - you just have to join their mailing list (sounds fair enough to me).

Willow Tree artwork

The opening passage of "Willow Tree" is exemplary of the Harare-meets-Canterbury sound they've been evolving over the past year or so. "The Tale of As Is" is more of a chilled Latin-inflected thing, but really it's pointless trying to describe their sound (they're struggling with this in their promotional efforts, Joel even asked me for some suggestions, the best I could come up with was the maximally open-ended "a second-wave Canterbury band playing an evolving style of electro-acoustic psychedelic fusion").

Having mostly just heard their live sets, it's great to hear what they've come up with a studio at their disposal: flutes, mbiras (or marimbas?), drones, interesting little percussive sounds, and an unbelievable amount of creativity packed into 3-and-a-bit minutes.

These two tracks were recorded this summer at their studio in Welling, southeast London. They're planning an uninterupted fortnight up their in early January to record an album. And, Joel says (being a bit of a vinyl-head, it seems), there are possible plans for a 7" single! In the mean-time, I'd suggest fast-forwarding through this excrutiating bit of local BBC TV footage from Lounge on the Farm to the last minute, where you can catch them playing part of "Planet of Love" in their most natural environment, the Furthur stage (I was up near the front, but can't see myself here).

On Friday evening I went to see Joel and Liam's younger brother Callum leading his own band, The Boot Lagoon, through a pretty impressive set of instrumental Canterbury-ish fusion at Orange Street, supporting Cocos Lovers. They started off a bit nervous and tenuous (they're all seventeen, haven't gigged much, and the music's really quite complex), but after a couple of pieces had relaxed and tightened up the sound. Callum's very competent on the keys and used a nice choice of sounds. The sound's more overtly "Canterbury" than either Zoo For You (another brother, Josh's, band, more future-funk-oriented) or Syd Arthur. Give them a year or two, and they'll have injected more of their own original elements, no doubt. A very supportive audience gave them the attention they deserved, which makes a nice change from most weekend gigs I've been to lately.

There's a little clip of Daevid Allen being interviewed by a clueless BBC regional TV presenter at this summer's Lounge on the Farm festival, in which he enthuses about a young band he'd seen on the Furthur stage earlier that afternoon. Turns out this was The Boot Lagoon. He and Steve Hillage then mercilessly tease the presenter for asking if this meant "prog is back". "Let's just call it 'the Canterbury Muse'", laughed the Divided Alien...praise indeed! [Here - a few seconds of TFL at around 5:00, followed by the Allen/Hillage interview. And while you're at it, here's another amusing Daevid Allen interview from 34 years earlier.]

Cocos also got an excellent reception from a largely attentive audience. It was back to the 8-piece line-up, as James has rejoined as occasional percussionist, and Pog was there too, having now switched from accordion to fiddle. The opener, "Dead in the Water" sounded particularly wonderful, six voices, and expertly mixed by Joel (despite no soundcheck, the band having arrived from Deal in ones and twos during the support set). It think this was probably the best mix I've ever heard for one of their gigs, certainly as an 8-piece, and for Orange Street's notoriously dodgy acoustics, that's quite something - top marks for Joel behind the desk. I spoke to Phil for a while before TBL started. Cocos have finished their album, it's been mastered, the artwork's done (based on an anonymous painting found in a charity shop - perfect), and it's off being pressed (burned?) at the moment. They've got a publishing deal and a distribution deal in place, so if there's any justice in this world, they'll get the attention they deserve (but not so much that it gets in the way of their essential vibe).


Blogger icastico said...

Here's another one for you and your readers.

The latest from aboombong, asynchronic.

Afro-ambient-noise, meditative minimalism, musique concrete, drone.

4:58 PM  

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