Toteally Amazing

John Proctor Tote

I’ve finally taken a leap into the brave old world of merchandising.

For ten English pounds you can now be the proud owner of a limited edition ‘John Proctor’s Lament’ tote bag, designed by Massive Arms founder and artist extraordinaire Dave Salisbury. This magical bag of tricks features a grizzled Daniel Day-Lewis from his 1996 appearance in The Crucible, along with ‘The World’s Gone Mad’ lyric from John Proctor’s Lament.

It’s a hand-pulled screen print on natural cotton tote, made down in Cornwall by a lovely little independent British company. It measures around 39cm (w) x 42cm (h). Plenty of rooms to cart about all your potions in.

For more of Dave’s devilish designs, garms and merc, check out the Massive Arms Big Cartel.

The Finale: Angel Wharf

Well it has been a long time coming, but I am delighted to finally release the last video and concluding track from the CRUCIBLE audio-visual project: Angel Wharf.

For this video I was privileged to collaborate with my dear friend Thomas Pearson, a poet, designer and architectural conservationist who also produces music under the moniker No Spinoza. Thomas and I have previously shared both stages and [numerous] pints together, and continue to indulge a mutual love of London’s gorgeous architectural heritage and hidden stories.

Angel Wharf found its kernel of inspiration in a night walk of mine on the Thames. I asked Thomas if he would be kind enough to write a companion piece for the track. In response he crafted the fabulous poem ‘W’, one of a series of works rooted in, and reflecting on, the Walbrook. The two of us then spent a day trawling through old deeds and records in the National Archives before strolling from the Walbrook to Angel Wharf, shooting as we walked. The footage from these exploratory expeditions has been knitted together to form this entirely indulgent video. I am indebted to Thomas for his wordsmithery, camerawork, editorial skills and creative generosity, all of which contributed to this final video.

No Spinoza can be found at nospinoza.co.uk His stunning second album ‘All and Some’ is due for release in November 2016. The first release The carnal and the crane is a must watch.

I have truly enjoyed pursuing this video project over the past year, crafting 10 of the 11 videos which have now been released for every track on the record (again, a h/t to Kevin McGloughlin for the cracking video he created for The Underground Man.)  The entire canon is now available to digest in one bloated sitting as a Youtube playlist. For the kids.

Thank you for your time.

 

 

[vide]Ode To Stepney

This is the penultimate video of my CRUCIBLE audio visual project.

The kernel of this song’s inspiration was unearthed in William Palin’s evocative essay ‘The Lost Squares of Stepney’, published in the forever inspiring Spitalfields Life blog: http://spitalfieldslife.com/2012/12/30/the-lost-squares-of-stepney/ I was born in Stepney and now reside in neighbouring Bow. Reading the sad tales of the demise of Wellclose and Princes Squares triggered an elegaic response in me, wrapped around an old nursery rhyme. Hence this Ode to Stepney.

The video was created using three pieces of degraded archival footage:

– ‘Housing Problems’, a 1935 film by Arthur Elton and E.H. Anstey for the B.C.G.A;
– ‘New Town’, a 1948 public information film by the Central Office of Information for Ministry of Town and Country Planning; and
– ‘Charley’s March of Time’, a 1948 public information film by the Central Office of Information for Ministry of National Insurance.

The Gentle Author was kind enough both to feature my video on Spitalfields Life and to invite me to play at a fundraiser for the Save Norton Folgate campaign. Hosted by Griff Rhyss Jones and also featuring Suggs & Stick in the Wheel, the evening is raising funds to challenge Boris Johnson’s flagrant abuse of executive power. He has overriden Tower Hamlets’ rejection of a major development in the historic conservation area of Norton Folgate in favour of ‘British Land’. It is the 14th of 14 times that Boris has ‘called in’ a development in favour of corporate development against the wishes of a localities’ democratically elected council.

If it sounds like your cup of tea, tickets are here. Fittingly the gig is at St Leonard’s (of ‘Rev’ fame), the same Shoreditch church referenced in Oranges and Lemons

Video #8: Flood of Red

My new video has been exclusively premiered on New York Music Site Baeble. I am honoured by their write up here:

“One of the most promising acts I’ve heard in the last year is UK neo-folk artist Drew Worthley. We had the chance to chat with him last July about his single “Bone China Savior” and in September, we premiered the music video for his track “The Underground Man.” His music has the sparse intimacy of folk but he pairs it with an understated lushness (or in the case of “The Underground Man,” Phil Spector-esque walls of sound). And on his latest track to get the video treatment, “Flood of Red,” a Sufjan Stevens-esque baroque folk style is paired with heartbreaking conceptual lyricism about wine and desperation.

We have the exclusive premiere of the video for “Flood of Red,” and it’s a masterclass in the Kuleshov Effect (the notion that the juxtaposition of images can directly alter how you perceive an image that might otherwise be neutral…except now the juxtaposition is between sound and images). Consisting entirely of non-copyright video footage (including old Charlie Chaplin shorts), Worthley is able to make footage that might seem happy in its natural context seem devastatingly sad and alienated when paired with his song about wine…drenched in religious metaphors as well as those that seem to ring of addiction.”

Video Vol. VII: Daemon

With gratitude in abundance to DarwinFish 105 for electing to share his incredible footage of Tokyo under a Creative Commons licence. Do take a look at some of his other beautiful videography.

Video Number 6: Derivative Calves

Welcome one, welcome all to December’s video, marking my sixth visual creation from the new album CRUCIBLE. This one is a favourite track of mine, ‘Derivative Calves’. As ever, I am dependent on the kindness of strangers in offering up raw material from which I can mold my creative collage. I actually recorded a raggedly live version of this track a couple of years back, where I also wrote a little about its genesis as follows;

The song itself had a cluster of inspirations (including Matthew Arnold, Bill Shakespeare, Saint Augustine and John the Baptist) but foremost a quotation from John Maynard Keynes that got me thinking about the dogmatic certainty of our prevailing economic orthodoxy. I make no claim to be well versed in theories of economics, but am nonetheless intrigued by the power of fiscal hegemony and its ability to so strongly dictate the Western economies of the 21st Century. The song is pretty much a lament for the absence of such a powerful dissenting voice as JMK’s in today’s world. When it comes to combating the glorious follies that forge our idolatrous calves, the compassionate wisdom and shrewd intelligence of Mr. Keynes is much missed.

 “When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life — will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease … But beware! The time for all this is not yet. For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still.”

“The Future”, Essays in Persuasion (1931) Ch. 5, JMK, CW, IX, pp.329 – 331, Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren (1930)

A Cloud | A Hand | The Sea

As part of my ongoing project to create a video for every track on the new album CRUCIBLE, I’m delighted to release this new peach for A Cloud | A Hand | The Sea. I have previously relied heavily upon the good will and generosity of strangers who make their creative video endeavours available for cannibalism by virtue of Creative Commons licensing. This is the first time though that I have been completely dependent on one individual; Swedish animator and filmmaker Tobias Larson. I stumbled across his gorgeous short film Guilt on Vimeo, “a poetic thriller without words, about good and evil” and was immediately struck by how closely the mood and tone mapped onto my song. I subsequently shortened and adapted the footage pursuant to Creative Commons Licence CC-BY-NC 3.0 to create a significantly edited piece for the 3 minute track. Please do go watch the fabulous original video and support the artist.

My use and credit of Larson’s footage does not in any way suggest that he endorses me or my use of his work.

Trees and Leaves

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Each leaf, of oak and ash and thorn, is a unique embodiment of the pattern, and for some this very year may be the embodiment, the first ever seen and recognised, though oaks have put forth leaves for countless generations

J.R.R. Tolkien, Tree and Leaf

These days I’ve noticed a curious teleological bent to the questions I am asked about being a musician. It strikes me that most occupational confessions are received with a calmer ontological certainty. If at a dinner party you are quizzed, “What do you do?” and reply, “I’m a teacher/plumber/IT technician/circus clown/lawyer”, chances are you won’t be met with a barrage of follow ups questions as to why you do that [except for the circus clown of course. That one’s a doozy]. If, on the other hand, you confess to making music, you more often than not have to be prepared to offer an apologetic for this foolish act.

People wanna know why? What’s the point? Why make a record? What do you want to happen with it? Or there are assumptions made about glamour and fame. Do you want to be famous then? Do you want to get rich then? You must want to give up your day job and go tour the world right? You need to satisfy that nagging narcissistic impulse? Feed the ego?

Not really. I just like music.

Oh.

I don’t claim this exclusivity for music. I am sure other creative industries are met with similar [well meant] interrogations. The unnerving thing though is that it does end up making me wonder why on earth I do make music. This world is already saturated with sound. Pretty much every recording ever set into wax, metal, shellac, polyvinyl, magnetic tape or disc can now be lasered directly into our earholes with the click of a button. Every single day, thousands of new recordings are made available through the behemothic music library that is Spotify. Someone once told me that you had to be alive in the fifteenth century to realistically have a chance of reading every book ever written. Ever since then it’s gonna be a selected highlights list at best. I’m confident that a similar threshold was long ago crossed in the world of recorded music; probably well before music was even digitalised. So if people don’t even have the time to listen to music, why even bother? Why feed the folly?

I don’t have a satisfactory answer to that question, other than to say, “Because music is my favourite of all the things.” Creativity needn’t be justified. It is the outpouring of life itself. For most- if not all- children, the act of creation is innate.  It would be pretty messed up [on a number of levels] to ask of little 3-year old Johnny when he brings his kaleidoscopic smears of hallucinogenic paint home from nursery, “What did you do that for you little shit?” Yet at a certain age, that intuitively spontaneous language of joy morphs into an eccentricity that appears to require some kind of explanation. Particularly if your faltering and flawed efforts have the misleading sheen of professionalism or the semblance of competence. Then the meta-modern philosophers of East London mingle inquisitive curiosity with sinister arboreal allegories. If a tree falls on an independent musician in an empty forest, does anyone hear their anguished screams as they bleed out in nihilistic [albeit tuneful] agony?

I believe that a song will always have intrinsic beauty, a worth and a dignity that stands regardless of it being heard. As Tolkien notes, “inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light.” That said, songs are ultimately communicative acts and so are most fully realised in their hearing. At it’s most basic, communication can be distilled into the forming of communicative intent, message composition, message encoding, transmission of signal, reception of signal, message decoding and finally the interpretation of the message by the recipient. [Thank you Wikipedia]. An unheard song truncates this chain somewhere along the encoding/transmission link. Which can be a little forlorn or perhaps romantic depending on how you look at it.

This is why it is such a joy and honour to be given the opportunity transmit more widely on the radio and interweb. Not for fame or notoriety, but for a broader ‘transmission of signal’ and the greater chance for a song’s subsequent reception, decoding and interpretation. This past week Tom Robinson has played my track Bone China Saviour a couple of times on BBC 6 Music. Which has been terribly exciting for me. On Saturday night I was fortunate enough to be featured in a show alongside genuine heroes of mine; Sufjan Stevens, Philip Glass and The Magnetic Fields to name but a few. Tom Robinson is one of a rare breed [along with the late John Peel and the great Bob Harris]; a DJ (and musician) with real clout who genuinely champions unsigned independent music outside of the mainstream with generosity, grace and flair. I am entirely grateful for his existence and encouragement. Long may he continue showcasing these beautiful leaves to the world, gorgeous in their ancient newness, endless reiterations of the divine pattern of human life.

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CRUCIBLE: Out Now

CRUCIBLE Cover

 

Well folks. After years of cogitating and deliberating and obfuscating, I’m delighted to announce that my new album CRUCIBLE has finally been unleashed on the world. Produced with Phil Wilkinson [The Amazing Pilots, Duke Special, Ed Harcourt, Sophie Ellis-Bextor] and engineered by Dave Izumi [Jake Bugg, Example, Luke Sital-Singh, David Ford, Hudson Taylor] down at the beautiful Echo Zoo Studios in Eastbourne, this special record truly has been forged in the heat of brilliance, friendship, love and multiple analogue synths.

I honestly feel that this is the best musical project I’ve ever had the privilege to be involved in. After recording more than 20 demos at my home setup over the past couple of years which had progressed to varying layers of undress, I proceeded to take them to the Übermensch Phil Wilkinson who managed to peer into my haphazard vision of synth-driven-cerebral-pop-acoustica and somehow render it in glorious technicolour. We then took the 11 draft tracks down to Echo Zoo where Dave Izumi spent 17 days with us engineering all the final live instrumentation, vocals, multiple session players, the vintage Korgs, Moogs and Jens, and also then mixed that morass of sonic chaos into an elegant nugget of audio bliss.

So far the album has been universally well received by the critics. I’m particularly pleased with this glowing 8.5/10 review from Louder Than War which really captures the essence of what the record is all about; “It’s one of the albums of the year without doubt, as its charm and downright insubordinate addictiveness shines through on each and every one of Crucible’s eleven tracks.”

It’s available at all reputable music outlets globally, to purchase or stream. The best place to buy is through the Bandcamp link above. The download is £7 and the CD is £10, including shipping anywhere in the world.

Thanks for listening.

New Single: The Underground Man

The third single from my new album CRUCIBLE drops today, and I’m delighted to say that the good folks at Baeble Music have featured it for their daily premiere. Lauding it as the best single yet, they say “Sonically, the track combines Phil Spector’s wall of sound with a titanic swell and cinematic tension that play into the beauty and grandness of the track’s emotional themes.”

Can’t ask for a better endorsement than that…

I’m also thrilled to present this amazing video created by film-maker extraordinaire Kevin McGloughlin. I gave him an open brief for the piece, and he has pulled out all the stops to truly capture the existentialist essence of Dostoevsky’s grandeur.