Kürzlich erschien mit The Soft Bounce das Debüt von BEYOND THE WIZARD’S SLEEVE, dem gemeinsamen Projekt von EROL ALKAN (E) und RICHARD NORRIS (R). Hier ihr Track-By-Track, das Popmonitor exklusiv im deutschsprachigen Raum präsentiert…
E: It’s likely that this is the first album track we worked on. Once the rhythm was in place we just kept throwing as much at it as we could and kept whatever stuck. You can dismantle ‘Delicious Light’ and make two very separate tracks out of the final version, all of which were considered for the final version of the record. There are some sounds in there which have morphed so drastically that we have no idea where they began. Some of the drone noises have been passed through so many amps and cheap microphones that they are indistinguishable. It was important to have Hannah Peel add layers to our vocal line at the very end of the production as her voice felt pure against the decimated tones already there. That felt like it gave the track a musical narrative, and everything fell into place beautifully. The synthesiser part in the middle of the track was written on Connie Plank’s sequencer which I bought a decade ago after his studio was closed down a liquidated.
R: This always had the feel of an opener. It mutated and transformed through numerous shapes and sizes, at times veering entirely kosmiche, at others more stadium house, with big swelling keyboards somewhere in the orbit of Simple Minds ‚Theme For Great Cities‘, a monster Balearic anthem, as appropriated by the Corporation of One’s ‚The Real Life‘. We finally unlocked it’s door by focusing on the spirit of the drones.
R: Quite a change in character from the opening number. Includes a sample of a psych 45 so rare we can’t find anyone involved in it’s release. Featuring Blaine from the Mystery Jets, who was very quick and easy to work with, a great talent.
E: The last track to be completed for the album. We sent Blaine the demo and then spent the next couple of weeks going back and forth with ideas. He later came up to the Phantasy studio and we had the recording complete in 2 hours. Blaine is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met or worked with, and he’s incredible in the studio, you never really capture anything bad from him, there’s just so much variety that he can offer, so it’s settling on whichever one you want. The original demo of ‘Iron Age’ lasted 9 minutes, it had a 3 minute synthesiser solo and I think there maybe a version with an ear splitting guitar solo, but coming as the second track on the album it felt like it should be short and sweet. We hardly even did much mixing to this track to be honest, what you hear on the record is pretty much Blaine singing over the demo. It sounded right so that was that. The guitar parts are a mixture of the most expensive guitar I own and the cheapest, playied in a ‘call and response’ way.
E: ‘Creation’ had the working title of ‘Apocalypso’ and was designed to appeal to children. The ‘Ah Ooh Wah Ooh Wah’ hook is something which came to me a while back, and it never left my head. I’m sure it’s not stolen from somewhere, and I’m not sure at the same time. Maybe it’s a melody from a distant memory, I don’t know.. About 20 years ago, I had a dream in which somebody sang one of the most beautiful melodies I’d ever heard, and gave it to me, and warned me not to forget it. Of course, I did forget it by the time I had got out of bed. Now as precaution, my phone is overloaded with half sung melodies
R: Jane Weaver’s gossamer tones and Hannah Peel’s breezy wordless chant sit on top of some tropicalia tinged rhythms. Jane has a quite ethereal quality to her voice, like a soothing ghost. Jane has forged a singular path as a writer, label owner and singer, and has a unique voice.
E: Jane was great to work with, her first ‘la la’ demo of Creation captured what we needed melodically, then it was a case of the lyrics having a certain theme to lock in with the concept of the record.
DOOR TO TOMORROW
R: I love the reflective quality of this track, perhaps the one track that harks back to sixties baroque pop and psych more than any other on the record. We love The Left Banke, whose influence is very much on this track. Euros Chids is another great singer who has carved out his own path in music. His very distinctive voice took it in another direction.
E: Working with Euros is possibly the only time I’ve ever been starstruck, as I am a HUGE Gorky’s fan. For me, he is one of Britain’s greatest singers. On a personal level I’m incredibly proud of the backing track on ‘Door To Tomorrow’ as it’s a strange fusion of styles, the middle eight section is one of my favourite parts of the album. Recording the string quartet on this song was a real moment for us as well. The rhythm keeps shifting around in timing which creates a feeling of unease, a bit like sitting on a boat under the control of the sea, we could have tightened it up but it was important to keep as much charisma in the feel of the songs as possible. The ending was designed to sound like the perfect outdo to a song being played on a station like Magic or Classic FM. I’m completely in love with this track, which is a difficult relationship to have with music you create.
R: ‚Diagram Girl‘ features two Hannah Peels – singing her usual register and also recorded with the track sped up, then slowed down. So you kind of get a boy Hannah and a girl Hannah. Hannah appears on a number of tracks. She’s a great musician who can play any number of instruments and is a very easy and fun to work with in the studio. f
E: Originally written in 15 minutes on an acoustic guitar a few years ago, an attempt at a pop song, or at least, one written by an indie band in the mid 80s. After Hannah had sang the backing vocals on half the album, we called her back to put down the lead vocal on ‘Diagram Girl’. It had originally featured my vocals but even though they were effected, I personally didn’t feel it was right. As Richard mentioned, the track was sped up a great deal and Hannah recorded to that, in a higher register, and then slowed down to match the tone of my vocal demo. It’s been interesting to hear people claiming it sounds like other artists or songs, as we can’t really place who or what it sounds like, it’s a very odd song. We’ve been amazed by the response as we initially didn’t have it marked as a single, least so the lead one.
R: This feels like a dark, brooding narrative to me, as if something tense is about to happen, maybe something that has been building for some time… There’s an element of things left unsaid. Black Crows are very intelligent creatures with long memories. Maybe some of that has seeped in here.
E: Co-written with the very talented New York based singer Holly Miranda and her friend William Cameron. One of the first songs to be finished for the record and very different to anything else on the record. on a personal level I feel its one of the best songs I’ve ever been involved in, it was a lot of fun to work on in every capacity and there is something incredible special within it. The verse parts are layer with sounds recorded really badly, but treated to sound posh, so you get a really strange unsettling feeling with those sections. Theres an alternate version of this named ‘White Crow’ which should surface very soon, so you can hear the song in a completely new way.
E: We wanted something in the centre of the record which offered some relief to the intensity and melody of the first half of the record, and we also felt that it should be as long as it needed to be so it could unfold and say everything it needed to. We did try to edit it down but it didn’t feel right. It was inspired by many contemporary drone recordings, artists such as Basinski, Acronym and Leyland Kirby. There are layers of distorted guitars drowning in reverb which rise as the track progresses but they are barely audible, their purpose is to be felt rather then heard. ‘Tomorrow, Forever’ was designed to sound like a distant dream which leads to waking up to a sense of realisation and acceptance. There are some indecipherable words in there, on the right hand side of the stereo signal.
R: I like the way the ambience here is both analogue and digital, and that the digital side of it occasionally sounds like it is breaking up. It’s both a dark and light track, this one.
THE SOFT BOUNCE
R: I like the drones here, they lead us into someplace completely else, something which happens quite a few times on the album. We like to mix things up a bit. The drums is played by Leo Taylor, who is an amazing player. His playing underpins most of the tracks on the album. He wasn’t playing to a grid. We built it around his great timing, rather than right on the grid, which is how you would make a more usual electronic record. Ours is a bit looser than that.
E: This is my favourite part of the record, after 7 minutes of zero rhythm leading into this. It’s my personal favourite on the record and it went through various incarnations. It’s a strange juxtaposition of elements and sounds, the ‘bass’ note which sounds like a techno baseline is actually a mis hit on the bass guitar which was fed into a sampler and sequenced, and from there the track began a fast trajectory to completion. The guitars were played through a very cheap Zoom multi FX pedal which I’ve had for 20 years, there is something about the 8 bit sampling rate of that unit which gives it a really broken texture which you can’t get with high end pedals. The melody was lifted from another song which I’ve had in my head for years,, and fit perfectly. Hannah Peel recorded it alongside a handful of other backing vocals in a single afternoon. Jon Savage described it best when he wrote “Weightless, blown with the wind, you come down to earth with the skipping afro beat of “The Soft Bounce”: a soft female voice pleads for connection, but she is almost swamped by the stinging, shocking guitar reverb”
R: A drifting mantra that has proved to be very effective in festival tents, at Green Man and elsewhere.
E: This sounds like a celebration to me, albeit a strange and tangled one. Hannah put on her best Ann Dudley voice for the centre of the track, so it’s a pretty wild mix of styles and sounds. The guitars at the end were played on a really cheap catalogue guitar with built in fuzz, fed through another fuzz pedal plug in which is sounds completely at odds with itself. For some reason, this reminds me of 1992 a great deal.
E: There is so much going on in ‘Creation’ so it was nice to be able to strip it back and reveal some of the elements in a stripped back way. Plus I love records which reference themselves.
R: An interlude referencing the earlier track ‚Creation‘. Lots of great albums have interludes, or tracks that fade in and out of each other. This is one of them. It helps the album feel like it should be listened to in one go.
E: The backing track was intended as an interlude on the record, and we were going to use Jon elsewhere on the record, but we auditioned his voice across this instrumental and it fit perfectly. We worked with Steve Dub closely on the mixing process, which was incredibly creative, and that led to using the various effects which animated Jon’s voice into various states of oddness, it’s perticulerly comforting when it lands on his voice when its completely naked and sounds as if he is sitting to your left next to you in the room.
R: I’ve known Jon Savage since I was a teenager. I have a very high regard for his writing, he is one of the best British writers on music and culture. He’s a friend and co conspirator. He wrote sleeve notes for Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve. His voice was perfect for these words which concern creation, creativity, flexibility and open mindedness. Not necessarily about drugs!
BEYOND THE WIZARD’S SLEEVE
The Soft Bounce
(Phantasy / [PIAS] Cooperative)