Canterbury 2019 and Old Gods were stirring as the collective spirits of Led Bib and Syd Arthur, 80’s pop and untethered experimentation mingled and found expression. These things don’t go together. Genres divide but Music unites. Non-locality is our best guess. Mark Hollis had passed on in February, a merman he should turn to be, and we paid our respects. Fishes, the foam-crested brine, the smallest divisions of matter and time captured and brought to life once more.
But where did it all begin? On a stage in an old ballroom, a dancing school then club, hangout in Orange Street, Canterbury where Syd Arthur and The Quartet were encouraged to perform as one. They played Stravinsky, Soft Machine and Beck’s “Nobody’s Fault But My Own” and it rocked and swung, two drummers, two bass players coming together, pulling apart. But how did it all begin? Miles, Indian ragas, David Crosby and Arthurian Romance, “Guinevere”, the female muse/goddess visited once again. Take a musical phrase and play it beautifully, then drift away until you play it again. A free place to improvise, no chord changes, no time limits, submerge yourself in the moment such that when the music stops you remember nothing about it. We recorded “Nobody’s Fault” in an old, converted garage in Harbledown near Canterbury. Miles and Teo Macero were the inspiration, splicing sections from takes where the tape kept rolling, recording everything. Rationalise it later. And lots of people got it, Prog-heads and Jazz-heads.
But what did it all begin? Gigs, a tour! - Bristol, London and Canterbury where we played “Nobody’s Fault” and other tunes that felt like they belonged together in this new world where the Goddess could summon whoever she wanted to her table. Mark Holub, Liran Donin and Chris Williams from Led Bib; Josh and Joel Magill from Syd Arthur; Jack Hues from Wang Chung and Sam Bailey who will not be defined - coexisting, improvising, making it up as we went along - is that the definition of any truly creative process? And God knows a lot of what passes for creativity really isn’t. We played Radiohead, despite the fact that everybody plays Radiohead. Why wouldn’t you? It’s beautiful and it’s the form - 3 distinct parts, play what’s written, let’s get lost, then smash it home.
Robert Wyatt. Why wouldn’t you want to sing that melody to those chords? Sing that lyric of moonlight and empty wine bottles. I thank the Unthank Sisters for their arrangement which I stole. Why wouldn’t you? And the way they differentiate the semitones in that melody, revealing something even Robert didn’t know about his own song. In the 80’s there was a game to play if you wanted to get noticed. There was always a game to play, now more than ever, but then you could subvert it. Mark Hollis played the game at some personal cost and then sailed into a different sea, a different ocean with different weird fishes to fry, the moon pulling the tides as she had always done. He inspired us all and I wanted to pay my respects as he had passed on so recently. Myrrhman - “Step right up, something’s happening here” - (“And you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones”).
The tide ebbs and flows. Hugh Hopper, “Facelift”, 2001, Kubrick, Ornette, tribal pentatonic, 1970 quintessential Canterbury. Sam kicks this off, playing the organ in St. Pancras Old Church, London. Then we’re back in Canterbury. Long, long, long, but only as long as it needs to be, and I love how Liran plays like it’s East Jerusalem right there in your mind. “Non-Locality in a Sea of Electrons" the best description of reality that we have, according to some epigonal quark, or was it Richard Feynman, or the Mandela Effect. I don’t remember. The recipe is a constant tempo that carries you through 4 different states, musical states, contrasted textures of sound, emotion, anger, expectation, excitement, calm.
One constant tempo. So how much of this album is improvised? It varies: “Nobody’s Fault” is 95% improvised. My guitar solo - I have no idea how I played it and I certainly couldn’t play it again the same way. Improvisation is reaction, reaction to what the band is playing, the atmosphere in the room, what you just played, what that suggests, the split-second reaction to the nuance of this note, that tone, you exist in that split second reacting to impulses beyond your rational mind - submerged in the moment-by-moment relationships of you, the one, to the whole. “Myrrhman” and “Sea Song” follow the song structures but expand them, push outwards, fall inwards. Improvisation is like The Big Bang - all those years of practicing, playing, sounding, learning, exploring, absorbing exist in an infinitely compressed moment that then releases, explodes, realises itself - on a good night.
Jack Hues, Canterbury, Summer 2022
Nobodys Fault But My Own (Original by Beck)
Non-Locality in a Sea of Electrons (Original by Jack Hues)
Sea Song (Original by Robert Wyatt)
Myrrhman (Original by Talk Talk)
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi (Original by Radiohead)
Facelift (Original by Soft Machine)
Label: Dawn Chorus
Cat no: DCRC031