Thursday, 30 December 2021

The Nightowl Sings - 2010-2021

 





















Self Made compilation 2021.

Disc 1:

01 Ghost
02 Sunset at Smurf's Castle
03 Deliverance
04 Mary George
05 Tall Dark Pines
06 Shady Grove
07 1913/Dancer
08 10 Minutes From Olympia
09 Lone Transmission #1
10 The Day She Walked Into My Mind
11 On Fire
12 Old Yellow Moon
13 Angels of the Rain

Disc 2:

01 High-Rise
02 Take Flight
03 How Do You Get High
04 Down Terrace
05 Grow My Dears
06 Suicide #2 (Electric Boogaloo)
07 Dreams of Civic Pride
08 Close to Me
09 A Tree With Roots
10 Angry Bees
11 Steig & Eva
12 Driven to Dust

I've known Marc Gillen for over 24 years and we've been making music together, in one way or another, since we met.

Initially I joined his Carlisle based space-rock band 'The Dream Stealers', although at the second rehearsal I attended, the band decided to split. Marc and I decided to form a new band alongside Kevin Pearson and Alan Graham, both from Aspatria. Garage psych band 'Edsel' recorded one single ('Don't Want To Go Now') and played one gig (The Twisted Wheel in 1999) before calling it a day after a little over 18 months.

The recording experience for the single soured us to the idea of commercial studios; recording against the clock, no input into the mixing process and ultimately a disappointing result. We decided to invest in home recording equipment (a four track Fostex cassette recorder) and the two of us started the band 'Harbourcoat'. 

The initial years of Harbourcoat, 2001 to 2004, were essentially myself and Marc recording every and any idea we had. Alastair Popple enters the scene at this point; helping with production, sound and CD reproduction. As much as Marc and I were learning how to play and how to write and record songs, Al was learning how to produce.

The years 2005 saw an expanded Harbourcoat perform live and record material of a higher quality. Shane McGee and Jeremy Bye joined as long term members on guitar and drums respectively.

In 2007, the situation became undesirable for Marc as he found the constraints of a recording a frustration. Now writing way more songs than the slow paced Harbourcoat could manage, he decided to quit, invest in further home recording equipment and came up with the concept of Treehouse Orchestra Recordings.

The idea was to have an 'umbrella' name, a home in which everyone could record their ideas and release to the new ethically pleasing music platform Bandcamp under whatever moniker they choose. Ideas and songs could be released as solo artists, in pairs or in bands.

The first band to record within this concept was Treehouse; a four piece consisting of Marc, Rachel Gillen, David Thompson and Alex Thompson. I guested on a few tracks and was immediately enamored with this new way of working. Once the Treehouse project was complete, Marc recorded and produced my first release as a solo artist; 'Dag Lief' under the name 'We Are The Wooden Houses'. 

Further releases followed (and right up until this day, we're on our eighty-second release) and in 2010, myself, Marc and David Thompson formed 'The Dead West'. Our first release was a double album. The majority of the material was ensemble based, but we also included solo recordings. As usual, Marc had written and recorded way more than was necessary and the session that bore the solo tracks for 'The Dead West Volumes I & II'  became the basis of the first release by new artist name 'The Nightowl Sings'.

Disc 1:

Ghost

Released on 'Ghosts' E.P. June 1st 2010

Recorded Spring 2010. Produced by Marc Gillen.

Marc Gillen - Vocals, Guitar & Radio.


Sunset at Smurf's Castle

Released on 'Dream Logic Truckstop Jams' L.P. December 1st 2010.

Recorded Autumn 2010. Produced by Marc Gillen and Alastair Popple.

Marc Gillen - Vocals, Guitar & Synth.
Stephen Benson - Guitar & Drums.
David Thompson - Bass.

I have fond memories of recording the first Nightowl Sings album; performing and mixing in the music room. As I remember, our expanding range of instruments had recently included a floor tom to join our snare. A dream sequence set in my hometown, always been a favourite.

Deliverance

Released on 'Ghosts' E.P. June 1st 2010

Recorded Spring 2010. Produced by Marc Gillen.

Marc Gillen - Vocals & Piano.

A lot of Marc's early Treehouse compositions were solo piano pieces, several appearing on the first Treehouse album and the intial NOS releases.

Mary George

Released on 'Dream Logic Truckstop Jams' L.P. December 1st 2010.

Recorded Autumn 2010. Produced by Marc Gillen.

Marc Gillen - Vocals.
Stephen Benson - Banjo & Drum.

Recorded live (save for the tom overdub), this recording and it's lyrics have always been in my top five.

Tall Dark Pines

Released on 'By The Light Of The Fallen Moon' L.P. November 11th 2011.

Recorded Autumn 2011. Produced by Marc Gillen, Alastair Popple and Stephen Benson.

Marc Gillen - Vocals & Guitar.
Stephen Benson - Guitars & Percussion.

An early example of a vocal and guitar version (or another sparse variation) of a song that Marc hands over to me to do what I please. The dark vibe of this song is all over the album 'By The Light Of The Fallen Moon', which is why I'm so fond of it.

Shady Grove

Released on the various artists album '8 Folk Songs' September 2012.

Recorded Summer 2012. Produced by Marc Gillen and Alastair Popple.

Marc Gillen - Vocals, Electric Guitar, Piano, Bass & Drums.

I've always liked this various artists album; after two years of us recording in different configurations, it's interesting to see where we are as solo artists. This track sounds like the outlier of disc one of this compilation, but sounds more like what was to come than anything else here.

1913/Dancer

Released on 'Lone Transmissions' E.P. February 23rd 2013.

Recorded January 2013. Produced by Marc Gillen and Alastair Popple.

Marc Gillen - Vocals & Piano.
Connor Gillen - Vocals.
Alastair Popple - Programming.

'Lone Transmissions' was one of a series of cassettes released on TOR at this time. Al takes more of a compositional role on this track and Marc's son Conner provides a vocal at the age of 12. This release still remains one of my favourite NOS releases.

10 Minutes From Olympia

Released on 'Tip The Maps' L.P. September 1st 2012.

Recorded Summer 2012. Produced by Marc Gillen, Alastair Popple and Stephen Benson.

Marc Gillen - Vocals, Guitar & Radio.
Stephen Benson - Bass, Drums & Saxophone.

Endless summers belting out this kind of Beefheart/Pavement/Can style jam on a Saturday afternoon.

Lone Transmission #1

Released on 'Lone Transmissions' E.P. February 23rd 2013.

Recorded January 2013. Produced by Stephen Benson.

Marc Gillen - Piano.
Stephen Benson - Effects, Looping & Construction.

'Lone Transmissions' was a cassette release and Marc asked myself and Al to come with a new track apiece, using sequences of other songs as well as discarded parts. These songs were meant to end the consecutive sides. This is my effort.

The Day She Walked Into My Mind

Released on 'The Day She Walked Into My Mind' L.P. August 3rd 2013.

Recorded Winter/Spring 2013. Produced by Alastair Popple.

Marc Gillen - Vocals & Guitars.
Stephen Benson - Guitars, Bass & Drums.

On Fire

Released on 'The Day She Walked Into My Mind' L.P. August 3rd 2013.

Recorded Winter/Spring 2013. Produced by Alastair Popple.

Marc Gillen - Vocals & Bass.
Stephen Benson - Guitar & Drums.
David Thompson - Vocals.

Fond memories of recording this album. Lots of collaboration and the extensive Dead West sessions were habit forming and carrying on into 2013.

Old Yellow Moon

Released on 'All Hail the Town to Town Troubadour' L.P. April 12th 2014.

Recorded Autumn/Winter 2013. Produced by Alastair Popple.

Marc Gillen - Vocals & Piano.

Angels of the Rain

Released on 'All Hail the Town to Town Troubadour' L.P. April 12th 2014.

Recorded Autumn/Winter 2013. Produced by Alastair Popple.

Marc Gillen - Vocals, Guitar & Bass.
Stephen Benson - Guitars, Drums & Violin.

Recorded after a summer spent recording 'Hills! Werewolves! Run! 4', 'All Hail the Town to Town Troubadour' was the next project started. Always felt like a trilogy along with 'All Is Quiet Now' and 'After The Flowers'.

Disc 2:

The songs on disc 2 represent material from the latter half of the NOS recorded output. It is presented less chronologically than disc 1, has more guests and with that more diverse material.

High-Rise

Released on 'After the Flowers' September 19th 2015.

Recorded January 2015. Produced by Marc Gillen & Alastair Popple.

Marc Gillen - Vocals, Keyboards & Drum Machine.
Alastair Popple - Programming.
David Thompson - Vocals & Keyboards.

Originally destined for an 'Old Weird' release (Marc Gillen and David Thompson), that project was shelved and this track found it's way onto the second NOS release of 2015.

Take Flight

Released on 'All Is Quiet Now' January 23rd 2015.

Recorded Summer 2014. Produced by Alastair Popple.

Marc Gillen - Vocals & Electric Guitar.
Stephen Benson - Electric Guitars.
Sarah Ruddy - Vocals & Acoustic Guitar.

Another song in my personal top five. The initial live performance was solid and Al finishes it of with some post production that elevates it. Featuring Sarah Ruddy who made several vocal and instrumental contributions at this time, most noticeably with The Dead West.

How Do You Get High

Released on 'After the Flowers' September 19th 2015.

Recorded January 2015. Produced by Alastair Popple.

Marc Gillen - Vocals & Guitar.
Stephen Benson - Guitars, Drums & Percussion.
Alastair Popple - Programming.

The final song on 'After the Flowers' using a cut up and loop technique, mainly thanks to Al, making it a slightly Krautrock affair.

Down Terrace

Released on '1955' July 22nd 2016.

Recorded July 2016. Produced by Alastair Popple.

Marc Gillen - Vocals & Acoustic Guitar.
Stephen Benson - Guitars & Effects.
David Thompson - Vocals.
Jill Wallace - Vocals.

One of two tracks from my favourite stand alone NOS release '1955'. Myself, Marc and Jill Wallace found ourselves with some downtime because of the band Brocken Spectre breaking up, although this proved to be temporary. This one really has the spook.

Grow My Dears

Released on 'Slow Daze' August 1st 2021.

Recorded Autumn 2020. Produced by Alastair Popple.

Marc Gillen - Vocals & Keyboards.
Alastair Popple - Effects.

Taken from the latest Nightowl release 'Slow Daze'. That album had the distinction of being the first Treehouse Orchestra Recordings release on vinyl. During the 'test listen' I remember this sounding fantastic on record.

Suicide #2 (Electric Boogaloo)

Released on 'After the Flowers' September 19th 2015.

Recorded January 2015. Produced by Alastair Popple.

Marc Gillen - Vocals & Guitar.
Stephen Benson - Guitars, Drums & Percussion.
Alastair Popple - Programming.

More cut up mixing of performance and post production. 

Dreams of Civic Pride

Released on the 'Sliders' E.P. March 7th 2019.

Recorded 2017. Produced by Alastair Popple.

Marc Gillen - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar & Bass.
Stephen Benson - Electric Guitar & Percussion.
Jessica Lowes - Vocals.

A series of sessions were recorded upstairs at Warwick Bazaar in 2017 and set aside for release. For one reason or another this didn't happen until 2019. The only song on this compilation not recorded at home, this was originally scheduled to be recorded by Brocken Spectre.

Close to Me

Released on 'Slow Daze' August 1st 2021.

Recorded Autumn 2020. Produced by Alastair Popple.

Marc Gillen - Vocals & Keyboards.
Alastair Popple - Effects.

Released ahead of 'Slow Daze' as a promotional video.

A Tree With Roots

Released as the b-side to 'Erupt' October 28th 2014.

Recorded October 2014. Produced by Alastair Popple.

Marc Gillen - Vocals & Bass.
Stephen Benson - Banjo & Drums.
David Thompson - Vocals & Guitar.

A song written a long time ago, this is the last released song recorded by The Dead West line up.

Angry Bees

Released on 'Slow Cancellation' June 1st 2020.

Recorded April 2020. Produced by Stephen Benson.

Marc Gillen - Vocals, Guitars & Keyboards.

Steig & Eva

Released on 'Slow Cancellation' June 1st 2020.

Recorded April 2020. Produced by Stephen Benson.

Marc Gillen - Vocals, Guitars & Keyboards.
Stephen Benson - Guitars & Bass.

The first lockdown of 2020 prevented any in person collaboration. Marc recorded ideas and sent them along to me. I added some instrumentation, mixed and finally produced the material. It seems all music recorded in the early days of the pandemic have a similar spook.

Driven to Dust

Released on '1955' July 22nd 2016.

Recorded July 2016. Produced by Alastair Popple.

Marc Gillen - Vocals & Acoustic Guitar.
Stephen Benson - Guitars, Sound Collage & Echo Machine.

Another absolute favourite. The final track on '1955' and a fitting end to this compilation.

Goatherder - The Hayton Tapes

 




















TOR082. Released December 2021.

01 Goatherder & Asha Nicholson - Solo Wanderings #1
02 Goatherder - The Hayton Tapes Part 1
03 Goatherder & Asha Nicholson - Turn
04 Goatherder - The Hayton Tapes Part 2
05 Goatherder & Asha Nicholson - Solo Wanderings #2

Some more of my own music now...

'Solo Wandering' and 'Turn' performed by:

Stephen Benson - Effects & Piano.
Asha Nicholson - Piano, Voice & Effects.

Recorded live August 1st 2021. Mixed November 2021.

'The Hayton Tapes' live improvisation performed by:

Stephen Benson, Felicity Cromack, Emily Ford, Stephanie Gardner,
Gareth Hodgson, Ricardo Marzo, Camille Matton, Asha Nicholson,
Nick Taylor & Samantha Staniforth.

Recorded July 31st 2021. Mixed October 2021.

Cover illustration by Emily Ford, Photography by Stephen Benson.

Inbetween the lockdowns of 2020, I became a frequent visitor to Hayton Castle. The castle is a 14th or 15th century tower house; this was extended in the 16th and 17th centuries. It's occupants were artists, professionals and hippy types. 

The following year, an idea was formed about an evening of music performance, to be recorded, in one of the many rooms of the castle.
















On the evening of July 31st 2021, several hours of jams and improvisations were recorded. Some were structured; to create a collage, contributors were given instruments (radio with effects, electric guitar with effects and trumpet and saxophone) and asked to make what sounds they could. These would be played alongside each other, but parts performed in isolation.

The majority of the evening was a series of live improvisations. I played electric guitar and effects with the rest of the performers used various drums, percussion and horns.

These recordings have been cut up and mixed together as 'The Hayton Tapes'.
















The next morning was set aside for the second purpose of this weekend; to record myself and musical pal Asha Nicholson. In the same room, improvised piano and vocals were processed and effected live, with editing and mixing taking place in November.

Front cover llustration of Slag Bank by Emily Ford, from unused book cover.

Download, streaming and cassette version available from Bandcamp.

Various Artists - Esoterica Britannica XII 'Songs Awakened with the Spheres Alive'

 




















01 Hannah Peel - Wind Shadow
02 Nick Drake - Time of No Reply
03 The Bonzo Dog Band - Sport (The Odd Boy)
04 The Raincoats - Odyshape
05 Genesis - Carpet Crawlers
06 Goldfrapp - Clowns
07 Spiro - Sky is a Blue Bowl
08 The Incredible String Band - Koeeoaddi There
09 Donovan - Get Thy Bearings
10 T. Rex - Diamond Meadows
11 Mike Oldfield - Mike Oldfield's Single (Theme from Tubular Bells)
12 Pulp - The Trees
13 Cate Le Bon - Fold the Cloth
14 Cocteau Twins - Beatrix
15 Pentangle - Travelling Song
16 Syd Barrett - Long Gone
17 Philip Jeck - Wipe
18 Anne Briggs & Will Gregory - Lowlands
19 XTC - Chalkhills and Children
20 Lal & Mike Waterston - Bright Phoebus

The Esoterica Britannica series comes to an end with this eleventh volume. Thank you to David Thompson for sending me these compilations. I'll leave you with his words, provided for the first volume, way back in December 2015:

"I have, for a long time, been fascinated with the idea of a common thread that might run through British art, and specifically music, connecting different artists and styles but somehow constituting a national consciousness that flows like an underground stream through the art and culture of this country. After all, the term ‘Americana’ exists and is a vibrant, if perhaps sometimes contentious, category under which certain types of American music are filed, marketed and reviewed. This can be traced back to old folk tunes and cowboy songs and include the artists and songs collected in Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music; country music from Jimmy Rodgers, the Carter Family and Hank Williams onwards; folk artists like Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly; blues, Cajun and Creole; Dylan, The Band, the Grateful Dead and onwards to contemporary artists like Daniel Johnston, Ryan Adams and Joanna Newsom and more cosmic variations like the music of Sun Ra, Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev and Animal Collective. The links between these artists might be stylistic or thematic or even an attitude, a way of looking at things – the connections might not always be obvious but they are nevertheless there. They might concern the existential concerns of a race, notions of identity, everyday challenges or historical changes or events or they may even try to identify or personify some kind of mystical quality or tradition(s).

Folk music would, then, seem to be the obvious place to start and I found a great deal of inspiration in Rob Young’s book “Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music”, which is an excellent study of British art and culture, looking at the themes, ideas and obsessions that run through the artistic history of these isles, but specifically folk music - from Cecil Sharp and classical artists such as Vaughan Williams, Warlock and Delius through the left-wing folk of Ewan McColl and A.L. Lloyd and British folk-rock and psychedelia of the 60s and 70s. What particularly fascinated me, though, was the latter part of the book, which identified other artists, working from the early 80s up to the present, who seemed less obviously connected to the folk tradition but who Young argues are still exploring the same themes – British history, the idea of Arcadia, the power and pull of the landscape, political and religious dissent and repression, paganism and Celtic mysticism, the occult, folklore and the ghosts and legends of the past. These artists included Kate Bush, Julian Cope, Brian Eno, Talk Talk, Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada and, once this connection had been established in my mind, other artists seemed to me to fit into this tradition of British ‘visionary music’, such as the Jam (and Paul Weller’s solo work), XTC, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Wire, Robyn Hitchcock, the Cocteau Twins, Damon Albarn, PJ Harvey, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and the spectral artists of the Ghost Box label.

Taking some of these artists, I set out to make a compilation that might hopefully capture what could be termed ‘Brittinicarna’. My process of considering, selecting and, in some cases, de-selecting artists and songs was highly individual and pretty instinctive – I soon developed a sense of what belonged and what didn’t. I suppose the only rough criteria that I can articulate is that the artist had to be British, that there was a distinctive voice or spirit to the track (and that this was also somehow intrinsically British), that it embodied the national psyche – its concerns and obsessions, its longings, wounds and idiosyncrasies – and that, despite whatever style of music it might normally be said to belong to, it could still be considered, at least in my mind, as ‘folk music’.

The usual definition of ‘folk music’ would be music that originates in traditional popular culture or that is written in such a style and that this would be typically music of simple character, often of unknown authorship, and would be transmitted orally by the common people from generation to generation. In my looser definition, I saw the kind of visionary strain in British music and culture I was looking for as being an expression of the national psyche which is passed on in many ways, manifesting itself in different styles but still recognisable as the common – though sometimes downright eccentric – people communicating to their fellows in a language which they will recognise, a code which they will be able to decipher. It is the sound of a nation talking to itself, the ghosts of our past haunting us still – communing with us, imparting ancient and mysterious wisdom, warning and inspiring us in equal measure. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, one CD was not enough – there were so many artists to include as well as others I discovered on the way - and so it grew to four volumes, while another collection of Ghost Box recordings was later added as a fifth instalment. These were meant initially for friends and were also intended to be the start of a conversation rather than the last word on the subject. Everyone will have their own ideas as to what music might be included – indeed these friends have already compiled their own volumes of “Esoterica Britannica” and I hope that there will be many of you out there, reading these words and listening to these collections, that will do the same. These islands are still full of voices which speak to each and every one of us in different and often esoteric ways. Listen,  enjoy, absorb and, most importantly, pass it on."

- David Thompson

Monday, 29 November 2021

Chocolate Watchband - No Way Out

 




















Tower 1967

01 Let's Talk About Girls
02 In The Midnight Hour
03 Come On
04 Dark Side Of The Mushroom
05 Hot Dusty Road
06 Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love Inn)
07 Gone And Passed By
08 No Way Out
09 Expo 2000
10 Gossamer Wings

Debut album from California's answer to The Rolling Stones. Unfortunately for the Chocolate Watchband, they fell foul of those awful 1960's deals. The contract gave full power to the producers who insisted on more covers than original material, removed Dave Aguilar's vocals and replaced them with a singer of their choosing on some songs and even having entire 'ghost bands' on some tracks.

Despite this, the album is still awesome and a psych must have. Material the band recorded went on to fill another two albums (along with more session player material), I'll be posting those in the future.


Father Pat Berkery - Prayers For A Noonday Church

 



















Glasgow 1969

01 Baptism/Silent Night
02 Confession/Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent
03 An Altar/O Lord, I Am Not Worthy
04 Chalice/Panis Angelicus
05 Priesthood/Sing, My Tongue, The Saviors Glory
06 Seminary/Onward Christian Soldiers
07 Celibacy/Holy, Holy, Holy
08 Blessings/O God, From Whom All Blessings Flow
09 Preaching/To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King
10 Sick Call/Dies Irae

Ridiculously rare curio from 1969. Father Pat Berkery was a hip priest from St. Louis who coupled his sermons with fuzz guitar west coast psychedelic rock. Never re-issued and hard to find.





Gila - S/T

 















BASF 1971

01 Aggression
02 Kommunikation
03 Kollaps
04 Kontakt
05 Kollektivität
06 Individualität

Haven't had any Krautrock in a while. Gila Füchs came from a Stuttgart political commune and this, their debut album (sometimes referred to as 'Free Electric Sound', was released in 1971.

Psychedelic German space rock, with jamming and sound effects. For fans of Agitation Free.

"HERE IT COMES THE BIG WAVE OF AGGRESSION!"

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Dave & Toni Arthur - Hearken To The Witches Rune

 




















Trailer 1971


01 Alison Gross
02 Tam Lin
03 A Fairy Tale
04 The Fairy Child
05 Broomfield Hill
06 The Standing Stones
07 The Cruel Mother
08 Alice Brand

Rare cult folk with a bizarre back story. Dave and Toni Arthur could be found presenting and writing songs for Play School and Play Away; two staples of BBC childrens television programming.

They had spent the last few years as a recording duo, with this album being a witchcraft folk oddity.

There are connections to Alex and Maxine Sanders (the imagery of whom can be found in certain parts of this blog) and the wiccan movement in the U.K.

The story is told far better and in depth here.

Repressed only once, in 1975.