Sometimes, it does the power of good to step outside of what you would normally listen to and immerse yourself in something a bit different. Even better, it’s when you look sideways and notice that there’s something already there that you’ve not previously paid attention to. For me, this is found in scores and soundtracks, not just from the usual film and televisual sources, but from videogames. Even back in its relative infancy, the gaming industry has created emotional musical content through increasingly advanced sound chips, and there are many gems from all manner of genres to be found in a medium still treated with some suspicion in many quarters as a mere pastime for kids. This particular gem is one of those times when you could play this to any one of these naysayers, and will absolutely blow their minds when it is pointed out that this is from one such game.
Over the very varied course of their recorded history, the word Cinematic is one that has been applied constantly to the Soulsavers, and with good reason. Whether it’s the VHS pulp noir of their Tough Guys Don’t Dance debut, the Wim Wenders outsider Americana of their It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s The Way You Land follow-up or the full-blown epics of Broken and The Light The Dead See, the impression I always got from the collected musical output of Rich Machin and Ian Glover is of a soundtrack to a film that the rest of us aren’t privy to. So it’s perhaps a happy inevitability that the Stoke-On-Trent duo have cast their sights somewhat more specifically in this direction by applying for and receiving a grant from the PRS For Music Foundation in order to realise an ambition to put together an instrumental record to be pitched as a calling-card to the film industry. 6 Days From Tomorrow is thrilled that Rich took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about this project, film music in general, and what the future holds for the Soulsavers.
This was a weird night indeed, and not just because I’m in Switzerland. I can’t remember quite how many Mark Lanegan shows I’ve been to, but it’s A Lot. Which seems kind of creepy, but there is method to all of this. It all kind of started in 2003(ish) when a bunch of us on his short-lived official message board decided to meet up and hang out, so visiting several shows to put names to sentences and posts, and I suppose it kind of stuck from then on.
Fast-forward a decade, and most of those friendships remain, more have been added and a couple have fallen by the wayside. And I’ve stopped posting with a girl’s name, something that seemed funny at the time and was a great way of being anonymous but an array of bewildering private messages soon put the mockers on that. Anyway, all of this preamble stems from a pre-gig decision to pare this all down as frankly it’s costing me a fortune. Nights such as this remind me what a privilege it is to do so.
I think it’s fair to say that February wasn’t a great month here. But never mind, it’s gone now and what started out as a rather mundane and unremarkable day somewhere in the middle of it was brightened up by an email received from a band whose debut EP I had in these pages a mere few years ago, offering me a listen of their brand new (and second) full album. Such an unintentional birthday present was gratefully received, yet it’s a measure of the craziness of the whole of the last four weeks that it was only last night I was sufficiently Not At Work enough to sit back and take it all in. And what a treat it turned out to be.
Back in the days where people weren’t too fussed about genre labels, when experimentalism regularly hit the high points of the charts and when nobody really gave much of a stuff how much records weighed, remixes reigned supreme. These were mostly shuffled off to the margins of b-sides and exclusive 12″ singles, but there was the occasional album of rejigged and reworked music for our pleasure. Remixing was all over the place, some remixers became more venerated than the people who employed them, and then it all seemed to tail off rather quickly, or at least vanish underground to a place where most people couldn’t find them, except for the very determined. The occasional gem bobbed up to the surface (the Soulsavers’ sublime take on Starsailors’ Four To The Floor being a prime example), but it all went quiet as some remixers went back to being DJs, others started making their own records from scratch, and others carried on messing about for diminishing audiences. This record is a celebration of decades of messing about with other peoples’ stuff.
Blimey. The post-Christmas slump went on for a bit longer than I thought it would this year, so here we are in the middle of February with the first mention of a record this year. Whatever passes for normal service will resume whenever, but at least I have much to be going on about until I catch up properly. All of this is of course an entirely opposite approach to the tireless and mysterious Servant Roberts, who announced this record late on a Wednesday evening, followed by despatching the same for it to arrive that very weekend. The world needs more of his like. And to put the tin hat on such speedy service, and in keeping with his paymasters’ previous musical jiggerypokery, this is not just one record but two…
Even before I get onto anything else, this was one of those occasions where a special round of applause should be reserved for those least mentioned of a touring company, the bus driver. How he got that thing there last night must have been little short of miraculous. After my fun, if slightly concerned drive there (I could be heard going “are you sure?” to my Satnav more than once as I was sure was deliberately leading me astray down roads where the provision of a single track would have been a blessed luxury), it was a curious delight to enter the tiny arena of Hebden Bridge’s Trades Club with the rest of a crowd of just shy of 200 people to catch a couple of highly memorable sets.
On the last day of the year, it’s my favourite record of the year. When I first heard this in April by accident, I was pretty sure that this was going to end up on the top of the 2014 pile. After a small amount of doubt in the middle of Summer, I can’t believe that I thought that it could have been anything else at any point. All good and great albums are supposed to be something different as well as something that, for want of a better term, just “fits” whether that tessellation comes in the form of the meeting of moods, becoming a subconscious part of a specific event, or merely by dint of becoming the zeitgeist of a whole litany of events. This is it. The only record I heard this (almost last) year that does all of that.
This record and the one that follows were pretty interchangeable during the month or so that it took to put this whole Top Fifty together. I’m pretty sure I have them the right way round though, as I hope to explain tomorrow (yes! I
will might actually get this review of 2014 completed in 2014!). As it’s a personal statement, it’s only fitting that the ones that made the most personal impact became such favourites of mine, and for such disparate reasons. With this one, the impact is something created rather than reflected, and that’s a gift well worth celebrating.
Genre pigeonholing, don’t you just love it? Ever since Faith No More were dubbed “Funk Metal” back in the 1980s, mankind’s desire to label things that sound a bit different to everything else has seen labels get sillier and sillier. Then again, it all started with Rock and Roll, which makes little sense anyway. I did try to find something all-encompassing to encapsulate whatever goes on during the course of this record, but nothing fits. Even the current trend for “Post-” anything doesn’t seem to work, as even looking up something as outwardly clever as “Post-Blues” brought up Booker T and the MG’s, Jethro Tull and Chris Cornell, so it’s anyone’s guess really. Ultimately though, it doesn’t really matter except to people who don’t read past an arbitrary number of stars and the first sentence of anything. What does matter is how something moves you, and Phantom Radio moves like nothing else. A Post-Lanegan record, perhaps?