Orkney: Symphony Of The Magnetic North

There’s a word I’d like to get out of the way before starting this thing properly.  Orcadian is a word that has appeared in probably every single press mention of delightful folk-popsters Erland and the Carnival, and definitely in at least one that I’ve done on here (albums reviewed hither and thither).  It’s a word included not just as a matter of geographical fact (it’s where vocalist Gawain Erland Cooper hails from, but more on that later), but because it’s also such a beautiful word to both see and say, made more so for the reason that most of us so rarely get the chance to use it.

This beauty now extends to this collection of songs, Orcadian in subject and spirit – and it’s this spirit of Orkney that pushed this project into existence in the first place.


Best of 2011, No.7: Erland and the Carnival – Nightingale

I have one of those brains that tends to work on the basis of “if it’s a bit strange, then I like it”.  This record (and, indeed, band) are very strange, and I like them a lot.  No great surprise there, then.  To be merely a bit strange in the context of this record would be to mention that this is one of two albums in my Top 50  that have been recorded on boats.  To be more specifically odd, this particular one was recorded on a converted Mystery Ship that spent much of the Second World War pottering about in the North Atlantic disguised as a Merchant Vessel, luring and subsequently attacking U-Boats.  Recording in this floating representation of nothing being what it seems has has quite the effect on this group of eclectic folk-pop magpies, and the end result is something rather bizarre, disquieting and brilliant.


Half-term Musings, Random Favourites So Far

Well, everyone else has done one.   I guess it’s the immediacy of the internet nowadays that lists simply can’t wait until the year end.  I did try to do this properly, but trying to whittle down about 40 or so absolute corkers so far this year I soon realised that it’s all far too much work, especially as I’ll be doing it all again in December.  So the following fifteen albums (no singles or EPs, will be saving those for year-end also) are in no order and their selection has been completely arbitrary in a daily mood-matching way.  Some of those will be high up my (and most others’) list in the deep midwinter, some may well have dropped off a bit and others replaced by whatever is going to pop up between now and the end of the year.   What I’m trying to say is that it’s all a bit random.  As is the accompanying text; I copy/pasted it from my Facebook entries over the past fortnight and the tenses are all over the place.



Hannah Peel – The Broken Wave

Debut albums are brilliant things, aren’t they?

They are created as labours of love over huge swathes of time with the only pressures and constraints being those imposed by the artist.  Not for the debutantes are the spectres of people in suits tapping their watches insisting that ten great songs are plucked fully-formed out of the ether because the market has to have something by a certain date; and neither are there swathes of miserable sods waiting gleefully with sharpened pencils and dulled wits, desperate for the excuse to say how the new one isn’t as good as the last one.

Oh no, for we have to judge purely by the singular merits presented on the first album.  The downside to this is that the first album has to find us.  Thankfully in this case, helping hands were available to point me in the right direction.


Erland and the Carnival – Nightingale

Have there been any other albums recorded on ships?  This record could be a bit of a first, unless of course the answer is “yes”.


HMS President (formerly known as HMS Saxifrage for any naval fans confused at this point) was originally used as a lure to German U-Boats, disguised cunningly as a Merchant Vessel but was rather heavily armed.  For this, it was classed as a “Mystery Ship”, and this term that makes it a rather apt location for the recording of Erland and the Carnival’s second album, following hot on the heels of last year’s brilliant self-titled debut.


Best of 2010, #3: Erland and the Carnival – S/T

Neighbour’s password isn’t “password” after all.  Curses.
So instead, I’ll just park all of this onto Notepad and copy it all over when I get to the De La Warr Pavillion tomorrow (note: actually two days ago now), where the Wifi is free and provided by Eddie Izzard, according to the pamphlet.  It doesn’t state anywhere however whether he stands behind you providing it from somewhere about his person while us mere mortals surf away.  It’s a lovely thought though.

And so, onto Number 3.  What I’m finding with these is that I always get really giddy about writing the next one rather than the one I’m currently doing.  And what I know for certain now is that this list will have not one, but two number one choices as I can’t pick between them due to the reasons for me loving them so much are so completely different that it’s pointless putting them up against each other.

I have to admit that updating this blog had become a slight chore not long ago – work getting busier, free hours becoming fewer etc.  But knocking this list together (however randomly organised and reported) has made me remember why I set this little unread corner of the internet in the first place; to remind me of the fun and excitement in listening to something new for the first time, and also the fun in wittering on about it to people who have better things to do than pay attention to this excitable Northern idiot.
This is getting a bit in the way of blogging a couple of new records (and a few old ones into the bargain), but it’s a welcome diversion for me, and they’ll still be there when this list is out of the way.

At some point as well, I’ll add something else before the year is out, but I’d better get this finished before getting any more bright ideas!

Sunday Whatever

Been neglecting these of late – partly because I’ve been working more Sundays recently (I have a South Coast Beano in December to pay for), partly because when I am in of a Sunday, I’m listening to too much stuff to bother listening to it; but mostly because these things are for one reason or another an absolute sod to format.  Then again, it’s probably just a case of getting more practice in.

So anyway, loads more new stuff from old favourites and new acquaintances alike at the mo which is always a good thing, although all these new records are getting in the way of the main reason why I started this blog which was to remind myself of why certain albums and artists left such indelible impressions at such memorable times so that I could put things in a certain order and remind myself why certain times (and their respective soundtracks) were all important for whatever reasons.  I guess then that it’s been more of a purging exercise that I thought it would be, and the wealth of new artists and albums in the short while this has been running so far is as good an indication as any that looking back is in part fun and tortuous and serves an important purpose in both respects, but looking at the now and ahead has its own rewards also.

Or something, anyway.  I’m having fun, and that’s the main thing.


Sunday Whatever

…or at least it will be if I can get this done within the next 59 mins.
Been tricky to squeeze much listening in this week as, thanks to the largely unpronounceable volcano being not as apocalyptic as everyone thought, working at an airport hasn’t exactly given me much time to myself during the past 7 days. Still, I had a go anyway, and these are my picks of the week. (more…)