„Kind instruction for falling in love“

Percussionist and drummer and former Talk Talk-member Lee Harris is credited as co-composer of some songs of Beth Gibbons’ forthcoming „Lives Outgrown“. The fact Lee calls the album „a psychedelic, pastoral, wild explosion“, first listenings, and a photo from Beth with a dog in an open landscape made me think of distant relationships with Van Morrison‘s „Veedon Fleece“. Both works seem too unique to be compared with one another, except for the always ungraspable „flow“. Or is there more? Let us think twice and listen to both albums one after the other, perhaps some time in summer. On a long afternoon.

Start with Van‘s album that is much lighter, moodwise (a first and second impression only, i can tell you that) and more sparse in instrumentation – in the end both create their own peculiar air and atmosphere, and depth. A „woody“ feel. Beth‘s work will (i bet on it) make some critics throw in „The Wicker Man“ (a playful, hypermelodic soundtrack for an otherwise noir folk story), while Van‘s songs shy away away from such ghosts creating another green world of flamboyant dreams (a troubadour‘s modus operandi, on the surface, dear reader). Finally they might meet on some middle ground, take their places, and exchange stories about Thomas Hardy‘s „Tess“. Or what the heaven do I know! Whatever draws you in somebody else‘s world! These albums surely do. And about lives outgrown, they both have a whole lot to tell.

So much darkness hidden in the uplifting flow, even dangerous words turn to sounds, at first, on „Veedon Fleece“. Thus „shattering“, and „devastating“ – another common ground between these longplayers from 1974 and 2024. Ben Chasny is „Six Organs of Admittance“, and he writes: „There are so many devastating moments on Van Morrison‘s „Veedon Fleece“ that to list only a few would be total injustice to the rest. But fuck it, what the fuck is just in this world? Well at least we can experience hope in one man’s search for light. Right? So let’s talk about the way Van ends “Linden Arden Stole The Highlights” with the line, „now he’s living with a gun“ and then starts up the very next song by throwing his voice way up on top of his vocal chords and letting it settle down to a calmer note while singing, „oh well it’s lonely, when you’re living with a gun.“ Ah, I’m not a good enough writer to explain how magical it is. You’ll just have to trust me. Or we could talk about how it’s a whiskey drinking record, an alchemical rumination, a journal of his post-divorce drive through the Irish countryside, or his most thoroughly William Blake influenced work ever (just look at his hair on the cover, for Christ’s sake!).“

In the first longer text about Beth’s album (Mojo, April) , James Ford reveals that that this first single, „Floating On A Moment“ „is probably one of the cheerier songs. It kind of goes bleaker from there. It’s related to real stuff and it’s from a real place, to the point where it’s almost painful to listen to sometimes. But there’s a beauty in the sadness.” And in a rare statement, Beth adds: “My fifties have brought for ward a new, yet older, horizon. It has been a time of farewells to family, friends and even to who I was before, the lyrics mirroring my anxieties and sleepless nighttime ruminations… I wanted to draw away from breakbeats and snares, focusing on the woody fabric of timbres, away from the sugary addiction of high frequencies.” In strange ways, with their dreamlike voyages, ambivalent textures, and power to transcend the everyday „Veedon Fleece“ and „Lives Outgrown“ deliver some unexpected closeness, so to speak. Beyond being from two redhairs with red-haired dogs. Don‘t wait for summer.

6 Kommentare

  • Michael Engelbrecht

    „James Ford is a versatile guy. Within the last 18 months he has produced albums by Blur, Arctic Monkeys, Jessie Ware, The Last Dinner Party and Depeche Mode, with highly anticipated new albums by Portishead’s Beth Gibbons and the Pet Shop Boys to come. His cramped studio is an audiophile’s paradise, stuffed with vintage synths and fantastical contraptions. “This has got some really cool sounds on it,” he says, turning on a Japanese “haiku synth” that sounds like a koto zither. “It’s not in a western scale.” He moves on to what looks like a cross-section of a tree trunk with golden nodes on it. It’s a Soma Terra synth and it emits a terrifying roar, like Chewbacca yawning.“

  • Olaf Westfeld

    Nothing sugary on „Lives Outgrown“. Van, Talk Talk und Beth Gibbons bilden einen Zusammenhang, ein Kontinuum, höre ich auch so… leider kenne ich kaum etwas von der Band .O.rang – praktisch Talk Talk ohne Mark Hollis (also Lee Harris und Paul Webb, mit Gästen), Anfang der 90e – die passen da sicher auch irgendwie rein.

  • Jan Bang

    Dear Michael,

    must check out this album. Loved her work with Rustin Man which must have been decades ago. I was taken by her live recording of Gorecki which left an impression on me. I´ve heard other singers perform that piece (could it have been Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance?) which left me cold.

    Beth Gibbons is a singer that in my book has delivered her best work post portishead.



  • flowworker

    @ Olaf: i started writing that text as an „improvisation“ about memories, old ones, new ones (:)) , about both albums, and, from moment to moment, finding more and more connections between them, at first by intuition, then by reading about Van’s album. It would be fun to start a series of improvs on two albums that seem to be far less connected, and then surprise yourself…(i thought about that exactly, this afternoon, when listening to Julia Holter’s new work and , a coffee break later, to Markus Stockhausen’s brilliant ECM vinyl, Cosi Lontano… Quasi Dentro, with Gary P, Zoro B, and Fabrizio O. Not so far-fetched to discover some ECM vibes on Julia’s work, and a wonderful fluidity on Markus‘ LP…. extreme dynamics between a whisper and a cry, silences, intense emotianal impacts of crystal clear sounds… and on and on…for example: both recrdings are top notch audiophile recordings. Apart from being fantastic music. Ma first presing of that ECM record from 1982 still has it typed on the logo: DIGITAL RECORDING. Amd though the analog purists might raise an eyebrow: it is a brilliant digital recording.😊 (the album flashed me when it was released,the sound of Gary‘s bass a revelation. I still remember Konrad Heidkamp‘s fine review in DIE ZEIT.

    @ Jan B: you will be thrilled, i guess. Or haunted, enchanted & entranced … 😉

  • Lorenz

    Beide O.rang Alben finde ich sehr toll. Und auch das recht neue Soloalbum von James (Ellis-) Ford „the hum“ auf dem er alles selbst spielt.

  • Olaf Westfeld

    Danke, Lorenz.
    Und dieses Markus Stockhausen Album habe ich eine Zeit lang immer wieder stehen gelassen, mir stattdessen etwas anderes gekauft (ich erinnere, dass es einmal dieses Solo Piano Album von Richie Beirach war – Hubris).

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