Friday, December 28, 2012

Records I Have Enjoyed This Year

This list is not intended as a Best Of 2012, I've not listened to enough music to make any such claim, it's merely a survey of records I've enjoyed. There are many others released this year which are clearly excellent but I've not explored thoroughly enough to write about (Eamonn McGrath's Young Canadians and R.M. Hubbert's Thirteen Lost & Found being examples). Hopefully this list will make you want to explore further.

Sweet Lights – Sweet Lights
Technically sophisticated but entirely accessible, dozens of instantly memorable melodies make this feel like an album you've known your whole life. One of those 'songwriter's songwriters', Shai Halperin makes it all sound so easy, but it takes a peer and rival to fully appreciate why it's anything but. The album George Harrison never made.

Land Observations – Roman Roads IV-XI
This eight-part survey of ancient highways and byways is composed from the simplest ingredients; picked harmonics and looped guitar riffs evoke a sensation of internal travel, it's unusual in being an ambient record built around propulsive rhythms rather than drones and field recordings, tracing a map rather than capturing territory. A sonic gazetteer for the armchair navigator.

Warm Digits – Keep Warm With The Warm Digits
Rarely is a band so suited to their name; digital music served with the warmth and depth of mulled wine, this record is a playful sonic pillow fight.

Neil Halstead - Palindrome Hunches
Mainstream music journalism's obsession with 'authenticity' has resulted in a critical medium reaching a dead-end, a satellite orbiting a dying star, sending back increasingly absurd reports – the ascetic log cabin retreat and the 'primitive' recording equipment, the beard and the buffalo plaid; for many, such ludicrous framing devices seem to resonate louder than the music. Fortunately not all music writers are so easily hoodwinked, and not all record labels are so patronising. Neil Halstead has found a natural home at Nat Cramp's wonderfully understated Sonic Cathedral imprint. 'Palindrome Hunches' is Halstead's darkest solo album so far, but more importantly it's his most focused, his penchant for whimsy reined in and his plaintive melodies allowed to suspend in the air until they dissolve. While the fact remains that many artists write their strongest work under duress, albums like this don't need a back story.

Kuedo – Severant
Severant is on first blush a straightforward arranged marriage of Tangerine Dream synthtopia and cutting-edge footwork percussion, an album with each foot planted firmly in a different decade, but the melody lines are so strong and the sound-scapes so sweeping that the listener will find themselves asking more of it. What then emerges is a world where humans are long gone, each hi-hat tick is the footfall of an army of synthdroids terraforming a newly claimed planet, overseen by an infinitely wise and benign Philosopher-King supercomputer. Beautiful and unabashedly escapist, Severant is an intergalactic holiday brochure for wistful robots.

Burial - Street Halo EP / Kindred EP
Will Bevan made life difficult for himself in a way that Portishead did a decade before him. Creating an aesthetic so instantly influential it left them without room for manoeuvre, by the time Portishead got round to their second album, a thousand indie bands had pointlessly bolted a pair of turntables onto the side of the stage, and with the echoes of Dummy ringing endlessly in a hall of mirrors, Portishead's sound was no longer theirs. So they took their time, adapted and moved on. Both artists stand in a grand tradition of sonic pioneers weaving a noose to hang themselves with. My Bloody Valentine have yet to rise to their own challenge, The Stone Roses made a pig's ear of their's, but Bevan continues to hone his occult craft so elegantly that no-one has come close to cracking the code, and by releasing EPs instead of albums, he has avoided the issue, forcing people to appreciate his music outside of the arbitrary strictures of track counts, running times and size formats.

Emptyset – Medium

Put up microphones in an ancient building, record the sound of nothing, play it back through a P.A. in the same room, record the results. Repeat this process indefinitely. Will you capture the murmurs of ghosts? Definitely.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Circadian Video * Opening The Archives Of Demonology: Gravenhurst's Patented 'Subaquatron: Sonik Mysterie Kult' Bucket Brigade Analog Delay Pedal

Heigh ho – who is there? No-one but me my dears.
'Circadian' Video
Tremendously exciting news this week – my pal Sam Wisternoff (aka Anticon-signed Bristol drone troubadour SJ Esau) has given album opener 'Circadian' the video treatment it deserves. Featuring Vinka symbols invading internal organs, slow-mo lip-synching and self-generating crayon diagrams, with a cinematographic palette moving between the manufactured nostalgia of saturated Super 8 and scratchy 'found footage' VHS, a disorientating array of recurring images play out against a continually shifting background of psychedelic textures and stop-motion animations, mirroring the song's cyclical rhythms and ambiguous lyrics. This being the first time I've been personally involved in a music video from the outset, Sam and I spent a sunny afternoon in the St Werburgh's area of Bristol filming me suffocating myself with a bin liner, before police broke up the fun following a phone call from a concerned resident. Most of those scenes would have been too unpleasant to use were we not able to offset the atmosphere of misery with footage of a man dropping his car keys into a hat.
Watch the video for 'Circadian' here
Friends in Germany, you can watch the video here
Sonic Cathedral 'Celebrity Pedalboard'
Nat Cramp at Sonic Cathedral invited me to contribute to their 'Celebrity Pedalboard' page, divulging the secrets of my patented 'Subaquatron' Bucket Brigade Delay Pedal. Join the Sonik Mysterie Kult here
Merrie Beltane,
Nicodemus & Pliers

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Gravenhurst Show at Init for the Roma Ultrasuoni Festival : A Statement

The show at Init for the Roma Ultrasuoni  festival was ruined for us and the audience because  of circumstances completely beyond our control. I hesitate to point the finger of blame at people  publicly but in this situation I have no choice  because we are absolutely furious about this and it needs to be made clear that the chaos was  not our fault. We drove for eight hours to play at  this festival and were met with a completely  shambolic set up and incompetent staff. The sound  check was totally pointless as the engineers clearly  had no idea what they were doing, and we stood on  the stage for an hour while they milled around  slowly plugging and unplugging things, then they cut  us short before we could finish, saying we had run out of time. We then went off  for our dinner, which was served to us cold,  and we  were given only water to drink. Cold food and water  after an eight hour drive, nice hospitality; while  all around us the public were being served hot food  and drinks. So contrary to what we were being told, the kitchens were open, but just not for  the artists. Still, we were determined to play a  good show. When we got on stage we could not hear  our voices. We were singing 'deaf'. You know the way  deaf people sound when they talk? They sound like that because they cannot hear their voices. That was  the situation we were in onstage. Try singing like that - you won't sound good. We are not a  difficult band to engineer. All we need is to be able to hear our own voices in our monitors, Rachel needs to hear her synth and  Claire needs to hear my guitar. That's it. That's  all there is to it. Instead, Rachel and Claire's  voices were coming through my monitor, while my voice was not in any of the monitors. We struggled  through the first two songs, continually telling the  engineer of our monitoring problems, to no avail. Then in 'Saints'  my microphone dropped out completely, so the audience could not hear my voice either. The staff  scrambled around trying to sort it out;  it  transpired that Rachel's monitor wasn't even plugged  in. If you know anything about sound engineering or  performing you will be sympathetic to our plight -  the onstage sound was a complete nightmare.  Eventually I tired of telling the engineer where to  put our voices and simply walked across the stage  and switched my microphone with Rachel's, a coarse but completely essential intervention, thus solving a problem that should have been done at the  sound desk at the beginning. We were then told we had to play our last song, so we played ' 'Black Holes In the Sand' as well as we possibly could in the circumstances. Anyone who has seen Gravenhurst live  will attest that we are a professional band that  knows how to play live. I've played live for fifteen  years, hundreds and hundreds of shows all over the  world, and i've never come across a situation like  this - total incompetence. Between us, Claire, Rachel and I have played over a thousand gigs. We are good at our job -  the people running this stage were not. It was a humiliating waste of time for us and our audience.  We are sorry for the fans who were looking forward  to the show. We will play Roma again, and we will  ensure we play in a professional venue suited to professional musicians.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Quietus Presents: The Jovian Bow Shock Prize 2012

Sod the Mercury! It genuinely makes me feel much prouder that Gravenhurst has been nominated by The Quietus for The Jovian Bow Shock Prize 2012. A fascinating and downright educational list. Thank you Mr. Doran et al.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Exit Through The (Insert Pun Here) or The Problem With Banksy

The Fighting Téméraire Tugged to Its Last Berth to be Broken Up, 1838 Joseph Turner

I read on an internet forum that it has become fashionable to knock Banksy; this is confusing, because I was under the impression it was fashionable to like him; I just can't keep up. But either way I'm sure that one's opinion of Banksy can be informed by something more than social trends. There is an argument to be had.

Banksy's failure as an artist serves as an object lesson in art theory. Aesthetics 1.0 “When Art Fails”. If visual art does anything more than look appealing, it suggests the possibility of a non-semantic form of communication; the conveying of meaning without words. In other words, bad art is easily described, good art isn't. No matter what I tell you about Joseph Turner's depiction of boats docking on the Thames, no matter how sophisticated my description of his extraordinary renderings of colour, or how nuanced my meditation on the reflections of light bursts on the ships beams, no words can put anything like it into your mind if you haven't seen it yourself. I may as well be describing custard. But if I describe a trail of white paint around the floor of a gallery, at the end of which crouches a policeman with a rolled up banknote, you don't need to see this staggering achievement of art-as-polemic. And if I say “you know that famous photo of a rioter throwing a molotov cocktail, right? Well, Banksy has done that, right, except they are throwing a bunch of flowers” you can save yourself the cost of a train fare to Bristol, or wherever. Banksy trades in feeble pictorial metaphors conveying nothing that could not be conveyed in words alone. The great mystery at the heart of visual art, the very reason why it is said that writing about art is like dancing about architecture, is missing in his work. He can be explained, decoded, reduced. With great art we say “well you really have to see it”, with Banksy you just don't.
But many would argue that this is irrelevant, that Banksy isn't an artist, but a satirist or prankster, and should thus be judged not on the content of his work but on the effect it has had. Alas, this leaves him on even shakier ground. A Banksy exhibition brought a lot of visitors and money to Bristol in 2009. “Do you agree with his anti-capitalist political message?” asked a BBC reporter of a woman queueing for the gift shop. “Oh no, not really..” she replied. “So what brought you here today?” “Oh well, you've gotta have your Banksy posters haven't you?”. This airy, wholesale acceptance of his work has brought him to my very front door; the block of flats over the road has a wing named in his honour. The Cedars, The Gantry, The Banksy. I live in an area with a tradition of naming roads after local heroes; the physics genius Paul Dirac; the cricketing legend Arthur Milton. Banksy's enrolment into this particular hall of fame demonstrates how far he stands from where the satirist defence would have him be. Banksy is no outsider, no enfant terrible straddling the line between crime and art. He has more in common with Stephen Fry than Chris Morris. He's become a National Treasure. 'Banksy = Sell Out' – you see that sprayed around Bristol. He left himself vulnerable to such accusations by buying so heavily into a political platform of simplistic anti-capitalism. It takes a nimbler mind than his to successfully navigate fame and fortune with outlaw credibility intact.
Ultimately Banksy has failed in that he fails to upset anyone. The properties he graffitied quadrupled in value, so the most transgressive aspect of his work, the act of vandalism, is rendered toothless. Which leaves only the conceptual content: cheap visual puns. If these vague, witless jabs at free-market capitalism and the police state count as satire, if satire can be so toothless and whimsical, then that is worrying, because it means you have to do very little to be taken seriously. In a world where the encroaching police state and rampant buccaneer capitalism are truly frightening things, and the jaded acceptance of them as social norms, or worse, as natural states may end up destroying much of what is good about civilisation, I'd like to think there are heavier weights fighting our corner.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Intellectual Comforts and Ethical Cop-Outs: The Libertarian Mindset

If Only!

It's Hip! It's Cool! It's Libertarianism! By Connor Kilpatrick at Exiled is dead on target and vital in this climate; the US Right has been pushing libertarianism not just as a political philosophy but as an entire lifestyle choice complete with an intellectual smugness that says "you see, liberals mistake politics for a binary issue, of Left versus Right, but in fact libertarianism is the only consistent program for real freedom, and cuts across that tired old dichotomy" with added pseud-points for the words 'binary' and 'dichotomy'. It appeals particularly to net-savvy male college graduates who have been raised in a socially liberal environment, being pro choice, down with human rights, cool on sexual equality etc - basically all the things most people now believe anyway- but don't want to have to contribute economically to society in any way. Like Kilpatrick says, when people start bandying around the word 'freedom', we need to ask "freedom for whom to do what?".

Isaiah Berlin made a crucial distinction between negative and positive freedom; respectively, freedom from constraint, and freedom to flourish and realise your potential. Libertarians believe governments should only protect the former, and that any attempts by governments to promote the latter always results in totalitarianism, like here in Britain, and in America, which Kilpatrick notes, suffers the tyrannies of child labor laws, the Civil Rights act, federal income tax, minimum wage laws, Social Security, Medicare, and food safety. Given that we can point out such instances of government intervention successfully expanding people's positive freedom, the onus is on libertarians to show how it results in tyranny, when all around us we can see that manifestly not happening.

The recent rise of libertarianism has seen young high achievers picking a political tribe that reflects their social values but hawkishly protects their economic interests, and, crucially, allows them the luxury of a consistent theoretical superstructure that can defend these values and interests and provide simple answers to social problems. It appeals to smart successful people because they do think things through, and so are liable to be plagued by the dilemmas that the world's problems throw up. Unlike traditional conservatives, they can't just ignore them or believe God moves in mysterious ways; they need some way of settling these nagging issues - and libertarianism does the job wonderfully; it answers all the questions systematically by reference to a simple and consistent theoretical framework. You pop the problem question in one end and the machine relates the problem to the value system and provides an answer -an answer guaranteed to come with no price tag. And all of a sudden it's a very easy world to navigate, because you simply wipe away any questions of social justice, inequality, class, social mobility, social closure, ingrained poverty; anything that requires any kind of government intervention. Any such questions are null and void because government intervention is Wrong In Itself, because it contravenes their one-dimensional conception of freedom. Libertarianism permits black and white thinking, and is very satisfying to someone who would rather get on with being successful and not have to feel bad about inequality. I myself have tasted the allure of the libertarian mindset, and it sure is tasty. Libertarianism is basically consistent; starting from such simple principles it's not difficult to be, and that consistency is very appealing. But just because something is consistent doesn't make it true, helpful, useful, practical or ethical. And a purely negative conception of freedom is none of those things. It's a cop-out.

Robert Nozick, who held a God-like status amongst libertarians, having written the fearsome tome 'Anarchy, State and Utopia', the libertarian bible with its declaration that taxation is akin to slavery, in the last decade of his life pretty much reneged on it, basically saying it was all horseshit and John Rawls was right.

For more on the ethical poverty of libertarianism, read this

Thanks to Brother Sean and Alex B.P. for their input on this piece.

For some light relief: this fun, informative and surprisingly plausible Dubstep Family Tree from Mixmag!

Update: I've finally updated the blogroll on the right; if you think you should be up there and you're not, or you've moved your site or something, let me know and i'll add it or update it. If you have an interesting blog or site and think you should be up there, get in  touch. It's a bit random; for instance there are loads of good political blogs but listing all of them would take ages, and many of them are well known, so I just include ones I've had some kind of connection with. All the blogs on the right are interesting and well-written.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The driving force behind the encroaching police state is political ambition

The future will not be this cool

"We've now discovered that within the next year or so the US department of homeland security plans to deploy a new laser-based molecular scanner fired from 50 metres away which will instantly reveal an astonishing level of detail not only about your body, clothes and luggage but also about the contents of your wallet and even of your intestines. It's claimed that the technology can identify traces of drugs on banknotes, gunpowder on your clothes and even what you had for breakfast, the adrenaline level in your body and substances in your urine. And all of this information can be collected without even touching you – and without your knowledge....although the first deployments of the technology will be in airports, it will only be a matter of time until it is in police cars" Read more from

"You will be sent to jail for refusing to give up encryption keys, regardless of whether you have them or not. Five years of jail if it’s a terrorism investigation (or child porn, apparently), two years otherwise. It’s fascinating – there are four excuses that keep coming back for every single dismantling of democracy. It’s terrorism, child porn, file sharing, and organized crime. You cannot fight these by dismantling civil liberties – they’re just used as convenient excuses. But it’s worse than that. Much worse. You’re not juzt going to be sent to jail for refusal to give up encryption keys. You’re going to be sent to jail for an inability to unlock something that the police think is encrypted. Yes, this is where the hairs rise on our arms: if you have a recorded file with radio noise from the local telescope that you use for generation of random numbers, and the police asks you to produce the decryption key to show them the three documents inside the encrypted container that your radio noise looks like, you will be sent to jail for up to five years for your inability to produce the imagined documents." Read more from

Another day, another erosion of civil liberties. This is not the hysterical reaction of an uptight libertarian. It is reality. The perceived threat of terrorism is used to defend any kind of new law. How far should we go to make people safe from danger? If we want to make a person completely safe, we can lock them in a heavily fortified nuclear bunker with enough food, water, oxygen and medical supplies to last a lifetime. They will be completely safe from the dangers posed by others. But they will not be safe from the madness of cabin fever and the humiliation of constraint. They will have no meaningful existence. This little thought experiment obviously shows us that safety must somehow be balanced with liberty. But governments don't care for philosophical arguments. The real reason that they exploit every possible technology and pass every law that proposes to make us safe from terrorism is not primarily because they want to make us safe. They don't sit there weighing the benefits of safety against the erosion of civil liberties. Their chief consideration is safeguarding their own public image. Governments are paranoid about being accused of failing to defend the public against a terrorist attack. They are not paranoid about being accused of failing to protect our civil liberties, because only a small minority of people make any noise about this. So the march towards a police state goes on, powered by political ambition, self-preservation and moral cowardice.

I applauded David Davis for resigning from the shadow cabinet in 2008 in order to force a by-election in his seat, for which he won re-election ostensibly by mounting a specific campaign designed to provoke wider public debate about the erosion of civil liberties. Whether he was re-elected by people who care about civil liberties or simply by Tory voters in a safe Tory seat is unknown. Cynics argue that this was a stunt to increase public exposure, Davis playing the long game, an eye on the Tory crown. There is a similar question of whether the proposed ID cards scheme was jettisoned as a requirement of the Lib Dems coalition pact with the Tories, or just because it was proving to be too costly. But I'm inclined to believe Davis. He is a Right-wing Tory with whom I share few political convictions but there has always been a strain of consistent libertarians in the Tory party who care about big government snooping and civil liberties as much as they do about free trade and low taxes, and Davis belongs in this tradition. It's a remote but precious patch of common ground that those of us on the libertarian Left share with the libertarian Right. We castigate them for failing to recognise the oppresive nature of buccaneer capitalism (although avowedly conservative commentators Peter Oborne, Charles Moore and others have recently made surprisingly sympathetic noises in this regard) but we must applaud them for their willingness to confront the encroaching police state. We are the most surveilled people in the world, with more CCTV cameras per person than any other country. The right to peaceful protest, the right to remain silent, the right to free expression -these and many others have been stamped on over the last two decades, and there seems to be nothing we can do about it. Now that the right to protest has been curtailed -all in the name of security- we can't even protest against it. My fears for the future of my country are not dystopian pipe dreams. They are plausible outcomes of processes that are already in action. The political class has a systemic fear of accusations of failing to protect the public from terrorism. Such accusations can lose them elections. Being perceived to have lost control of the streets is a definitive vote loser. They will do absolutely anything to safeguard against this. They are not protecting us, they are protecting themselves.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Populist Incoherence Ltd: "I'm a working class solid boy, me"

Why is John Lydon still given air time? The same tired soapbox of yore, the same drivel, the same pseudo-anarchy, the same lack of point. On a recent BBC Four documentary he trotted out the received line on New Wave, pouring stock ready-mix scorn on The Police, accusing Sting of being interested in money, of being less than a gentle Buddhist “...when there's a dollar in it!”, nudging, winking, nodding, grinning, eyes bulging, pantomime Dame played by tedious pub boor. Yes, we got the clever-stupid act when you did it the first time. You're not nineteen any more man, grow up. PIL made some good records, and to be fair, musicians generally make more sense on record than they do in person, but he does insist on being a social commentator so he should be judged with the same degree of rigour as any other pundit. The man's an embarrassment.

On Question Time he scored easy brownie points by railing against the political class as a whole then lost them by ranting over members of the audience. He hopes to be seen as impish but he's merely rude and incoherent. He likes the idea of being an agent provocateur, a malcontent, a mischief maker, an eternal stick in the craw of the establishment. His responses are always framed to show how he's a bit different, you see. Bit of an individual.
“I'm not speaking as a middle class twat from Tring here, I'm from Finsbury Park, I'm a working class solid boy, me”. And there it is, it had to come out at some point. Kept in the back pocket for ready access like a schoolboy with a catapult: populist class-war dick-sizing . It just made him seem desperately old fashioned. Which he always was. Recall that this is the man who described Human League as 'trendy hippies'. This great revolutionary was a reactionary, brandishing the establishment musician's tool of choice, the guitar, against the innovation and limitless potential of the synthesizer.

Unbelievably, and it makes me almost physically sick to admit it, it was a relief to listen to the odious Louise Mensch. At least she waits her turn.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Recent Me Thing One, Two, Three


Recent Me Thing One - Guardian Music Weekly Podcast

Interviewed by the charming Michael Hann with a remit to discuss five of my favourite English songwriters, I chose Sonic Boom, Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny, Duncan Fleming (War Against Sleep), and Trish Keenan & James Cargill (Broadcast).

This exercise in self-indulgence was so much fun it felt wrong, with Michael expertly navigating my myriad digressions, making me appear more coherent than I am. So if twenty minutes of my glottal bleatings sounds like your idea of fun, knock yourself out here.

Recent Me Thing Two - “Whale Bone Clues: The Quietus Interviews Gravenhurst”

Also online now is a print interview with Pavel Godfrey for The Quietus. Conducted over Skype and clocking in at over 100 minutes, Pavel chose to simply transcribe the whole conversation, a format I often prefer. Whilst many great interviews are presented in the context of a background story with the conversation revealed through a narrative arc, doing so introduces the hazards of misquotation through recontextualisation. A stilted interview with a shy artist can make recontextualisation necessary in order to create a good feature, but our conversation took on its own narrative arc and dynamic, because Pavel’s questions were very interesting, and I can talk the hind legs off a fucking donkey. It’s the longest and most in-depth interview I’ve done, and we came away feeling there was much more we could have covered. It only ended because my mum told me to stop showing off and come in for my tea.

WITNESS - $20,000 in 20 days celebrating 20 years

I’m delighted to say that the new WITNESS campaign video features ‘Black Holes In The Sand’ as its soundtrack. Check it out here and then go here to check out their incredible campaigns and films. | For 20 years, WITNESS has been empowering activists to expose human rights abuse through video. Together, we have seen men, women and children speak out about the injustices they have experienced, filmed their stories to share with the world, and changed lives.

WITNESS' new video reflects on 20 years of exposing the truth, one video at a time.
Help raise $20,000 by June 20th to keep cameras focused on creating human rights change.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Album release day

So today is the big day – album release day. And what better way to celebrate the release of The Ghost In Daylight than to go out and buy it. It's available on gatefold CD, gatefold vinyl (with download code), and digital download. I personally believe that it is best appreciated sat in front of a strobe light in a windowless room accompanied by a glass of cheap sherry and a bottle of amyl nitrate.
Available worldwide from all good stores. Here's a brief selection of purchase links:
Rise, Piccadilly, Bleep, iTunes, Amazon
There has been some rather nice press coverage, with my personal favourite being “It's a real grave fave!” 8/10 - The Daily Star. Here is a selection of quotes.
"Warp's unsung genius delivers (a) mellow masterpiece... evocative of Nick Drake's understated English melancholia and the lush, moody atmospherics of late-'70s Brian Eno. An exquisite, unexpected gem" - Q ★★★★
“Terrific, understated songs with a church-like serenity... Talbot is one of music's best kept secrets” - The Guardian ★★★★
"A special album" - Stool Pigeon ★★★★
"Stunning" - Artrocker ★★★★★
“Seriously wonderful” – Lauren Laverne, BBC 6 Music
"Possibly Britain's most underrated singer/songwriter" - Telegraph ★★★★
“A truly unsettling heart of darkness...Talbot has created a uniquely potent blend of icy chill and soothing balm, and with it that rarest of things: totally cliché-dodging songwriting” - The Line Of Best Fit
"The Ghost in Daylight is a memory-haunted journey through the dead voices and deep narratives of Englands lost - broadside ballads culled from earth and air" - Mojo
"Il mêle à l’extrême délicatesse de ses compositions acoustiques dignes des grands maîtres du passé quelques touches électriques et électroniques qui contribuent à les transfigurer. Tout ici respire l’équilibre et la cohérence." - Magic 5/6
"Nick Drake trifft My Bloody Valentine, Simon & Garfunkel treffen Brian Eno – Talbot hat eine sehr gute Platte gemacht." - Rolling Stone 4/5
“A masterclass in restraint and subtlety... songs initially appear to be gentle, rueful folk ballads on cursory listen but a decent pair of headphones reveals deep pools of shimmering reverb and a submarine world of echo. These are still audio waters containing complex depths worth diving into, revisiting, pondering over, dwelling over, dwelling in.” - The Quietus
The Quietus review, written by John Doran is worth reading in full. You can do that here:
Mr. Doran is an exceptionally good writer, and because of his analytical skills and the depths they take him to, the result is a review that was rather difficult to pull pithy quotes from. It was written to be digested, not dissected.
Plus new France show added
The historic Cecil Sharp House in London will be the venue for this show on Wednesday 26th September, which we have added because the St.Pancras Old Church and Lexington gigs sold out so quickly. This is our biggest UK headline show to date, and like all future shows, unless otherwise stated, this will be a Gravenhurst Ensemble show, consisting of me, Rachel Lancaster and Claire Adams. Tickets on sale now
We've added a date in Toulouse after a band contacted us through Facebook and requested our presence in their great city. Monday 28 May at Saint de Seins, Toulouse.
Full list of live dates and ticket links here
There are a few copies left of the limited white and silver marbled 10” of The Prize. You can buy them from Bleep, Rough Trade, or Rise
The Prize is backed with a cover of Tim Buckley's Song To The Siren, which features a Cor Anglais solo played through a ventilation shaft above a sonic drum used to vibrate chicken carcasses, producing mechanically recovered meat for tasty pies, pasties and dog food. Which naturally brings us to...
Director Jenny Coan's bewitching video for The Prize was premièred on the Arts Desk website where you can read a write up about it that I wrote (how about that for an elegant compound sentence):
Also available on YouTube
The New Gravenhurst Ensemble played live on the Lauren Laverne show on BBC 6 Music on Wednesday 25th of this month. “The Ghost Of Saint Paul” and “The Prize” were performed live and “The Foundry” was pre-recorded for broadcast later, possibly on another show; we are trying to track this down at the moment. You can listen again here.
Yours sincerely,
Nicholas Talbot

Dear Mr. Skeleton...

Dear Mr. Skeleton,

Are there going to be any more episodes of Ultraskull? I would like it if there were.



Dear Dominininininic,

Thank you for your interest in Ultraskull. Mr. Skeleton is no longer the editor of Ultraskull; he was forced to leave two years ago after obscenity charges were filed against him in relation to one of his other publications, "Young and Hairy". Although the charges were quashed, the Ultraskull comittee felt that in the current moral climate, hounding an innocent man out of his job because of completely unfounded allegations was the only right thing to do.
The editor's position was quickly filled by Greg, assuming a caretaker role until a permanent replacement was found. However, Greg had to leave due to an unexpectedly long hospital stay. We were walking along a canal and he fell in, the silly billy. He can't swim, and I did my best to save him, but the current was too strong for me to reach him. I tried to throw out a long branch for him to hold onto, but in his confusion and panic, he allowed his head to collide with it. I threw him another, but again, he hit himself on the head with it. I found a rope and threw that out to him, but he somehow managed to get that wrapped around his throat, with the other end somehow tethered to a cement block. Luckily an Olympic swimmer was walking by, and he did what I valiantly tried but sadly failed to do. Greg was pulled to safety, but not before he had inhaled several pints of effluent. He was taken swiftly to intensive care where he was pronounced comatose. I stayed with him 24 hours a day, praying for him, reading to him, and just hoping for a sign, any sign. After a few days he responded to several cues, but somehow his life support system got switched off. He is now back in a coma, but the doctors say there is still hope. I am writing this at his bedside. There is still hope Greg. I'll never stop hoping Greg. Be strong.
Anyway, while all that shit was going on, Greg's bank manager tracked me down and started hounding me for cash. Because Greg doesn't have any family, I've ended up being his next of kin, and thereby the 'default guarantor' for his rent payments, bank charges, phone bills and whatever else the daft cunt signed up to. Meanwhile, I had no choice but to assume the editorship, moving from the small stipend awarded to bit-part characters, to an annual salary with a generous benefits package. Under my stewardship Ultraskull will be transformed from a grubby little rag into a monthly A4 format glossy lifestyle magazine, combining news features and reviews with sections dedicated to luxury items, investments and men's fashion. I anticipate that the first of the new look Ultraskull will be out some point in the next decade.
Thank you for your interest in Ultraskull.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Stickman & Greg

Really, really big typefaces coming at you full-on since 1999!

In lieu of a purposeful and thoughtfully crafted blog entry, here's the latest Gravenhurst newsletter.  I haven't had time to write much else lately due to gigs and promo commitments, but this just about passes for creativity. When I started this blog I was commited to keeping it completely separate from my day job, by not writing about music or anything Gravenhurst related. I honestly cannot remember the motivation for my staunch commitment to this policy, so I see no reason to maintain it. I write news letters more regularly than I blog, and there is good reason for me to increase my web presence so here we are.

Hey all you hipsters, hip-hoppers, mods, rockers, beatniks and biker chicks!*
*No Goths
Live action
Sustained campaign across Belgium, France and Germany: the following cities will see a visit from the New Gravenhurst Ensemble, an electro-acoustic trio consisting of me on guitar and vocals, Rachel Lancaster on bass, keyboard and vocals, and Claire Adams on percussion and vocals. Rachel plays in the bands Silver Fox, Chippewa Falls and Me And The Twins, and also performs as a solo artist. By day she is a visual artist. Claire plays in the band Beards and D'Astro. By day she runs a private security firm, offering a range of door services to pubs and clubs, from 'firm but friendly' to 'aggressive and intimidating', and has practically the whole of the North East sewn up.
Sat 12 May, LAVAL, FR – Le festival Les 3 éléphants
Tickets here
Sun 20 May, GENT, BE – Duyster 500 night @ DOKarena
Gravenhurst + Amatorski + Lanterns On The Lake
Tickets here
Mon 21 May, BRUSSELS, BE – Nuits Botanique (Rotonde)
Tickets here
Thu 24 May, LYON, FR – Epicerie Moderne
Tickets here
Sat 26 May, MARSEILLE, FR – Le Poste a Galene
Tickets here
Tue 29 May, BORDEAUX, FR – I Boat
Tickets here
Wed 30 May, TOURCOING, FR – Le Grand Mix
Gravenhurst + Sleepy Sun (US) + Siskiyou (Canada)
Tickets here
Sat 23 June, FRANKFURT, DE – LÜFTEN Mouson Arts & Music Festival
Tickets here
Sun 24 June, KÖLN, DE – Gebäude 9
Tickets here
Mon 25 June, BERLIN, DE – Comet Club
Tickets here
Sat 25 August, HANNOVER, DE – BootBooHook Festival
Tickets here
Lauren Laverne Session
The New Gravenhurst Ensemble played live on the Lauren Laverne show on BBC 6 Music this Wednesday 25th April from 11.30am. Tune in, lie back, relax, crash the car. Two tracks went out live and third was pre-recorded for broadcast later.
Ultraskull: 100% in Print! Free and available from all good indie record shops
While Ultraskull has now been planted firmly back online at following our successful appeal to the European Court Of Human Rights in Strasbourg, yet another writ has been issued, this time from an individual who claims that the character Stickman from comic duo Stickman & Greg is based on him, and is suing us for unpaid royalties and, puzzlingly, defamation of character. While this nonsense plays itself out, we have printed up a Best Of Ultraskull, consisting of an A5 format zine which folds out into an A2 poster of The Ghost In Daylight album artwork. The zine is free and available now from all good indie record shops. The first 10 people to tweet the link to Ultraskull online will receive a copy in the mail, signed by all the featured characters. Grab your ankles, it's kingdom time!
Love to love you baby,

Monday, January 02, 2012

Winterbrass - Jason Tyndall

The Bureaucrat

"Below their message

Containing me under my office
He, 'neath those supplies used to stress it
Me in his office"

-from "Winterbrass", the new poetry collection from Jason Tyndall.

"Tyndall marvels and winces at our despair; his dispatches are humane, generous and quietly furious"
Publisher's Weekly 
"Elegant complexity or exhaustive simplicity? Tyndall is the later-Wittgenstein of modern verse; of that which we cannot speak, we must allow Jason Tyndall to say it for us"
"An unfashionably honest howl of raw refusal; a refusal to accept the solipsism of modernity, a refusal to accept its ironical vanities, a refusal to accept acceptance. We are sleep-walking through a waking dream, Tyndall says, and instead of taking pot-shots at the Sandman we must place Morpheus square in the cross-hairs. But - he whispers - what if we miss?"
Kendall Murray, Literary Review
"Tyndall speaks with a tongue that has licked the moon, kissed the stars and sucked the very heat from the sun. Muscular and fearless, he goes about his work with a deeply moral fervour."
Times Literary Supplement
"Through a kind of liturgical necromancy he digs up urban horrors, reanimates them as pastoral idylls, and invites us all to blow his horn of plenty"
Jason Tyndall, yesterday

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