SL027 littlebow Pi Magpie • ORDER HERE

littlebow, the London-based duo of multi-instrumentalists Katie English and Keiron Phelan, first broke ground in 2011 with their debut album on Second Language, The Edge Blown Aerophone – its title an explicit reference to the varied flutes and woodwinds which characterized the record, alongside vestigial flavours of classical minimalism, Krautrock and a soupcon of esoteric, pastoral prog-rock.

Having established their template, Pi Magpie sees littlebow expanding their brief considerably – their signature flutes now part of a broader sonic palate in which tremulous keyboards, spidery guitars, cyclical drums and sonorous Eastern percussion ebb and flow with equal consequence.

The title Pi Magpie is apt, denoting as it does, the notion of ‘intelligent, mischievous theft’, thus indicating littlebow’s appropriation and synthesis of numerous musical styles. Not that this is an album merely of postmodern collage: palpable human warmth, generous melody and a jazzy freedom of expression are the true hallmarks of Pi Magpie. So, even as ‘For the Song’ evokes Philip Glass gone be-bop, the up-tempo ‘Devil’s Interval’ summons Zuckerzeit-period Cluster, ‘Part Time Blind’ suggests breezy quasi-‘60s instrumental exotica and ‘Hosianna Raft’ recalls the sun kissed optimism of Can’s Future Days, this remains first and foremost music predicated on originality, seductive timbre and timeless art-pop accessibility. Which remains the case even when you learn that ‘Pin Point Night’ is based squarely on Stravinsky harmonies, or that all of the album’s bass parts are played on duo pizzicato cellos and structured on complex gamelan rhythms – Katie English being a regular performer in London gamelan orchestras.

Indeed, both Katie and Keiron are practiced luminaries of leftfield music – the former in her much-vaunted, Home Normal championed, guise as electronic sound sculptor Isnaj Dui and a host of recondite collaborations including Hybernation, Memory Drawings and The Doomed Bird Of Providence, the latter as co-founder of cult Millennial post-rockers State River Widening and critically lauded joint-originator of albums for the likes of Leaf and Static Caravan as Phelan/Sheppard and Smile Down Upon Us. They currently play principal roles in the Orla Wren sound art collective.

The antithesis of bucolic, faux-romantic, post-ambient noodle, Pi Magpie is a crucible of innovation and charm, deliberately glinting with urban textures, delivered by musicians with street smarts. As Keiron puts it, “We’re city people, and I think the music reflects that. Our green spaces are surrounded by speeding traffic – and the Magpie is a bird of urban stripe…”

Pi Magpie comes packaged as a 8 panel concertina sleeve with artwork by Malcolm English and design by Jonathan Lees.

BONUS DISC SOLD OUT Second Language subscribers will also receive a bonus disc, Five White Feathers, featuring 5 remixes of tracks from the album by Memory Drawings, Oliver Cherer, Thaiseeds, USRNM and Weave.

Tracklisting :

1. Pi Mapie
2. The Devil’s Interval
3. For The Song
4. Wearside Rat Catcher
5. Hosianna Raft
6. Joe Caligula
7. How The Moon Got Its Light
8. Part Time Blind
9. The Pin Point Night
10. Faking Halos



Listen to ‘The Devil's Interval‘ from the album here :



Littlebow 'Pi Magpie' influences and inspirations by Secondlanguagemusic on Mixcloud

Katie English and Keiron Phelan of littlebow share some of the tracks that influenced their new album, Pi Magpie (out now on Second Language).

Cantata Pt.1: Stravinsky
Gong Acid: Squarepusher
‘The Murderer’s Home/Shimmy She Wobble’: Otha Turner and The Rising Star Fife and Drum Band
Safety at Sea: Doomed Bird of Providence
The Ipcress File (Theme): John Barry
Moon Cup: Yusef Latif
Mystery Lights Pt.1: Clive Bell and David Ross
Hologram: These New Puritans
Future Days: Can
In 3’s: Beastie Boys
Moon on the Land: Dirty Three
Voyage Migrateur: Emmanuelle Parrenin

Cantata Pt.1: Stravinsky
We tried to get some elements of Stravinsky’s harmonies into the album and, hopefully, we succeeded. So, this is just a very nice piece of Stravinsky. (KP)

Gong Acid: Squarepusher
Many of the tracks on Pi Magpie feature Gamelan gong kebyar rhythmic patterns. Although this piece is not traditional, it nicely sums up the ethos of taking these instruments out of their usual context. (KE)

‘The Murderer’s Home/Shimmy She Wobble’: Otha Turner and The Rising Star Fife and Drum Band
I’ve always loved the combination of flutes and drums. It’s simultaneously stirring yet somehow louche (and very important to the littlebow sound). This is a particularly fine example of that effect, used by Scorsese in ‘Gangs Of New York’. (KP)

Safety at Sea: Doomed Bird of Providence
It was while I was recording with Doomed Bird of Providence and working on the Long Division With Remainders series that I started exploring the high-pitched dissonance that fed into ‘Pin Point Night’. Between us we play in a few bands and these often feed into our work as littlebow. (KE)

The Ipcress File (Theme): John Barry
I occasionally construct silly back stories for our pieces of music. ‘Joe Caligula’, for example, is the theme tune to an imaginary New York 1970’s Private Investigator of Italian descent and dubious reputation. So much for that, but wherever great drama theme tunes are, flutes are rarely far away. This is a particularly nice example; flutes creeping in as sleekly and patiently as cats. (KP)

Moon Cup: Yusef Latif
I love the disparate nature of Yusef Latif’s work, it’s all over the place yet somehow remains cohesive. As a duo, littlebow start getting twitchy if we stay in the same place for too long so I felt this was a suitably twitchy piece. (KE)

Mystery Lights Pt.1: Clive Bell and David Ross / Voyage Migrateur: Emmanuelle Parrenin
These pieces are here for the same reason. I occasionally feel that we’re slightly alone in what we do, flute based bands being a rarity. These make me feel that we’re part of a substantial and ongoing tradition. Clive Bell is a Jazzer with a remarkable collection of Oriental flutes. I love the way he makes his instrument ‘vocalise’ and he’s got a real sense of when to leave space. Emmanuelle Parrenin’s slender catalogue seems to be adored by half the people that I know and this was first played to me by Second Language’s own Glen Johnson. It’s got a wonderful circularity and splendid touches of dissonance, qualities held in high regard at littlebow command. (KP)

Hologram: These New Puritans
With Pi Magpie we had fun exploring awkward rhythms and repetition of motifs. Personally I find the off-beat piano stabs and militaristic drums of ‘Hologram’ against the gentler woodwind and brass work so well, I hope we have captured something similar in what we do. (KE)

Future Days: Can
It’s probably rather pointless ‘going after’ Can in terms of actual music, as they really were a one off. However, I do think it’s worth looking to them for atmospheric pointers. Most of the bands that I’ve heard try this tend to go for Can’s funkier and darker side but, with ‘Hosianna Raft’, ‘Faking Halos’ and ‘Pi Magpie’ (on the album) we were very much informed by the sunlit optimism of ‘Future Days’. I also nicked the heavily vibrated organ sound that Irmin Schmit uses here, wholesale on ‘Pi Magpie’. So, I thought I ought to give an appropriate nod. (KP)

In 3’s: Beastie Boys
I’ve always been a big fan of Beastie Boys, particularly their instrumental work. The awkward rhythmic qualities and repetition of ‘In 3’s’ make it a particular favourite. (KE)

Moon on the Land: Dirty Three
Warren Ellis is a big inspiration to me. To have such control and musicianship over what he plays, while at the same time completely letting go is such a rarity. Along with Mick Turner’s superb guitar playing and Jim White’s sensitive yet gutsy drumming they really are a force to be reckoned with. (KE)


Watch Helen Smith's video for 'How The Moon Got Its Light' here :

How the Moon Got Its Light from Helen Smith on Vimeo.

Watch Mark Kuykendall's splendidly choregraphed video for Joe Caligula from Pi Magpie:

Littlebow - Joe Caligula from The New Honey Shade on Vimeo.