On the surface, 2022 was one of Second Language's quieter years. We released 'Isotech,' the new album by Future Conditional, originally conceived by former Piano Magic members, Glen Johnson and Cédric Pin, back in 2007! Acclaimed by Electronic Sound magazine as "a truly special record - closer to flawless than anything I've heard in a long time," 'Isotech' hosts very special guest appearances by Mücha. Bobby Wratten (formerly of The Field Mice/Trembling Blue Stars/Northern Picture Library and now Lightning In A Twilight Hour), Beth Arzy (formerly of Aberdeen and Trembling Blue Stars; now of Jetstream Pony and The Luxembourg Signal), Josh Cowey, Lidija and Franck Alba (also formerly of Piano Magic). More about 'Isotech' on our Bandcamp page here, where you can also listen to the songs : futureconditional.bandcamp.com/album/isotech
With the help of Bandcamp and the generosity of pledgers, we also finally managed to realise our dream of releasing Piano Magic's 'The Troubled Sleep Of Piano Magic' on double vinyl. Originally only available on CD and release in 2003, 'The Troubled Sleep' has undergone a superb design make-over by Martin Andersen/Andersen M Studio. Find out more on Discogs : www.discogs.com
Behind the scenes, we were finalising new records, due for release in 2023. Quality, not quantity has become our de facto maxim of late. These things take time! Happy New Year!
HOLDING HANDS IN THE DARK - A SECOND LANGUAGE CONFLUENCE OUT NOW
A new compilation from Second Language aims to build new bridges between the UK and Europe to replace those burnt by Brexit. The players here come mainly from the UK and France and we have all known of each other previously, listened to each other’s music, collaborated or simply admired from a distance. Contributors include French nationals, like the guitarist, Franck Alba and composer, Angèle David-Guillou (both formerly of the Anglo-French group, Piano Magic), long-since stationed in London. Snowdrops, the French chamber duo of Mathieu Gabry and Christine Ott, stunned us all with their 2020 debut album, ‘Volutes.’ Marc Namblard, no stranger to Second Language, is a field recordist based in northeastern France. The artist and songwriter, Mark Fry, splits his time between London and Normandy. Antony Ryan, one half of ISAN and aka Mugwood, is a Brit who has been living and working, longtime, as a mastering engineer in Denmark. On this side of La Manche, the composer, author and artist, Matthew Shaw, who has worked with, amongst others, folk doyenne, Shirley Collins and The Pop Group. David Rothon is a multi-instrumentalist with recent highly-acclaimed albums on the excellent Clay Pipe label. The North London-based group, The Leaf Library, make “Drone pop songs about buildings and the weather.” Amanda Butterworth, as Mücha, makes fine, ethereal electronica and Oliver Cherer (Gilroy Mere/Dollboy) should be familiar to anyone who’s followed the Second Language trail to here. Hilary Robinson, a London composer, here evokes nostalgia for her one-time adopted home of Finland.
‘Holding Hands In The Dark,’ comes as a 6 panel softpack designed by Maria Makripoulias (M) and includes a bonus disc, ‘Le Bout De Monde,’ a collaboration between Glen Johnson, David Rothon and Marc Namblard. The first 300 copies also come with 4 specially-designed postage stamps.
Order 'Holding Hands In The Dark' from our Bandcamp page here :
PIANO MAGIC 'WRITERS WITHOUT HOMES' FIRST TIME ON VINYL • ORDER HERE
Originally released on CD only by 4AD Records in 2002, Second Language are delighted to announce the first ever vinyl pressing of Piano Magic's 'Writers Without Homes.' The album features special guests John Grant, Vashti Bunyan, Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins), Tarwater, Robert Johnston (Life Without Buildings), Paul Anderson (Tram), Suzy Mangion, Charlotte Marionneau (Le Volume Courbe) and the Spanish film director, Bigas Luna. Beautifully redesigned by Martin Andersen/Andersen M Studio (formerly of v23 alongside Vaughan Oliver and Chris Bigg), 'Writers Without Homes' is out 7th May and available to pre-order now from our Bandcamp : here.
SL042 VARIOUS ARTISTS Drifts & Flurries - A Second Language Collectanea • OUT NOW • ORDER HERE
This one has been a long time coming. In 2014, debut album in the can, Silver Servants, a loose collective of Second Language artists, commenced work on a Winter-themed recording. For one reason or another, what was meant to be one, gapless sonic tapestry, never made it to full fruition but you can hear the fruits it did produce, here on ‘Drifts & Flurries.’ With the creative success of the ‘Avenue With Trees’ album, we decided to take those Silver Servants tracks as a starting point for a new compilation, inviting old ghosts and new friends to contribute.
Mark Brend aka Ghostwriter, was one of the very first artists to release something on Second Language – ‘The Continuing Adventures Of The Strange Sound Association' album, came out in 2010, when we were less than a year old. His specially-commissioned work here forms pillars throughout this record, accompanied by Katie English (Isnaj Dui, Littlebow, Silver Servants). The Declining Winter featured on our first ‘Music & Migration’ compilation from the same year. Here, in true ‘Servants style, they collaborate with Clay Pipe fellow, David Rothon and Glen Johnson, a Servant, himself.
ISAN first featured on a Second Language compilation in 2011, if only for a minute (‘Minute Papillon’). You can also find them on our second ‘Music & Migration’ compilation and the duo’s Robin Saville released his solo album, ‘Public Flowers,’ on the label in 2013.
Oliver Cherer (in his Dollboy guise) was also an early 2L attendee. He’s omnipresent here, voicing Ghostwriter tracks, moonlighting as a Silver Servant and offering an icy take on Nico’s ‘Frozen Warnings.’ Newer to our fold are the London-based Japanese composer, Yumi Mashiki and Paul Tornbohm’s Alter Later project, voiced here (on a splendid Yazoo cover) by Amanda Butterworth of Mücha. The French field recordist, Marc Namblard, exposes the secret sounds of frozen lakes, Scot electronicists P60 team up with Finnish guitarist, J. Luneburg for a secular dance and Sea Glass, formed from the ribs of The Leaf Library and Firestations, take on Movietone’s ‘Blank Like Snow.’ David Rothon offers a beautiful paean to the Welsh hill and battleground, Bryn Glas.
‘Drifts & Flurries’ comes in a hand-assembled/die-cut 4 panel digipak with an 8cm, 16 minute+ bonus disc, ‘The Frosted Pane’ by Glen Johnson/Raisa Zapryanova, whilst stocks last.
Listen to ‘Winter Kills’ below.
‘AVENUE WITH TREES - A SECOND LANGUAGE CORNUCOPIA’ OUT NOW (15/8/20) • ORDER HERE
We’re slightly beside ourselves to announce the release of our new Various Artists compilation, ‘Avenue With Trees – A Second Language cornucopia. ’Avenue With Trees’ is partly a paean to the eclecticism of those pioneering bespoke indie labels, amongst them, Les Disques du Crépuscule, Factory Benelux and Sordide Sentimental, whose early 80’s V/A compilations were not only unpredictable but equally cohesive and inspiring.
Here you will find, amongst other things, an intricate, Durutti-esque guitar lesson from Franck Alba, Oliver Cherer’s sea-salted melancholia, Snow Palms’ David Sheppard’s glinting electronics and crystalline glocks, Paul Tornbohm wearing a multitude of compositional chapeaus, Yumi Mashiki’s beautiful scoring, the impressive debut of Jean Lancaster, a new Second Language “supergroup,” Statues In Fog (an album is to follow) and much, much more.
‘Avenue With Trees’ comes in a 6 panel, die-cut concertina format, conceived by Glen Johnson with layout by Jeff Teader. Initial copies are accompanied by a 7 track bonus disc of synchronous recordings, ‘Secondaries.’
You can order the album directly from Bandcamp here.
This is SL040.
Listen to the opening track, ‘Frédéric,’ by Franck Alba, here :
Second Language Fluent In Music 2020 Tote Bag
Whilst stocks last, the limited edition Second Language ‘Fluent In Music’ tote bag!
Screen Printed Tote Bag
Black print on 100% natural cotton fabric
Tote bag dimensions are 380mm wide x 410mm deep.
The top of the bag to the apex of the handle measures 380mm.
Order below. All prices include shipping.
Any questions, please email : email@example.com
TEXTILE RANCH 'TOMBOLA' AVAILABLE DIGITALLY FOR THE FIRST TIME
On Friday, 5th June 2020, Textile Ranch be releasing all *52* tracks from his 2009 Second Language debut album, 'Tombola' via Bandcamp. This will be the first time these tracks have been available digitally (only 50 physical copies were made at the time) and they'll retail for a minimal £20 (though purchasers are encouraged to pay more if they so choose).
'Tombola' was the first release on Second Language and the generous donations from fans did much to kickstart the fledgling label. The collection includes the previously unheard 16 minute 'Insect Song' and the even longer 'Ice Song.' For full info/to buy, go to : https://textileranch.bandcamp.com/
‘OMBILICAL’ THE NEW ALBUM BY TEXTILE RANCH, AVAILABLE NOW • ORDER HERE
Second Language is delighted to announce the release of a new album by label founder and ex-Piano Magician Glen Johnson under his Textile Ranch moniker.
‘Ombilical,’ (French for ‘umbilical’ no less) could be considered an exercise in, literally, navel-gazing, as it finds Johnson far removed from the introspective guitar-led songsmithery of his former group, Piano Magic and immersed in his love of electronic composition.
Originally intended for release in 2018 and then again in 2019 (the letter-pressed sleeves bear either year accordingly), unhappy with the results, Johnson junked at least 2 prior versions of the album before settling on the enclosed. Guests here include Amanda Butterworth (aka Mücha), Oliver Cherer (Dollboy/Gilroy Mere), Ola Szmidt and Franck Alba (ex-Piano Magic).
‘Ombilical’ comes as an Arigato Pak, courtesy of Stumptown Printers, Oregon, letter-pressed by New North Press, London. Initial copies are accompanied by a 10 track bonus disc of synchronous recordings, ‘Prostheses.’
You can order the album directly from Bandcamp here: https://textileranch.bandcamp.com/album/ombilical
This is SL038.
Listen to ‘Skeletons’ below.
'THE BURNING SKULL' THE NEW ALBUM BY CÉDRIC PIN / GLEN JOHNSON, OUT NOW (27/7/18) • ORDER HERE
Second Language Music are delighted to announce the release of a new album by Cédric Pin and Glen Johnson, both formerly of Piano Magic (and Future Conditional). 'The Burning Skull,’ out on July 27th, was recorded sporadically between 2013 and 2018, with Pin and Johnson initially swapping music files between their home studios in London and Alès, France; eventually adding the final touches in early 2018.
‘The Burning Skull’ comes as a 58 minute, 18 track CD in a debossed, gold foil blocked digipack. The first 200 (only) copies of the album also include a bonus cassette, 'Craquelure EP,' featuring two, exclusive, 20 minute bonus tracks : ‘Concatenazione Dei Spazi’ by Pin and ‘Set The Time Machine For Never’ by Johnson. The first 200 people to order will also receive an exclusive A5, signed and numbered print on Laid Tintoretto Gesso paper, based on an etching of a burning skull by Pin. Second Language subscribers will receive the release as part of their subscription package. Limited edition art prints by Pin are also available at their Bandcamp page : https://cedricpinglenjohnson.bandcamp.com/
ÁINE O'DWYER'S ANYTHING BRIGHT OR STARTLING? BACK IN STOCK • ORDER HERE (8/2/17)
Originally released on Second Language in 2013 and deleted since 2015, Áine O'Dwyer's much lauded 'Anything bright or startling?' CD album is now firmly back in stock. Blessed, on its release, with that rarest of things, a glowing full page review in The Wire magazine, 'Anything bright or startling?' is, in turns, mesmeric, crystalline, serpentine and immersive. The album comes in a gatefold hardback book-sized cardboard sleeve designed by Andersen M Studio. Áine is this month's Wire cover star (Feb 2017). Order the album here : http://www.secondlanguagemusic.com/subscriptions.html
'CLOSURE' THE FINAL ALBUM BY PIANO MAGIC, OUT NOW • ORDER HERE (20/1/17)
Piano Magic’s final album, ‘Closure,’ is out now courtesy of Second Language Music and available worldwide on CD, 180gm vinyl and digital download formats. The record marks the band’s 20th anniversary.
Recorded in London between April and August 2016, ‘Closure,’ features guest appearances from Peter Milton Walsh of The Apartments, Audrey Riley (go-to cellist for The Go-Betweens, Nick Cave, Virginia Astley and many more), Josh Hight (Irons) and Oliver Cherer (Dollboy). For this final album, the nucleus of Piano Magic was Glen Johnson, Jerome Tcherneyan, Franck Alba, Alasdair Steer and Paul Tornbohm. Cover photography for the album is by Martin Andersen/Andersen M Studio. All other photography by Nieves Mingueza. Layout by Jeff Teader. Concept by Glen Johnson.
‘Closure’ is available to order from all good retailers including :
Praise for ‘Closure’ :
“a gutsy conclusion with a characteristically indefinable collection guaranteed to please … recalls the art-rock of 4AD acts such as Pale Saints … Go-Betweens-style melancholy … intricate guitar lines recall Television’s”. – 8/10 UNCUT
“The group’s final album ranks with their best” 4 stars – MOJO
“As fitting endings go, it’s absolutely the kitten’s whiskers…” TERRASCOPE
“What a ceremony. What a lovely way to conclude a love story.” MAGIC RPM (FR)
“…an emotional fresco, a truly extraordinary farewell, worthy the class of a truly unique band.” Album Of The Month - ROCKERILLA (IT)
“...a matchless, masterful album..." SUBJECTIVISTEN (NL)
“A perfectly calm, spare yet quietly thrilling marriage of electronica, guitar and vocals. It may be the end but what a way to start 2017.” GOD IS IN THE TV
“A reliably contrarian, brutally honest and uncompromising human album…” DELUSIONS OF ADEQUACY
“What a way to bow out” 4 stars -THE SKINNY
“Broods like Brando hatching eggs. Their restrained angst will be missed.” PROG
“ As near perfect as any Piano Magic suite can be” MONOLITH COCKTAIL
“Smooth, finely crafted and very songwriterly affair (with echoes of Talk Talk, The Auteurs and Roy Harper)” THE WIRE
“These masters of dark wave have certainly left an indelible mark” 4 stars – Songwriting Mag
“Their final album finds them in rude artistic health. If you want to know what you’ve missed, Closure provides an excellent hint.” SHINDIG!
“Late, late in the day it seems Piano Magic have hit their high water mark. What a way to go out.” Norman Records
“This is to be the last album from this band but at the very least they’re going out on a high note.” 8/10 Americana-uk.com
“They’ve left it late but this deserves your attention” FLIPSIDE
Watch the videos for 'Exile' and 'Attention To Life' below.
OUT NOW SL035 Richard Moult Sjóraust • ORDER HERE (2/4/16)
Richard Moult is a composer, painter and poet based on the Outer Hebrides. He has had numerous solo works released over the past ten years alongside contributions to recordings by Alison O'Donnell, Raising Holy Sparks, Momick and Orchestra Noir. He also currently writes and records as a member of the Irish psych-folk collective United Bible Studies.
‘Sjóraust,' Richard's third album for Second Language, following on from 'Yclypt' (2012) and 'Celestial King For A Year' (2011), evokes the beautiful, remote, ancient islands off the west coast of mainland Scotland.
"When Glen asked me to record an album for Second Language documenting the landscapes of the Outer Hebrides, I initially spent a brief time walking the beaches where I live, thinking how best to approach this project. Eventually, as I looked out into the abyssal Atlantic, time dropped away, and all that then seemed to possess my consciousness was the voice of the sea ... From that moment on, I needed only that voice to dictate the music.
And so this six movement work was quickly born from the tides, the songs of birds, and the chants of the saints who lie beneath the machair. It was not only important to me that the Gaelic culture was represented in these pieces, but also that of the Norse peoples, who considerably shaped the face of these islands. Thus the "new" word "Sjóraust": a conjoining of two Old Norse words, meaning SeaVoice."
Sjóraust was recorded at Tur Chliamainn and Hùisinis, Isle Of Harris; Dail Mòr and Teampall Mholuaidh, Isle Of Lewis; Staffin, Isle Of Skye during Autumn 2015. The work contains texts from Carmina Gaedlica, the mathematical tract Rim II (after a description by Alfraganus), and the traditional Gaelic song Chuir iad mise dh'eilean leam fhìn.
‘Sjóraust' comes in a 4 panel reverse board Remus sleeve designed by Jeff Teader based on a painting of the same name by Richard.
1. Sjóraust I
2. Sjóraust II
3. Sjóraust III
4. Sjóraust IV
5. Sjóraust V
6. Sjóraust VI
SL034 Kristina Pulejkova/Glen Johnson - My Heart Has Run Out Of Breath • ORDER HERE
Kristina Pulejkova is a London-based Macedonian multimedia artist whose works engage with science. In her art pieces, she builds a subjective narrative taken from principles and data from science fields such as astronomy, physics, geography and ecology. Her main subjects of interest are time, temporality, ecosystems and mechanisms, looking for connections between man and machine, the organic and mechanical.
Combining the organic and the mechanical/digital is a key aspect of her art practice echoed through the interdisciplinary approach to her subjects. Her recent works deal with the complexity of ecological systems and mechanisms, further exploring the intersections of moving image and painting. Her latest body of work relates to time perception and timelessness, where stellar and particle sonifications are used in order to propose a new non-anthropocentric temporal narrative.
Glen Johnson is the founder and only surviving original member of the London-based 'ghost rock' group, Piano Magic, whose eclectic oeuvre, since its formation in 1996, has included collusions with Vashti Bunyan, John Grant, Low and Tarwater amongst full-blown post-rock, isolationist electronica and pastoral psych-folk.
Piano Magic’s final album, ‘Closure,’ will be released in 2016 on Second Language to commemorate the band’s 20th anniversary. Johnson’s own solo work utilises a unique dark ambient sonic palette to create hallucinogenic, often unsettling ectopian soundscapes.
‘My Heart Has Run Out Of Breath’ is accompanied by a film of the same name, conceived and animated by Pulejkova, with music by Johnson. Familiar images from the movies of Stanley Kubrick and Andrei Tarkovsky are transformed into new, otherworldly entities.
Watch the film here : http://www.tinyurl.com/slardok
For the album, Johnson’s lyrics are rendered in English (by Johnson and Pulejkova), in Turkish (by Yasemin Barlas), in Macedonian (Pulejkova), in German (by Anne Boradshiewa) and in Italian (by Tullia Benedicta and Serena Manzoli). Benedicta’s own album, ‘Anteros,’ was recently released on Second Language.
‘My Heart Has Run Out Of Breath’ comes in an 8 panel concertina sleeve designed by Pulejkova.
Watch Filippo Maria's sensual shibari-themed video for Tullia Benedicta's 'Devotion' (from her debut album, 'Anteros,' out now on Second Language). Order the album here.
SL033 Tullia Benedicta - Anteros • OUT NOW (14/9/15)
Tullia Benedicta D'Aquino Canestraro (born 5 April 1990) is an Italian singer-songwriter and producer, originally from Ravenna, now based in London.
In 2012, whilst studying digital design, Tullia formed the post-rock/shoe-gaze band, Grace, one of whose primary influences was the cult Anglo-French London band, Piano Magic. It was following Piano Magic's concert in Ravenna in 2012, that Tullia first met frontman Glen Johnson and after the dissolution of Grace in 2013, she moved to London, quickly contacting Glen for his thoughts on her new solo music. After less than a year in the metropolis, her debut album, 'Anteros' was born and now sees the light of day on Johnson's own Second Language Music label.
Initial recordings were made by Tullia in her North London home with a microphone, MIDI controller and laptop. The album, never shying of sexual, fetish and BDSM themes (see Filippo Maria's gorgeous shibari-based video for 'Devotion') includes snatches of corrupted, heavily processed private telephone recordings and even porn videos.
'Anteros' was co-produced by Jerome Tcherneyan of Piano Magic at his Ark Of Noise studio in Hackney Wick, London and features guitar from Frank Alba, also of the band. The album concludes with a "warehouse" remix of Beats Or Silence by Tcherneyan.
The album title, 'Anteros,' evokes the greek god of requited love, literally "love returned" or "counter-love" and also the avenger of unrequited love. Additionally, 'Anteros' is the subject of the Shaftesbury Memorial in Piccadilly Circus, London, - something Tullia was particular drawn to and deeply inspired by.
Tullia's musical influences include Bjork, James Blake, Owen Pallett, Pan Sonic, NIN, Einsturzende Neubauten and classical and avant-garde music including Ravel, Arvo Part and Philip Glass.
'Anteros' comes in an 8 panel concertina sleeve designed by Tullia Benedicta, featuring photography by Josh Hight. Lay-out by Jeff Teader.
Anteros tracklisting :
2. Beats Or Silence
6. Edge Of Life
8. Beats Or Silence (Piano Magic Warehouse Mix)
SL031 P60 - Models • OUT NOW (16/3/15)
There's not just a brutalism about Cumbernauld, the Scottish "new town" in North Lanarkshire, developed ostensibly to catch the population overspill from neighbouring Glasgow in the 1950's but also a melancholy, almost tangible banalism. According to brothers Phillip and Peter Walker, collectively operating under the moniker of P60, the lack of any discernible activity, cultural or otherwise, has resulted in a "blank society" which practically revels in its stagnance. "If you Google images on Cumbernauld," says Phillip, "you'll notice a distinct dearth of people in the photos. Everyone just stays at home watching tv." But look very closely and you'll notice that something is happening behind the concrete and steel facade.
“We got into this by default," says Peter. “Our uncle Jim, died about 5 years ago and they found all these old synths and stuff in his attic which obviously, he’d never used. Some of them were wrapped up in bin liners and bits of carpet so the rain wouldn’t get at them. Nobody wanted them so at first I thought let's just stick them on eBay or something." Phillip, however, had other ideas. “I used to be in a band (the equally reclusive Glasgow post-punk outfit, Knives Replace Air) which was all guitars but I knew we could do something if we applied ourselves. It’s taken 2 years to actually start making tunes we’re happy with. Before, it was just press a key, twist some knobs and see what comes out. We’re still not exactly Depeche Mode.”
It’s this rudimental, even naïve approach to their somewhat rusty analogue palette that makes P60 stand out. As Phil says, “Most people with a few synths and a drum-machine would go, ‘Let’s make dance music’ but between us, we literally have no interest in club culture. We’re much more interested in the voice of the instruments."
But why P60? “Both our names start with P obviously but in one of the binbags with all these synths was a little black box held together with duct tape and someone’s Dymo’ed ‘P60’ on it. There’s an input and an output and we’ve had it apart but we’ve still got no idea what it does! It’s literally a little black box that does nothing. It seemed very apt. We aren't going to play live or have our photos taken. We want to stay anonymous. In the current celeb-obsessed climate, that's about as punk as I can imagine.”
P60 'Models' comes in a semi-transparent glassine envelope with postcard, sanding disc, tachograph, hand-stamped litmus paper and electrical resistor. Limited edition of 300 copies.
Models tracklisting :
01 The Reception
02 Broken and Unbroken
03 Kronecker Product
04 Deco Nude
07 I Got You In, Now Get Me Out
08 Ways Of Seeing
10 A Nutshell Study
11 Think Of A Number
12 Upper Silesian
13 Dorataspis Diodon
Mark Fry River Kings from the album, South Wind, Clear Sky, out now on Second Language Music.
All photographs taken by Mark Fry in the Inner Niger Delta in Mali, 1980
SL032/SL032LP Mark Fry - South Wind, Clear Sky • ORDER HERE
Perhaps still most widely recognised for Dreaming With Alice, his 1972 psych-folk debut for RCA Italy as a 19-year-old art student-troubadour, Mark Fry has been turning his creative gaze on the world, and alchemising its elements into shimmering, quietly visionary works of art, ever since. Certainly not an artist who dances to the music of time in any conventional sense, Mark, a respected, and collected, painter, most often to be found holed up in his Normandy farmhouse studio, allowed more than three decades to glide by before recording Alice’s follow up, 2008’s Shooting The Moon. His subsequent musical activity has been frenetic by comparison.
Mark’s beguiling, Arcadian-flavoured 2011 Second Language album, I Lived In Trees, recorded in collaboration with The A. Lords – musicians from a more recent generation of psychedelic-folk experimenters – proved a major critical hit, demonstrating that Mark Fry’s musical stock lay not only in the Paisley-hued haze of his Aquarian Age youth, but also in the full glare of the postmodern, internet-facilitated present. A series of concerts in Japan and Scandinavia, and a widely reported ‘supergroup’ London showcase, featuring members of Mercury Rev, Super Furry Animals, Tunng and Lemon Jelly, further evinced the subtle but inexorable diffusion of the Mark Fry legend, something abetted by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme airing an interview with Mark in the wake of Trees’ release.
All of which brings us to Mark Fry’s latest, most exquisitely realised musical offering to date, South Wind, Clear Sky. Sung with that now familiar alloy of cool restraint and wondering innocence, and passingly reminiscent of the kind of English pastoralism associated with the likes of Kevin Ayers or Bill Fay, the album’s leanly arranged yet immersive songs are propelled by Mark’s glinting, plangent guitars and deliciously embroidered by John Parker’s double bass, Angèle David-Guillou’s piano and backing vocals and Katie Lang’s French horn, all bound together by producer Guy Fixsen (My Bloody Valentine, Stereolab) into a delightfully iridescent whole. For all its finely honed arrangements, and the translucence of its recording, South Wind, Clear Sky is still very much the work of the man who made Dreaming With Alice; the mature Mark Fry’s feeling for wonderment and magic, for the dreamlike and the innocently surreal, is just as pervasive, and persuasive here, only more focused, and etched against a more luminous, even heavenly canvas.
Where the lyrics on his last album found Mark reaching up through the summer branches toward an azure sky, here that celestial dimension provides the focus for eight shimmering chamber-folk essays whose wistful narratives of flight and fancy and empyrean romance purr and soar with a stately grace, like the ‘Aeroplanes’ of the album’s richly melodic opening track.
Partly inspired by the work of French writer, poet and pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – most overtly on the chiming, French horn-decorated ‘Leave Me Where I Am’ (“They found my lightning wings in a corner of the sea / My little prince came falling down with me”) – the songs are as dreamy and gossamer as moonlit stratus clouds, but come freighted with deeper meaning, constantly oscillating between ideas of isolation and self-discovery; between flight, in every sense, and high adventure.
There is something of the latter on ‘River Kings’, which alludes to the extended periods Mark spent in the 1980s travelling the Inner Niger delta in Mali, while ‘Along The Way’ and ‘Little Flashing Light’ concern themselves with what he describes as an “intergalactic love affair”. Mark’s painterly calling, meanwhile, is reflected in the album’s title, which, perhaps suitably, given its contemplative mood, is borrowed from the title of one of Edo-period Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai's celebrated woodblock print series, Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji.
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away,” Saint-Exupéry once said. A better aphorism for the sublimely wrought South Wind, Clear Sky it is difficult to imagine.
‘South Wind, Clear Sky’ comes in 2 formats : a CD in 8 panel concertina digipak and an 180gm vinyl w/free download code of the whole album. Both designed by Jeff Teader. Subscribers to Second Language and early birds ordering the album from the Second Language website, will receive a limited edition antique jeton (or gaming chip), used in old-fashioned French bar games, collected by Mark over the years, all individual and some dating from as far back as 1900.
South Wind, Clear Sky tracklisting (both formats) :
2. Along The Way
3. Leave Me Where I Am
4. Little Flashing Light
5. River Kings
6. Fall Like A Stone
7. Dials For Home
8. Long Way Down
Mark launches the album on Tues 30th Sept 2014 in the beautiful St Marys Church, Rotherhithe, London. Support from Oliver Cherer. Tickets available here : https://www.wegottickets.com/event/285965
Listen to ‘Aeroplanes' from the album here :
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