Category Archives: Music news

New album from Ronnie Romero-fronted melodic metal trio The Ferrymen

The Ferrymen are a melodic metal outfit fronted by Ronnie Romero who was hand-picked by Ritchie Blackmore for the latest revival of the Rainbow franchise a few years ago. Following up their 2017 self-titled debut and 2019’s A New Evil (reviewed here) the band have announced a new album out in January One More River To Cross. Meanwhile, they’ve kicked things off with the release of a brand new single ‘One Word’.

Delivering their own brand of melodic power metal, The Ferrymen were formed by Swedish guitarist/songwriter/producer Magnus Karlsson (Primal Fear, Allen/Lande, Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall), singer Ronnie Romero (Lords of Black, Sunstorm, Rainbow) and drummer Mike Terrana (Rage, Axel Rudi Pell, etc).

The Ferrymen’s One More River To Cross is released by Frontiers on 21st January 2022.

Cover artwork is once again provided courtesy of Stan W. Decker.

facebook.com/theferrymenofficial

Album review: The Ferrymen – A New Evil

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow at Birmingham 2017

Little Lore: the magical new project from UK Americana singer-storyteller Tricia Duffy

Six-track EP ‘Little Lore’ released 3rd December 2021

“It is clear every word and every note is well thought out. The pedal steel swoons beneath Duffy’s vocals”Maverick magazine

Little Lore is the new alter-ego, creative endeavour and debut solo EP from Indie-Americana singer-storyteller, Tricia Duffy. Tricia rapidly caught the attention of the Americana world as one half of the duo Duffy & Bird. The duo’s debut album and follow-up EP attracted a slew of glowing reviews, with Maverick magazine heaping praise on Tricia’s vocal ability as “simply breathtaking.”

Now she sets out on a compelling new journey as Little Lore, with an EP of six newly-written, beautifully-crafted songs. Storytelling is always at the heart of Little Lore’s song-writing and her songs are both charmingly accessible and yet beguilingly challenging.

Little Lore: “It actually felt like a natural progression to start working on solo project, I am immensely proud of everything we achieved with Duffy & Bird but my confidence as a writer has definitely grown and I felt ready to take more creative control over this record.”

When you combine British wit and wordplay with cherished Americana roots, musical magic starts to happen. In her songs Little Lore brings together an affection for the heart and heritage of Americana music, with an intelligence and maturity of storytelling that can sweep you away into new and unexpected emotional worlds. While several of the songs are built around those familiar Americana themes of love, heartache and relationships, two of the songs on this new EP grapple with the complexity of climate change and our responsibilities as humans to one another and to the planet.

Little Lore’s captivating vocals and beguiling storytelling is complemented by stunning production and beautiful instrumentation from producer and multi-instrumentalist, Oli Deakin.

Little Lore: “In some ways, 18 months of isolation and lock downs has opened up huge opportunity for me as a writer, I’ve known Oli for over a decade and realising we didn’t need to be in the same country to collaborate was genuinely inspiring. He is an incredibly gifted producer and musician and he knows my taste and sensibilities in music really well, so we were very creatively aligned right from the start which made the whole process a complete joy. He is also extremely patient and has an uncanny knack of translating my ideas into reality.”

The EP will be released on 3rd December in CD and digital formats, available from https://littlelore.uk or https://littlelore.bandcamp.com 

About Little Lore:

Based in Chiswick, west London and originally hailing from Portsmouth, Tricia Duffy started her singing career in a live covers band performing popular rock classics. Over time, however, a strong desire emerged to begin writing and performing her own material and she formed an acoustic Americana duo with fellow musician Al Bird. Her trip to Nashville for a writing workshop in 2017, with songwriter Verlon Thompson and others, meant she came back with new inspiration and a clutch of new songs. Duffy & Bird released a well-received album ‘5 Lines’ in 2017 and a follow-up EP ‘Spirit Level’ in 2019. While Al subsequently decided to take a back seat from recording and performing, Tricia was keen to take things a step further with a new solo direction. Little Lore was born.

Little Lore EP – track by track:

Thief: When I originally set out to write the songs for this record, I had the notion of writing an entire album on the topic of climate change – it turns out that was pretty difficult to do! This song came about, as I tried to think about what the character of the industrial revolution would be if they were personified. In this instance as the unwitting thief. I took inspiration from the likes of Sheryl Crow who is an absolute master of mixing songs with a point with a great melody. It has a folky upbeat vibe to it. Musically I was inspired by the likes of First Aid Kit who I adore. It is a little shining star of a song in my opinion – it has turned out so much better than I could ever have imagined.

Skin in the Game: I actually got the idea for this song when I was running along the river in 2019 and I saw someone reading a book with the title Skin in the Game. I think it is actually a book about cricket judging by the front cover! Clearly this is not a song about cricket … it’s an observational song about relationships and touches on the profound differences between men and women and what they want from relationships. There is also some quite significant inspiration from Bowie in the lyrics … prizes to anyone who spots the references. The production on this song is quite layered and dynamic and feels very accessible while holding on to the indie alternative americana vibe. It is good to get this one out there having sat on it for a couple of years.

Orbit: I was actually a little bit unsure about this song, I was trying to write a more typical love song which I struggle with as I feel I can tend towards cliches in the lyrics. I put this one in the mix when first starting to work with my producer Oli and it was him that said he thought it had great potential. It has a very typical Americana / country feel to it. Originally written in 4/4 time, Oli thought it sat better in 3. I have deliberately not shied away from writing songs in 3/4 or 6/8 on this record. Half the songs are in 3 and half in 4. The American vibe swings so nicely with the waltzy feel and the sentimental subject marries well with that feel.

Sleep Again: This song is really about what happens to people when they become truly informed about the horror of the climate emergency and how it will impact all of us. We saw it so clearly during the climate assembly in the UK earlier this year, when a hundred or so individuals from all walks of life were educated on the issues, and how they transformed their views and their behaviours accordingly. Once the genie is out of the bottle it can’t be put in and I liked the play on climate anxiety too – can you sleep again once you understand the impacts on so many innocent people from the rising temperatures? The production treatment we were aiming for is a lullaby feel I love the idea of taking pretty melodies with beautiful musical treatment on the bleakest of topics. I think this song has the most indie / alternative feel to it while holding on to the Americana roots.

Hyacinth: This is a song about choices, that we all make every day so that we can conform to social expectations. I guess there is a little bit of Hyacinth in all of us, and I am secretly enjoying my own boldness of the references to a certain 80s sitcom! It has a pretty strong rock- americana feel and it is really the chords and the groove that have made this song. I hope this is a song that anyone who likes a jog will put on their running list, it really zips along and can get the foot tapping.

Stars: I have wanted to write a song that touched on spirituality in some form for a while but couldn’t find a premise that suited my own truth. It seems that astrology is having a bit of a cult resurgence at the moment with apps like The Pattern coming onto the scene. And I got thinking about times in my life when I have read my stars and the stars of the people I care about even though I don’t actually believe in them – there is a desperation there. The idea that even though you don’t believe in the horoscopes yourself you are so desperate to learn anything about the person you are missing that you devour the mystic’s analysis of what they might be going through. Looking for clues. It is a really simple song that is very pretty melodically. It is one that I am particularly proud of, and it has gone down live really, really well. I absolutely love what Oli has done to bring my ideas to life – really soaring treatment.

Release information:

The vocals for the EP were recorded at Fiction Studio, London, with vocal engineering by Nathan Cooper.  All the instrumentation was recorded in Brooklyn, New York.

The album is produced by Oli Deakin. Oli is a musician and producer from Penrith, Cumbria now based in Brooklyn, NY. He records under the name Lowpines and has produced records for CMAT, Swimming Bell, Elanor Moss and Benjamin Francis Leftwich, with whom he also performs live. Oli can be heard playing the following EP: acoustic guitar, 12-string guitar, high strung guitar, electric guitar, bass, piano, prophet synthesizer, Wurlitzer, strings synth, percussion, glockenspiel.

The artwork for the release was created by Afiya Paice a West London-based artist and designer. She undertakes illustration work to commission and in 2022 she will embark on a degree in Fashion Design at the world-leading fashion school, Institute Français de la Mode in Paris.

Website: https://littlelore.uk

Twitter: https://twitter.com/littleloremusic

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/littleloremusic

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/littleloremusic

New EP from acclaimed film composer turned innovative folk artist Roly Witherow

Down By The River – released: 3rd December 2021

A prolific and acclaimed composer in the world of film, theatre and TV, Roly Witherow won many plaudits for his debut folk album ‘Ballads and Yarns’ last year – including glowing reviews in the Times and Guardian as well as praise from the specialist folk press. Now Roly has followed up 2020’s ‘Ballads and Yarns’ with a new five-track EP ‘Down By the River’ containing both original compositions and his own unique interpretations of traditional folk songs.

As a film and TV composer, Roly’s credits have included Channel 4’s On The Edge, 2015 BIFA nominated film Gregor and Netflix feature film TRY.

As a folk musician and singer, Roly’s influences include Pete Seeger, Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger, A.L. Lloyd, Richard Thompson, Nic Jones, Pete Bellamy, John Martyn, Shirley Collins, Dick Gaughan, Nick Hart, Lisa O’Neill and Will Pound.

Roly Witherow: “This new EP is a very new direction for me. If my first album, ‘Ballads and Yarns’ had an experimental bent, stemming from my experience as a film composer, this new album has a ’back to basics’ approach, focussing on the song itself in its most minimal form. The vast majority of the songs are for just acoustic guitar and voice, and the recordings have a very live feel to them, realised in large part by the expert production of Joe Garcia of Joe’s Garage, in Bristol.”

The EP is a combination of traditional songs from the British Isles and further afield, alongside originals such as ‘The Bird and the Frog’ – originally released as a single back in January. The album in general touches on themes of rural vs urban life, family and growing up, love and love lost, nature and animals, industrialisation and mechanisation, as well as the death and lament found in so many folk songs from Britain.

The ‘Down By The River’ EP showcases Roly’s beautifully-evocative acoustic guitar-playing alongside his resonant, distinctive lead vocal. The backing vocals on ‘Johnny’s Gone to Hilo’ are by renowned folk singer Nick Hart of the Nest Collective. Roly, himself, can also be heard playing harmonium on that same track.

Roly adds: “Down by the River has quite a playful, innocent and childlike quality to it, influenced in part by the children’s songs of Pete Seeger, Ewan MacColl and A.L. Lloyd, but also by my experience of recently becoming a father. One of the songs on the album ‘Ernie’s Song’ is dedicated to my son. Written in a remote part of Devon shortly after he was born it falls somewhere between hymnal folk and a traditional children’s song.”

Critical reaction to Roly’s debut album ‘Ballads and Yarns’:

“The result is like a modern Fairport Convention: folk, but not as purists know it. Witherow’s resonant voice sits beautifully against a spacious guitar arrangement” – The Times

“Soundtrack composer Roly Witherow mixes up art-rock, atmospherics and folk on his personal project, Ballads and Yarns, a rousing half-hour of music given extra warmth thanks to his old-fashioned vocal”The Guardian

“a modern yet classic celebration of the art of folk music”Folk Radio UK

Down by the River EP – track by track:

The Bird and the Frog: Previously released as a single The Bird and the Frog is a fable-esque love story, centred on the taming of a Bird by the Frog. The Frog seduces the bird, convincing her to give up her wild and free existence to live with him under a log. They live a peaceful yet humdrum life in the frog’s world and whilst the Frog is contented to have tamed the object of his love, the Bird is left with the sensation that something might be missing. I had in mind thoughts of suburban lifestyles – perhaps the home counties – and our adoption of a highly compartmentalised society, as well as being a tale of young love.

Johnny’s Gone to Hilo: The second single from the EP, Johnny’s Gone to Hilo is a sea shanty originating from the sailors of the nitrate trade of Western South America in the 19th century.  Hilo likely refers to the Peruvian port of Ilo, and whilst the tone of the shanty varies a great deal in all its different versions and iterations – from drinking song to lament, I thought the melody of the song lent itself best to a sorrowful arrangement with guitar and harmonium. The backing vocals are provided by renowned local folk singer Nick Hart of the Nest Collective, who, raised in a family of Morris dancers, is no stranger to telling a mournful story with his powerful voice. The recording of the harmonium with all its noisy stops, billows and pipes was a particular challenge for producer Joe Garcia, but with some clever mic placement was eventually achieved with great skill.

The Poacher’s Fate: I first heard Peter Bellamy’s beautiful rendition of this folk song that celebrates the poachers of old, a trope of English folklore, and instantly wanted to do my own version. The song is full of raw emotion and has a kind of Robin Hood ethos to it. I wanted to heighten the drama of the song by using a few different guitar techniques to follow the story, like the flamenco-style strumming that accompanies the death of the poacher. This is something I learned a long time ago when I played Classical and Flamenco nylon string guitar, but I also think it works nicely on steel strings!

Three Butchers: I came across this song in the penguin book of English folk songs, so I was first drawn to the story which is one of intrigue and deception, then I set about setting it to music, with the guitar playing a steady trot to suggest the motion of the horse and cart.

Ernie’s Song: This last song is an original named after my son. It kind of spans the territory between hymnal folk and children’s song! I’m not really sure how to categorise it to be honest, but it talks of growing up, longing for a more simple life, as well as rural vs urban existences. I wrote this during the pandemic shortly after my son was born. We were staying with my mother in a remote part of Devon which undoubtedly influenced the lyrics.

Website: https://www.rolywitherowmusic.com/

This week’s featured artist: blues duo When Rivers Meet – new album 19th November

 I hadn’t come across husband-and-wife blues duo When Rivers Meet until I caught them supporting King King on their recent tour. I was immediately impressed as soon as the pair walked out on stage to deliver loud, raunchy, rocked-up blues with bags of noise and bags of power.

The duo’s second album Saving Grace is released on 19th November and follows their extremely well-received debut We Fly Free which was released back in 2020, and two earlier EPs.

When Rivers Meet are Grace Bond (lead vocals, mandolin, violin) and Aaron Bond (guitar, vocals).

Grace: “We were very conscious that our debut album We Fly Free was a step up in production from our two EP releases previously The Uprising EP and Innocence of Youth. We also wanted to keep a live, authentic vibe to the new album to retain the energetic feel in the music.”

Aaron: “We wanted the album to have more of an upbeat rock feel. We knew exactly what we wanted before we set off to record Saving Grace. We set our expectations high. We’re so pleased with the result and just hope everyone else loves it as much as we do!”

Grace: “Although we wanted to do something different from our previous work, we still wanted all the same elements that make our music distinctive and recognisable as When Rivers Meet.”

Aaron: “Saving Grace has a more upbeat rock feeling than We Fly Free,” Aaron says. “We were very conscious when we started to record this album that’s the direction that we wanted to move in, and it was exactly the kind of result that wanted to achieve.”

Aaron: “As well as being inspired by classic blues including John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters, we also draw a lot of influence from classic rock bands that include Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, Cream, and Free. To emulate some of the feel or tone of these legendary blues pioneers and seminal rock bands is something that we strive to do, and hopefully people will hear that in our music and relate to it.”

Credits: Header photo by Rob Blackham, live photo by Bruce Biege

Album released: 19th November 2021

https://whenriversmeet.co.uk/

Related post:

When Rivers Meet and King King at Bexhill

News: ‘Cultural Anthropology’ dystopian blues rock meets folk horror – new single from Tom Wilcox

Released: 12th November 2021 on Maniac Squat Records

Tom Wilcox releases a new dystopian blues rock song, Cultural Anthropology. The track references the 2019 Ari Aster folk horror film Midsommar. However, it is principally based on Tom’s experiences and knowledge of occult practices on the Essex-Suffolk borders, where he was brought up, in the late 70s and 80s.

Tom Wilcox: “Regression therapy has helped me to piece together fragments of memory and the recollections of family and friends into an almost coherent picture. The dark strangeness of what goes on in timeless, quiet, places is not widely known, and yet it is endemic.”

The chorus of Cultural Anthropology also references Richard Hamilton’s seminal collage from 1956. The B-sides making up this three track EP are covers of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Treaty’ and Brian Dewan’s ‘Where They Belong’.

Both Tom Wilcox and guitarist on the track, Paul Cuddeford, are members of London-based art rock band, of Last Day Sect. Their critically acclaimed debut album, ‘The Gothic Novel’, was released in 2019. Joining Tom and Paul is keyboard-player Florence Sabeva.

Cultural Anthropology is released on 12th November on all the main digital platforms

About the artists:

Tom Wilcox was the front man of 90’s art punk band Maniac Squat finding notoriety with their 1995 ‘hit’ F**k Off (Single of the Week in Kerrang!) Tom has since produced albums for Gillian Glover and Lisa Ronson; the latter, co-produced with Paul Cuddeford, receiving a 4-star review in Mojo and widespread critical acclaim. As a songwriter Tom has provided material for many bands including Lover and Florence Sabeva.

Paul Cuddeford is a guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and composer with many years’ experience producing music for television and film. He is best known for his guitar playing for artists including Ian Hunter, Steve Harley, Lisa Ronson, Tom Jones, Bob Geldof, Cat Stevens and Paul Young. Paul co-wrote and co-produced Lisa Ronson’s debut album ‘Emperors of Medieval Japan’.

Florence Sabeva is a London based keyboard player, a singer-songwriter and pianist with classical background. She’s a versatile musician who has played alongside rock royalty including Heaven 17, Earl Slick – guitarist for David Bowie, Bernard Fowler – vocalist for the Rolling Stones, Steve Norman – member of Spandau Ballet, Kevin Armstrong – guitarist for Iggy Pop and classical crossover singer Laura Wright.

https://www.facebook.com/ManiacSquatRecords

Related post:

Maniac Squat: after 25 years Colchester’s favourite art punks return with experimental concept album

This week’s featured artist: singer/songwriter/guitarist Joe Matera – new single features Slade’s Don Powell

Darren’s music blog gets a ton of email traffic about artists flagging up new releases. There are not hours in the day to follow every single one up. This one was about to slip through the net but singer-songwriter Joe Matera was a little more persistent and kindly sent me a follow-up email a week later. What’s more he was flagging up that none other than legendary drummer Don Powell of Slade is performing on his new single. That immediately sent it to the top of the my ‘things-worth-checking-out-pile’ – but first a little more about Joe…

Also a prolific and respected music journalist, Joe has played in a number of rock outfits in his native Australia. He was founding lead guitarist for classic rock band Double Vision and before that played in a popular local band On The Prowl. As a guitarist Joe has also collaborated with a number of artists and his original guitar instrumental compositions have appeared on various film soundtracks. In 2012 he performed with Steve Harley for a series of live acoustic performances for radio and TV on Harley’s first ever promo tour of Australia.

Official Promo, 2019 – Photo: Anders E. Skånberg

Joe has continued to tour and record as a solo artist, releasing several albums and EPs of original material as well as providing support for artists as diverse as Peter Kriss (ex-Kiss), Canned Heat and the Bay City Rollers. In early 2018, he joined Swedish based rock band Rough Rockers as permanent member on guitar.

His latest solo single ‘Inside Looking Out’ is released towards the end of this month. It’s a song that starts off deceptively mellow until the aforementioned Mr Powell’s unmistakeable drumming kicks in and we are served up an infectiously jaunty slice of contemporary pop-rock with a blistering guitar solo to boot.

Because of lockdown restrictions the track was recorded remotely across three countries, Don Powell (drums) in Denmark, Janne Borgh (bass) in Sweden and Joe (vocals, guitars and keyboards) in Australia.

Don Powell: “I was really honoured when Joe asked me to play drums on his track. I had SO much fun in the studio recording my drums for him…I can also speak for my engineer Torben Lehmann, we both really got off listening to Joe’s track as I was recording my drums. Can’t wait to do more together.”

Inside Looking Out’ is released via Mercury Fire Music on October 29th on all digital platforms

https://www.joematera.com/

Related posts:

Interview with Don Powell

Album review – Don Powell’s Occasional Flames ‘Just My Cup of Tea’

Veteran drummer Don Powell out of Slade

Interview with former Slade legend Jim Lea

Slade, strikes and the three-day week: the story of the greatest Christmas record ever made

Slade at Donnington 1981

Header photo credit: Sofia Rewert-Strasser

Tribute to John Rossall: Glitter Band founder passes away peacefully following cancer battle

In a moving post on his Facebook page, John Rossall’s partner, Julia, confirmed that the Glitter Band founder member sadly passed away on Saturday (2nd October) following a cancer diagnosis earlier in the year. John Rossall played on all the early Glitter Band hits before leaving to pursue a solo career. A popular figure at festivals and gigs on the 70s live music circuit for many years, he stunned both fans and critics alike with a hugely well-received comeback album The Last Glam in Town released in Autumn 2020.

Julia’s Facebook tribute thanked fans for their support as she shared the news:

To all John’s loyal friends and fans, this is the worst news I can ever imagine bringing you all.
My John passed away Saturday morning. As you all know, he had been bravely fighting cancer since April. The months we have spent together since his diagnosis have served to remind we what a true gentleman John was.

His thoughts and fears had always been primarily for me and his family, he was not some-one who would ever put himself first. He was the kindest, gentlest man I have ever known, and, I simply cannot imagine a world without John in it. His wished were to die at home and myself and John’s family enabled that to happen. At the end he was peaceful.

As well as gifting us those early hits in the Glitter Band’s heyday, as I said in my review last Autumn John’s 2020 solo album was genuinely the first great glam rock album since the 1970s.

All tribal beats, honking brass, fuzzed-up guitar, sing-along choruses and enough handclaps and chants of ‘Hey’ to last you a lifetime, The Last Glam In Town is a modern masterpiece of the genre.”

When I interviewed John last year he was immensely touched by the swathes of positive reviews: “It’s like I’ve written them myself almost! It’s a surprise. The reviews everywhere – it’s been beyond my wildest dreams really.”

Thank you John Rossall for being one of the key architects of the unforgettable glam rock sound of the early 1970s, for leaving us a string of classic hits and a critically-acclaimed and stunningly good comeback album.

The world just got that bit less glam.

Album review: Rossall – The Last Glam In Town

Glitter, glam and Blackpool rock: interview with glam rock legend John Rossall

This week’s featured artist: folklorist and singer Derek Piotr

Derek Piotr is a US-based folklorist, performer and composer from New England. His work focuses primarily on the human voice and covers genres as diverse as folk, leftfield pop, classical, and dance but he has a particular interest in Appalachian versions
of traditional ballads. He has collaborated with a number of different artists including Thomas Brinkmann, Scott Solter, and Bradford Reed across various disciplines. Derek was nominated by the jury for Prix Ars Electronica in 2012, and has featured on UbuWeb and the BBC.

Derek Piotr’s CV includes an impressive ten solo albums to date in spite of only just hitting his 30s this year. I ask him about the latest Making and Then Unmaking which was released back in May.

Derek Piotr: “My tenth album, Making and Then Unmaking, is an extension of the folkloric work I’ve done in Western North Carolina, with a heavy emphasis on Appalachian ballad singing and folk and country instrumentation. Originally I was meant to work on this album in a studio in North Carolina, but due to Covid, I ended up recording 90% of the album remotely and putting the performances together via filesharing. Making and Then Unmaking features a much broader instrumental palette because of this workflow, with instruments appearing including bagpipes, clavichord, saxophone, harp, pedal steel guitar, viol da gamba, autoharp and dulcimer.”

Of particular interest to British folk enthusiasts who follow this blog is that Derek has been working in the UK all through the summer, carrying out fieldwork.

Derek Piotr: “My fieldwork in the UK has predominantly focused on collecting recordings of ‘non-singers’ in North Yorkshire. This is a direct continuity of my work in North Carolina documenting non-singers, in other words, informants who have no formal background in vocal performance but nevertheless have living knowledge of traditional song and can still sing or recite these ballads from memory. One of the informants I’ve met on my UK journey was 102…it has been a rich and valuable experience for me to collect ballads from their origin source; most of Child’s ballads were collected in Northumberland and Scotland.”

Making and Then Unmaking: released 14th May 2021

Visit Derek Piotr’s website visit here

This week’s featured artist: folk musician Mel Biggs – new album ‘From Darkness Comes Light’

Mel Biggs, who has recorded several albums as part of acclaimed trio Moirai, is one of the UK’s leading diatonic accordion players. She releases From Darkness Comes Light her debut solo album on 1st October. Over twelve stunningly inventive instrumental tracks, Mel Biggs takes us on a journey through the seasonal changes, both natural and cultural over the course of the year. Accompanied by fiddle, mandolin, piano accordion, guitar and cittern she invites us to join her on this deeply personal and evocative journey.

I ask Mel how the album came about:

This album has taken over a decade to be made. And when I say that, I’m not talking about the physical album, which took 9-ish months in lockdown, but the mental health journey I’ve been on since my early 20s. The darkness of living with anxiety and depression, a binge eating disorder, and menstrual health issues brought forth the light that is my music and composition. Further to this, and rather poignantly, the album’s completion earlier this year coincided with me being diagnosed with ADHD and Autism. Knowing this has given me the missing pieces on my past diagnoses and, well, literally everything in my life! Especially my sensory crossovers which influence my creativity so much.

The diatonic accordion (or melodeon) became my closest friend and confidante early on when I wasn’t able to understand and process the difficult emotions I experienced. It gave me a way to escape and meditate on the natural world around me. The healing power of the great outdoors is one of my biggest sources of inspiration. A sunny day in spring watching washing dry on the line brought forth Shivelight In Spring. Being high up in the Norwegian mountains breezed Oppland Upland into my brain. Zoning out of a difficult day whilst viewing winter’s golden light in the garden gave me Silver Linings. Meditating on the heat haze obscuring the view out the back of my house shone Shimmer into my life. Let me travel the world with my accordion and I’d write and write and be very content!

Mel fills us in on the themes that emerged for the album:

When it came to making the album, I looked at what material I had and realised the running theme was light states in nature through the seasons. Each piece relates to a different point in my personal discovery journey. From Darkness Comes Light is a symbiosis of seasons, nature, and light and their combined effect on mood and mental health recovery. It’s also become a statement to myself of never giving up on finding those missing pieces to understanding and accepting yourself for exactly who you are. Feels like a pretty big thing to say about an album of instrumental folk music, but I prefer using sounds to words any day!

From Darkness Comes Light released 1st October 2021 by Talking Cat Recordings

Available from: https://melbiggsmusic.co.uk/product-category/cds/

Mel Biggs – diatonic accordions, vocals 

Kat Biggs – piano accordion 

Jon Loomes – guitar, cittern 

Bridget Slater – fiddle 

David Squirrell – mandolin, octave mandola 

All tracks written & arranged by Mel Biggs (except track 4 which is Trad.). 

 Keep the conversation going about mental health & follow the ongoing visual work via the blog: www.melbiggsmusic.co.uk 

Maniac Squat: after 25 years Colchester’s favourite art punks return with experimental concept album

Released: 23rd September 2021

Maniac Squat were the art punk band from Colchester who had a cult hit with ‘F**k Off’ in the mid-90s – a record which secured them the coveted single of the week slot in Kerrang! no less. Performing over two hundred gigs, including support slots for Babes in Toyland and Zodiac Mindwarp as well as tours of mainland Europe, Maniac Squat made their last record in 1996 and promptly split. Now they are back, with three members of the original line-up reconvening to record a stunning concept album of experimental art-rock. The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary, which also leans heavily towards jazz, has been inspired by the work of eighteenth-century Christian mystic, author and philosopher, Karl von Eckhartshausen.

For The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary the band have teamed up with an all-star ensemble of guest musicians headed up by legendary Bowie/Iggy Pop sideman, Kevin Armstrong, who also produced the album. Joining Kevin – and the original Maniac Squat alumni of Tom Wilcox, Scott Pearce and Michael Giaquinto – are Iggy Pop’s drummer, Mat Hector; PJ Harvey’s sax player, Terry Edwards; and rising star Manchester-based rapper, El Zeeko. The release is accompanied by an equally stunning video seventeen-minute video by art director/film producer, Robert Russell, whose vibrant, other-worldly imagery deftly captures the intensity of emotions that the band delve into via their experimental soundscapes.

Original Maniac Squat frontman, Tom Wilcox, says: “Plato observed that ‘we can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.’

“Our wilderness years were spent stumbling horny from one fix to the next. In the course of trying to repair our complex and multi-faceted personal relationships, Scott, Michael and I were profoundly affected by both the teachings of Karl von Eckartshausen and the key change rubrics of Gustav Mahler. These inspirations provoked us into composing separate elements of a larger piece of music. We gradually brought the disparate movements together to make one work. There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”

Producer and guest musician, Kevin Armstrong, adds: “I have had many twists and turns in my nearly 50-year career in music but the things I will carry with me to my deathbed are those moments of fearless invention that do not yield to any commercial constraint nor any fear of ridicule. The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary is one such moment. When I was presented with the opportunity to help realize the revival of Maniac Squat little did I imagine that our efforts would produce such a savage and desolate beauty.”

About Maniac Squat:

Forming in Colchester, Essex, Maniac Squat pursued their own brand of art punk for five years between 1991 and 1996. They first played at Colchester Arts Centre in 1992 and were immediately banned for using an industrial grinder in their performance and for making a hole in the stage while smashing up a guitar. Maniac Squat persevered and went on to notch up the much coveted ‘Single of the Week’ accolade from Kerrang! magazine for their single ‘F**k Off’. They played over 200 gigs in their career – including tours of Germany and the Czech Republic – also releasing two singles and an album and being the go-to local support act for bands such as Babes In Toyland and Zodiac Mindwarp when their tour itinerary took them to Colchester. After splitting in 1996, Tom Wilcox, Scott Pearce and Michael Giaquinto would later re-appear in the mid-2000s as part of The Chavs, with several of their tracks used as MTV theme tunes, including ‘Nuclear War’.

The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary is released on 23rd September on all the main digital platforms and in a limited-edition vinyl format, too. It will be available via: http://maniacsquat.com/

The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary – release information:

Written by Michael Giaquinto/Scott Pearce/Tom Wilcox/El Zeeko

Lyrics adapted from A Cloud Upon the Sanctuary by Karl Von Eckartshausen

A side: The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary (Giaquinto/Pearce/Wilcox/El Zeeko)

B side: Overbevisende Mareritt (Giaquinto/Pearce/Wilcox/El Zeeko)

Tom Wilcox – vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards, percussion

Scott Pearce – guitars, keyboards, percussion

Michael Giaquinto – bass, guitar, keyboards, percussion

Featuring special guests:

El Zeeko – rap vocals

Kevin Armstrong – guitars, bass

Terry Edwards – baritone Sax

Alan Newcombe – tenor Sax

Mat Hector – drums

Produced by Kevin Armstrong

Engineered by Kevin Armstrong and Mat Hector. Mastered by Ed Woods

Video by Robert Russell

Who’s who:

Maniac Squat are:

Tom Wilcox was the front man of Maniac Squat finding notoriety with their 1995 ‘hit’ ‘F**k Off’. Tom has since produced albums for Gillian Glover and Lisa Ronson; the latter, co-produced with Paul Cuddeford, receiving a 4-star review in Mojo and widespread recognition. As a songwriter Tom has provided material for many bands including Lover, Jesse Smith and Florence Sabeva. More recently, Tom has been the producer and singer with London based art rock band Last Day Sect.

Michael Giaquinto wasbass player with Maniac Squat in the 90s and also played bass with punk legends Vice Squad, touring extensively throughout the US and Europe. He then spent several years in Brazil, where he played in Marca Diabo, the resident house band at the infamous cultural centre Casa Amarela, backing performing artists of all types, from contortionists to beat poets. Returning to the UK with an increased appetite for experimentalism, he became involved with London’s improvised music scene and has played with some its well-known figures, including Eddie Prévost, John Russell, and Steve Beresford. He has worked as a bassist for hire in a number of bands, has a master’s degree in ethnomusicology and works in music education.

Scott Pearce – (aka Arsepiece) was the guitarist in 90’s DIY punk band Maniac Squat and later in The Chavs who created the soundtrack of MTV/Viacom’s TV series ‘Blaggers’. Scott moved into music supervision and publishing for TV and Films. He now runs his own independent soundtrack label, The Nerve, and has produced over 250 albums sound tracking networks such as BBC, ITV, HBO, C4, Discovery, Viacom/CBS and ABC. He gave up drugs in 2014 which he now deeply regrets, only binge drinks at weekends but still very much enjoys amorality – if only as a keen spectator which, regrettably, makes him a somewhat duller version of his earlier self.

Special Guests:

El Zeeko was raised in a crosshair between Old Trafford and Stretford and enters the music scene with a south Manchester confidence and 90’s hip-hop energy. With exceptional wordplay reflective of his love for English language, El Zeeko graces us with a humble yet raw and honest account of his love life, brotherhood, survival and the road code in his first biblical self-titled EP project as an artist titled 25:17. Starting out as a producer at 13 inspired by his brother’s rap group Manchester’s notorious blueprint to Grime RAW-T, he learned the art and craft of production leading him to be signed to a deal with Universal as a teenager. Working both as an artist and a producer, El Zeeko continues to work with homegrown soul duo Children of Zeus, Tyler Daley, Sleazy F Baby and more due to his musical ear in the Neo-Soul and Hip-Hop space in Manchester.

Kevin Armstrong began his musical life with his own band Local Heroes SW9. After two albums, his career began thriving as a writer, producer, bandleader and guitarist. Most notably, Kevin met David Bowie in late 1984, and worked with him on various projects including putting together his band and performing at the legendary Live Aid in 1985. Bowie introduced Kevin to Iggy Pop as guitarist on the 1986 album Blah Blah Blah and Kevin became Iggy’s bandleader in 86/87. He put together Iggy’s touring band again from 2014 until 2019. He has worked with Morrissey, Grace Jones, Sinéad O’Connor, Prefab Sprout, Thomas Dolby, Transvision Vamp Brian Eno, Paul McCartney, Sandie Shaw, Gil Evans, Alien Sex Fiend, Keziah Jones and many more.

Mat Hector has become widely known for his hard-hitting groove and stylistic adaptability as drummer in Iggy Pop’s band. In addition to working with Iggy, Mat has worked with Razorlight, Thomas Dolby, Marc Almond and legendary Bowie pianist Mike Garson.

Terry Edwards is an acclaimed and much in-demand session musician, playing the saxophone, trumpet, guitar, keyboard and the flute. He’s worked with artists as diverse as Nick Cave, Ronnie Spector, PJ Harvey, Eric Mingus, Madness, Gallon Drunk, Tindersticks, Jimi Tenor, Mike Garson, Glen Matlock, The Blockheads, Siouxsie Sioux, Hot Chip, Robyn Hitchcock and Rhoda Dakar.

Alan Newcombe is interested in producing combinations of sound on a saxophone mainly using alternative fingerings, flutter tongue and so on. He also plays desiccated bebop and 32 bar standards. He appears with numerous ad hoc improv groups and workshops in London and does a daily show for his neighbours.

Robert Russell created the ground-breaking video for The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary and is a multidisciplinary graphic designer and art director whose design, branding and communications work includes projects for the likes of Virgin and Liverpool Everyman. He is passionate about music, performing, writing and producing for both personal and commercial projects.

Website: http://maniacsquat.com/