Sunday, 15 January 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #20 - Bill Ryder-Jones, "If..."

Bill used to be in The Coral. Who knew he had this going on as he walked along wind-whipped Wirral beaches, staring out to sea, with his Scallydelic mushroom sandwiches in his Beatles lunchbox? Most likely the same people that thought Pop Will Eat Itself was harbouring grey matter with "Lux Aeterna" escalating ever upward insides of it.

This is a soundtrack to Italo Calvino's "If On A Winter's Night A Traveller...", which was a real favourite amongst my erstwhile Borders colleagues - and obviously amongst Bill as well. Not read it myself.

It's an orchestral album, though mostly fairly small scale - more string quartet size with some muted drums and a few mumbled vocals on a couple of tracks. Every now and then some electric amplification sidles up to a guitar or two. Not sure if it's the accent and the strings working together to hoodwink me, but I get pungent echoes of Gorky's Zygotic Mwnci in patches. I can imagine it behind some high budget BBC drama - like "Sherlock" or "Luther" or "Pets Win Prizes".

I don't know the vocabulary, but the piano-based tunes with an air of parlours and condensation on the kitchen window are less my cup of tea. Or so I thought. But the second half of "Leaning (Star of Sweden)" has real punch by the time the lyrics whisper in. "Le Grande Desordre" is more traditional singer/songwriter business. A thoughtful song with solar plexus cello in the depths, perhaps referring to Bill's quitting The Coral due to stress a few years ago - "The past is like a worm/I carry curled inside/Growing on and on/Until the day it dies". "Enlace" has the ghost of his Coral guitarist past curled inside as well, a touch of the bluesy freakout, which licks a flame or two on the blue touchpaper.

I suppose the thing that fascinates me most is the gear change I imagine the mind needs to undertake from indie singer/songwriter to composer.  Performance being less theatrical and less idiosyncratic somehow in an orchestral setting and more impersonal in terms of others hitting expected standards. Expressing yourself in a more theoretical method dependent on the co-operation of others without touching anything with your own fingers. As usual thoughts fail me. Probably only expressing my own prejudices.

I wonder if Bill will get any big movie soundtrack offers on the back of this.

Rating: Morse out of Beefheart

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