Hello again, you might think this week has been a tad prolific here in Notes land, well you’d be correct, i have finally (in the absence of my laptop) managed to find my blu-tooth keyboard and hey presto here I am catching up whilst I have bereft of my laptop (using my trusty tablet instead) Today as part of my catch up, I’m looking at three very different solo artists.
First up is Richard Wileman. Known as making experimnetal, gothic, part Radiophonic Workshop, part Wickerman soundtrack under the Karda Estra minker, Richard has started releasing music under his own name, and his latest release Cabal of a Thousand Souls came out in July and is a follow up to 2018’s highly succesful Veil.
Rooted in a similar vein to neo acid folksters like Cobalt chapel, or Dodson and Fogg, Cabal of a Thousand Souls, see’s Richaed pare the sound back from the more orchestral moments from his Karda estra days, mixing the intricate musical moments that are his trademark, with a dark folkier vein.
Joined by Amy Fry on clarinet, alto sax and vocals, and Gary Nash who drums on I am the Wave, this is really intimate sound, the sparse instrumentationtracks like The watchmaker, with Richards wonderfully emotive vocals, sometimes accompanied by nothing more some intricate guitar picking.
This haunting atmospheric music reminds of you dark nights, huddled round a fire telling ghost stories and and each song, from the opening instrumental Sublime ruins (sounding like an off kilter baroque interpretation of an old folk tune) with it’s haunting synths and piano work could well be the soundtrack to a mid 70’s BBC TV Childrens drama about a creepy village where nothing is quite right.
I am the Wave reminds me very much of the work of Bob Pegg & Mr Fox in it’s storytelling and sound. With only being 7 tracks long and clocking in at just over 20 minutes this is proof that sometimes less is more, and bigger isn’t neccesarily better. Richard has always been a peerless composer, and adapting his songwriting style to dark folk suits his tone and style, and if you enjoyed any of his Karda Estra work, you will love Cabal of A Thousand Souls, it’s the perfect sequel and companion piece to Veil.
Cabal of a Thousand souls is available from https://richardwileman.bandcamp.com/album/cabal-of-a-thousand-souls
Next up in my review trio is the latest solo album from Mike Hyder, songwriter, guitarist & vocalist for The Treat, called Wood & Steel (following up his critically acclaimed Journeyman album, one I really enjoyed back in the day when I was contributing to Rock Society, published by the CRS).
Stepping away from the band, who are also really worth listening to, allows Mike room to expand on his own musical vision. Wood & Steel, obviously, referes to the guitars that Mike plays, and from the cover with him posing with his acoustic in one hand, and electric in the other, gives you a good indication as to what you’re going to get. And what you do get is blues rock of the highest order, Mike plays with your expectations, with the wonderful CD back cover paying homage to vinyl, with the first 5 tracks listed as This Side & the closing 5 listed as That Side!
Mike has a sense of fun and playfulness throughout the album, with the instructions on the CD stating it’s Made to be Played Loud, and tbf if you do, I am sure your neighbours will love it just as much as you do. Mike is a confident and talented songwriter, with a knack for a tune and the musical chops to follow it up, from contemporary classics like Continental Woman and jack the Lad, the lyrically and musically brilliant (God Knows) I’m Missing You, and social commentary with the poignant On the Buses, and the cheeky nod to viagra in the fun Blue Diamond, Mike covers all bases lyrically and musically.
In fact Wood & Steel is another great album from Mike, and showcases his guitar work, vocals and songwriting technique, If you haven’t heard Mike Hyder before you are in for a Treat.
Last, but by no means least is the new album Year by Year by Anytown, for those of you who aren’t in the know (and if not, why not?) Anytown is Matthew Taylor from Sheffield legends Dead Like Harry, one of the best bands the CRS discovered, and one of the most versatile and popular.
Dead Like Harry, with Matt’s songs, were an absolute pleasure, and when Matt released his first Anytown album, it was deservedly heaped with praise.
His 2nd album under this moniker is a far more personal work than his debut, and is dedicated to his wife Abbi and his sons Archie&Ivor, with the quote ‘This is our story’. Matt has always been one of my favourite songwriters (with DLH’s Lake Geneva sitting in my all time favourite top ten) and he does not disapoint on this album.
With a radical reworking of the Dead Like Harry favourite Steeltown (one of his earlier autobiographical songs about growing up in Sheffield) to newer pieces like Little Soul, with it’s beautiful lyrics and atmospheric production, it comes across beautifully, and the emotion in Matts voice, and the lyrics as well as the production really allow the song to breath and grow.
That can be said about the entire album, the production and the arrangements are absolutely superb, letting Matts vocals and his words take centre stage, and working with his brother Samuel on here (a musical partnership lasting 20 years) as well as musical friends like Robin Baker on bass and double bass and John Redgrave on piano, guitar and additional synths.
Having regular contributers who Matthew has worked with over many years gives the band a tight but relaxed feel, allowing the songs to grow and develop, and Four Winds pt 1 & Pt 2 are both beautiful examples of how Matt’s songwriting has grown and developed.
Rounding of with the double whammy of Year by Year and Edith Cavell, Matt has made, what I feel is one of the albums of the year. By creating and crafting something so personal, so intimate, so loving, Matthew has opened the doors for us to hear his heart and his soul, and it’s clear throughout here how much Matt has matured as a songwrite, and how he has found his own place in the world, with his family, and by inviting us into his home, Matt is the most generous musical host. This album is basically a masterpiece from start to finish, there is nothing not to love here, and if you remember Dead Like Harry with warmth and affection (like I do) then you need to buy this album, in fact, if you don’t know who Dead Like Harry are you still need this album.
This is one of those albums that grow on you and I am sure, will grow with you.
Anytown Year by Year is available from anytown.bandcamp.com
That’s all from the edge for this time, catch you on the next one.