chill to this - album notes

 

This was my first completed solo album and it was recorded at Backtrack Studios London in 1998. The sudden impetus to record something came from the loss of my very close friend Sarah Wilkins who tragically died in a fire in December 1997 aged only 22. I felt the need to focus on something more spiritual than my day job at the Centre for Young Musicians, and wanted to make some kind of tribute to her.  I drew on original ideas that I’d had previously, some of which went as far back as 1982, but which had not yet been fully realised. I put down the backing tracks with the help of the engineer Kevin le Morvan and then invited in a number of artists to help bring the recording to life. I owe these people a debt of gratitude for their wonderful interpretations:

 

guitar       James Lumley

voice        Mike Henry

percussion   Tony Maloney

spoken voice Laetitia Long

violin       Emma Smith

voice        Melanie Pappenheim

 

 

Tracks:

 

a matter of time

 

This came out of an improvisation from 1982 around a rhythmic idea and a sequence of chords against a treble clef pedal of A natural and a bass note starting on F#.  Each section starts with the interval of a 4th against this A and F# then works out a satisfying progression from that - the sense of logic comes from the descending sequence:

 

Section 1: A, F# & A & E

Section 2: A, F# & G# & D#

Section 3: A, F# & G and D

 

The rhythmic motif emphasises groups of 3 against the beat of 4 quavers and this is made explicit in section 3 where the piano right hand plays groups of 4 while the left hand plays groups of 3 (something I went on to use in ‘Hippolyte & Aricie’).

 

I invited Laetitia to speak some words over the track in both English and French, and Tony played some great drums to help lock the beat down. 

 

was it once

 

In 1983/4 I improvised a lot around a sequence from Hippolyte and Aricie, evolving different chord sequences which were logically related to the original by Rameau.  One idea used piano chords of Am add9 - F - C add4 - Em and translated those chords into durations on percussion.  The effect was little like listening to the crackling of my gas fire cool after switching it off.

 

I returned to this chord sequence in 1998 and strummed it on electric guitar and wrote some lyrics about Sarah.

 

Mike Henry (who I had known from Regular Music gigs) sang this song beautifully, Tony added some percussion and James Lumley played some outstanding improvised guitar riffs over it. 

 

Was it once 

Long ago

She danced in fields

And falling snow

She was young

She was wild and free

And she was all

She was meant to be

 

She touched my heart

She’d touch yours too

She had this way

Of getting through

And in the night 

She is here with me

Like a dream

That my eyes still see

 

Feel the rain

Falling down 

Feel your feet

Touch the ground

 

It can’t last forever

It’s never the length of time we live

It’s more about our friends

And the loving that we give

Be glad for the wild times

Be glad for how good this live can be

I’m glad for the crazy way

Her loving set me free

She set me free

 

 

drift

 

Back in about 1987 I came up with a piano idea in 5/4 using 3 groups of 5 triplets in the right hand against crotchet beats (3 triplets) in the left hand.  (In other words a harmony of 5 beats against 3 beats.) The ‘Classical’ chord progression recalls maybe Schubert or might be related to something like the ‘Dies Irae’.  It was initially jokily called 15/12 overture but I was never quite happy with it.  Then one day I improvised freely around it on the piano and was lucky enough to record a really good pass which I later transcribed and arranged for this track.  Tony really liked this rhythm and played some very dynamic drums along with my piano and bass, then Mike did some fantastic vocalising over it which really showcases his range and imagination.  The title came from a discussion about the album with Trevor Wilkins in my local pub and ‘drift’ was his idea - I think it really fits the flowing nature of the music.

 

house of dreams

 

In 1997 I went clubbing quite a lot in London with my friends and it was a common experience to return home in the early hours, try to get some sleep and hear echoes of the music from the club in your head while half awake under the duvet.  This track tries to capture that feeling with the result that the 1997 house music style is subverted and more dreamlike.  In a way it’s like a modern version of Berlioz’ ‘Un Bal’ from his Symphonie Fantastique. Listen out for footsteps outside on the pavement, deamlike decrescendi in the snare rolls, wah wah piano, punchy C add 4 organ chords, orchestral strings (a nod to symphonic music like that of Berlioz), the sound of tea being stirred (which morphs into a Brazilian rhythm), and a knock at the bedroom door which disturbs the dreamer leading to a rustling of the quilt.  Again the chord sequence is from Hippolyte and Aricie.  I played all the instruments on this track and Kevin was very helpful in suggesting new samples and audio effects.

 

crossing over

 

This is in 11/8 which comes from 3 + 3 + 3 + 2 in the right hand and 4 + 4 + 1 + 2 in the left hand.  Also the first 2 groups of 3 in the right hand use dotted quavers (2 against 3) in the rising figure.  I improvised it in 1995 then arranged this version in 1998.  James added some guitar, then I invited Emma Smith to play violin tracks improvising around the melodies I wrote down for her.  I knew Emma as leader of the London Schools Symphony Orchestra who I had gone on tour to Japan with in 1997 (she also used to babysit for my son!).  I believe it was her first ever recording session and she was amazing.

 

prayer / like a fever

 

In 1985 I wrote a piece for Regular Music called ‘Shudder’ which used combinations of dotted quavers and quavers against a steady quaver pulse (and crotchet beat).  It was getting really close to the subsequent House rhythms that appeared later in the 1990s. (There is a bootleg recording of a performance at Bloomsbury Theatre stored in the British Library.)  The distinctive harmonic identity of the piece comes from 3 chords: G, G#m, B over an F natural, an oscillating B - C# melody and the scale that results from these. For this recording I returned to the idea and made the connection with House music explicit, but restructured it a bit.  Firstly you hear the chorus with me singing a prayer around the melody:

 

Give me peace 

In my soul

Give me love

I can hold

And throughout 

All this time

Heal my heart 

From bitter rhyme

Let your spirit 

My love

Walk with me 

In the sky above

 

Then there are some sound effects suggesting locations I was familiar with at that time: we are at a reception, leaving onto a rainy London street, which then leads to a house club with a feverish atmosphere.

 

James Lumley improvised electric guitar with plenty of energy around the scale I showed him, and Tony played some fantastic bongos and timbales which really drive the music along.  Mike thought there were echoes of Prince in there somewhere but the resulting effect is unlike anything else I can think of.

 

night lament (she weepeth sore)

 

This is a recording of an experimental piece I wrote in 1987 soon after getting an Atari and Steinberg’s Pro-24 recording software.  It takes William Lawes’ round ‘She weepeth sore’ and translates the pitch into rhythm and the rhythm into pitch…so Lawes’ lovely falling chromatic chord sequence becomes a gradually slowing tempo at every other bar (with polyrhythms) while his rrhythm simplifies to a melody of just 3 notes A, D and the A above.  I put a piano chime on the back beat and Melanie sang all the parts while I conducted.  Her voice is perfect for this sort of thing - pure, unaffected and beautiful.  The words and the sense of exotic lament were in keeping with the mood of the album and I felt the gentle nature and simple pitch would help clear the ear and mind after the excesses of Prayer/ Like a fever and before the album’s extended finale.

 

never the time

 

For the original CD I had 3 versions of ‘never the time’ but for this digital release I’ve combined them into one and I think it works better.  This track came from an idea recorded into my Ensoniq Mirage sampler some time in the 1980s -  a swinging triplet riff around 2 different bass progressions:

 

Bass = D, F with a melodic riff = C,F,G

2)   Bass = C, B natural, Ab, Bb with a melodic riff = D, Eb, G

 

In 1998 I added a melodic phrase and some simple words reflecting my mood…Around then there really never did seem to be the time to explore finer ideas.  ‘There’s never the time, to hear a sweet rhyme’.  I had a lot of responsibilities but needed personal time - both to come to terms with the loss of a dear friend, and to reach out to find something valuable, something of aesthetic worth more than the paper and processes I was buried under at work.  I was also aware that the recording process reveals one’s mood regardless of how much technique is involved… ‘In all that you do, feelings come through’

 

We did a session where Mike sang the melody and then improvised with me at the piano - this is how the track starts, with part of that session.  Then I lifted those vocal samples for use in the main track with the help of Tony’s friend ‘Phd’ who mastered the original.  Tony added a lovely conga groove to the track, James played my original riffs on guitar and then played some beautiful improvisations over the track to complete the mood. 

 

/ chill to this

 

There is a segue straight into chill to this where 2 pianos play flowing arpeggio figures in different time signatures. These are modified versions of those found in my Neapolitan Sixth (part 1) from 1982. The bass clarifies and reinforces these cross rhythms.  Then I added a Roland MC-202 (lent to me by Trevor Wilkins) playing similar material which adds a depth to the sound and texture. 

 

These form a backdrop for Mike to sing the following lyrics:

 

Find a love

Share a kiss

Free your hearts

Chill to this

 

All the laughter 

Of those days

Echoes in

The bright sun’s haze

 

Nothing more

Than a prayer

Need you give

To show you care

 

 

 

 

© Jonathan Parry

 

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© 2015 Jonathan Parry.