Sunday, April 13, 2008

James Blackshaw & Remember Remember in The List

A couple of articles I wrote for the current issue of The List. Click on the hyperlinks above each article to read them on The List's website, or better still, pop down to your local newsagents and buy a copy. There's a nice interview with the RZA in there after all. You'll be able to read full interviews with both James Blackshaw and RememberRemember in the forthcoming issue 7 of Beard. In the meantime, go catch these fine gents at the Triptych festival, or, to paraphrase Metallica, wherever they may roam.

James Blackshaw

In only five years, James Blackshaw has earned a reputation as Britain’s most brilliant young composer-guitarist, wowing the avant-garde and folk underground with his acoustic 12-string reveries.

Like contemporary US pickers Jack Rose and Glenn Jones, the 26-year-old Londoner draws inspiration from the American Primitive school of guitar instrumentalists – John Fahey, Sandy Bull, and, in particular, 12-string guru Robbie Basho – but his vision isn’t limited to an exploration of folk, blues and raga forms. In fact, his compositions have more in common with the minimalism of Steve Reich and Charlemagne Palestine, Southeast Asian folk, and Renaissance courtly music.

It’s as a composer that Blackshaw principally sees himself, although the 12-string guitar, with its resonant, bell-like sound, is instrumental in realising his ideas. The results are quite remarkable: long, mesmeric pieces driven by cascading arcs of finger-picked notes, rich in overtones, drones and graceful melodies. Although Blackshaw is reluctant to describe his music as psychedelic, his ability to put the listener in a trance-like state, then transport them somewhere else with a subtle harmonic shift or fleet-fingered flourish, can be transcendent, spiritual even.

The Cloud of Unknowing, named after a 14th century mystical Christian text, was one of the great albums of 2007, and previews suggest its follow up, Litany of Echoes, due in June, will be equally special. There’s also a collaboration with Dutch lute maestro Jozef Van Wissem to look forward to.

An extraordinary talent, James Blackshaw will hypnotise, dazzle and move you. In one word: unmissable.

James Blackshaw plays Bongo Club, Edinburgh Sat 26 Apr; The Ivy, Glasgow, Sun 27 Apr.


The Royal We and Sexy Kids bassist, Multiplies synth wiz, Mogwai auxiliary, Flying Matchstick Men axe-smith, Graeme Ronald’s musical CV is impressive to say the least. But it’s as RememberRemember that Ronald has come into his own, spinning guitar loops and found sounds into densely beautiful compositions that suggest a post-rock Steve Reich.

‘I bought a looping pedal and it was a godsend to me,’ says Ronald of his favourite musical tool. ‘Whenever I have a melody in my head I just stick it right down with my guitar and instantly start imagining what other melodies and textures could complement it.’

RememberRemember currently performs as a three piece, with violinist Joan and saxophonist James. ‘I wanted to incorporate tones that just can’t be created with a guitar or a synth,’ Ronald explains.

The album he’s currently recording for Mogwai’s Rock Action label takes this idea further, with Chinese harp and mobile phone keypads added to the mix.

Ronald’s home-made props are always a highlight of gigs, so can audiences expect anything special for Triptych?

‘James has come up with an amazing idea for our show which I guess is the trick. It’s probably too large to fit up a sleeve though.’

RememberRemember play Tramway, Glasgow, Sat 26 Apr; Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, Sun 27 Apr.

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