|Ben Watt — Hendra (2014)|
Ben Watt — Hendra
Ξ Featuring Bernard Butler, Ewan Pearson and Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, listen to the latest project from Everything But The Girl's Ben Watt.
Ξ “I’m up for selling the business/my heart isn’t in it/without your face over the counter”; England is a nation of struggling shopkeepers, and on his beautiful, bittersweet solo LP, Ben Watt embraces themes of disillusion and personal loss to echo a countrywide solemnity.
Occupations: Musician, singer-songwriter, DJ, producer, remixer, record label owner, radio presenter
Instruments: Vocals, guitar, bass, drums, keyboards/synths/piano/organ, turntable, programming
Born: December 6, 1962 in Marylebone, London, England
Location: Hampstead, North London, Britain, UK
Album release: 14 April, 2014
Recorded at David Gilmour’s Medina studio in Hove
Record Label: Unmade Road/Caroline
01 Hendra 3:22
02 Forget 5:14
03 Spring 3:55
04 Golden Ratio 5:14
05 Matthew Arnold's Field 4:32
06 The Gun 5:34
07 Nathaniel 4:46
08 The Levels 3:59
09 Young Man's Game 2:53
10 The Heart Is a Mirror 4:43
11 Hendra (Demo) 2:55
12 Spring (Demo) 3:14
13 Young Man's Game (Demo) 3:31
14 Forget (Live) 5:06
℗ 2014 Unmade Road Ltd. under exclusive license to Caroline International
By ANN POWERS | April 06, 201411:03 PM ET
Ξ The stranger on the bus, the woman who gives you your change at the corner store; every human loves and hurts and finds a way to navigate through life's confusions. But most people don't share their inner lives with many others. It's a special gift when an artist tells the stories of plain people in an ordinary voice, leaving in the stops and starts, the seeming banality, and the unadorned insight that each of us experiences when things hit hard, or when the days and nights just go on.
Ξ Ben Watt is a master of detail and of quietude. In the longstanding duo Everything But The Girl, he and his partner Tracey Thorn developed a sound that ranged widely, showing traces of samba, torch songs, West Coast jazz, cosmopolitan country and, eventually, electronic music, while remaining whisperingly relatable. Watt and Thorn, though still married, put EBTG in the closet in 2000; she developed a solo career while he focused on writing (he's just published his second book), DJ work and running a record label. Now, with his first solo album in 31 years, Watt has returned to highly cultured, intimate songcraft. Those unnoticed confessions of private life were still there for him to mine.
Ξ Hendra's 10 songs are patient, even reticent creatures. They focus on the ruling subjects of midlife: the loss of loved ones, the ongoing confrontation with the fact that you are the sum of long–ago choices and circumstances, and the idea that fewer changes lie before you than behind. Many are internal monologues: a man describing the details of his mourning to his departed wife; another admitting that club life is a bit much for him now that he's past 49. Others show Watt engaging with bigger subjects, like gun control. But even then, he focuses on the wreath a victim's mother throws into the ocean, or a memorial spray–painted on a trailer door.
Ξ To frame these tales, with their startlingly powerful small denouements, Watt enlisted guitarist Bernard Butler, whose riffs and spare solos turn them into dialogues. Ξ Watt's keyboard or acoustic guitar forms the music's base, along with a restrained rhythm section, and his unassuming vocals guide the action. Butler lights a fire under all this modesty. In "The Levels," Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour adds an extra element of the sublime.
Ξ Sometimes, the hesitant soul on Hendra is Watt's own. "Matthew Arnold's Field" seems at first like a tribute to the great English tradition of open-air poetry. Halfway through Watt's detailed account of the green hills above Oxford, it becomes clear that he's carrying the ashes of a loved one as he walks a trail; it's his father, who died last year. Other songwriters might have quoted the poet in the song's title to get at the profundity of this experience. Instead, Watt describes seeing a nearby couple eating sandwiches in a parked car nearby. That's life — awkward sometimes, but also beautiful. (http://www.npr.org/)
Michael Cragg | theguardian.com | Wednesday 12 February 2014 14.48 GMT
Ξ Since he stopped making music as Everything But The Girl with his wife Tracey Thorn back in 1999, Ben Watt's been keeping busy by running his own label (Buzzin' Fly) and establishing himself as a respected DJ. One thing he hadn't been doing, however, was getting on with his solo career, which had taken a bit of a backseat following the release of his debut album, North Marine Drive, back in 1983. So to rectify that he took twelve months off to complete two projects; his second book, Romany and Tom, and his second solo album, Hendra. Described as a "folk-rock record in an electronic age", it was inspired in part by the sudden death of his sister and a newfound desire to get back to working with words and music for himself and not simply helping to craft songs for other people. "Words, beats and notes — it's all we have. It's just a question of playing them in what feels like the right order at the right time, and at the moment, 'Hendra' just feels right," he explains. This melding of guitar and electronics is reflected in the album's two main collaborators, Bernard Butler and Ewan Pearson (there's also a cameo appearance from Pink Floyd's David Gilmour), and also in the album's title track, premiered here. (http://www.theguardian.com/)
BY JOE SWEENEY ON APRIL 9, 2014 | Score: ***
BY HARRY FLETCHER, 21 MARCH 2014 | Score: 8/10
By Danielle O'Donohue | 9 April, 2014 | Score: ***½
VON WERNER · 8. APRIL 2014
Posted by Ben Travis | Monday 7 April 2014 16.33 BST
Ξ Too often musicians succumb to second album syndrome, spending just months to write a follow- up to a record they spent the best part of their lives dedicated to. That’s not the case for Ben Watt — one half of Everything But the Girl — who releases his second album Hendra 31 years after his solo debut. Self–described as “a folk-rock record in an electronic age”, Hendra‘s pure, stripped–down sound is a welcome break for Watt as a regular DJ and head of deep–house/techno label Buzzin’ Fly.
Collaborations with ex–Suede guitarist Bernard Butler and rock institution David Gilmour add striking dimensions to the record. Butler brings some delectably crunchy guitar work throughout, and plays a major part in defining the sound of the record, while Gilmour adds slide and backing vocals on “The Levels”, Hendra’s radiant centrepiece. It’s a wonderfully stoic piece, featuring some of the album’s more uplifting philosophical lyrical content that effectively counterbalances the entire record.
Ξ Featuring Bernard Butler and Berlin-based producer Ewan Pearson, Hendra is Watt’s second solo project of 2014 so far — the first arriving in the form of his second book, Romany and Tom, a memoir of his parents. Like his book, this new venture comes with strong personal relevance: written following the sudden passing of his sister during the record’s creation, the contemplative strains of Hendra provide stirring poignancy.
Artist Biography by JT Griffith
Ξ Ben Watt is best–known as half of the duo Everything but the Girl, which first performed together in 1982. That year, EBTG's Tracey Thorn released her solo debut, A Distant Shore, while Watt released his, North Marine Drive, the following year. Watt's LP went to number one on the U.K. indie charts and included a cover of Bob Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go." Everything but the Girl's early material was lite-jazz, but their major international breakthrough came in the dance music genre with Todd Terry's 1995 remix of the song "Missing," which originally appeared on the album Amplified Heart. ("Missing" went to number two on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1996.) Everything but the Girl successfully made the transition to the "new jazz" of techno, house, and trip-hop. That shift can be seen as a rebirth musically and personally. After the completion of the duo's 1992 album, Acoustic, Watt contracted the rare autoimmune system disease Churg–Strauss Syndrome, which nearly killed him. Complaining of chest pains, Watt was hospitalized for eight weeks and in that time lost more than 40 pounds and 85 percent of his small intestine. Recovery took a long time and was never a certainty. Out of his struggle with the deadly disease, Watt wrote a personal memoir, entitled Patient: The History of a Rare Illness, which was published by Grove Press. Able to look back with humor, Watt wrote of Churg–Strauss Syndrome: "To paraphrase Joseph Heller," Watt wrote, "You know it's something serious when they name it after two guys." Patient contains his observations about the struggle with the mental as well as physical hurdles of recovery. The book is very much a look at how trauma can force a person to become a new individual. One of the new additions to Watt's post-illness life was an engagement with technology. He immersed himself in the World Wide Web and even managed the EBTG website www.ebtg.com). The interest in technology affected the band's music and Watt began to work with sequencers and computers more in his compositions. With the encouragement of friend, producer, and DJ Howie B, Watt began spinning in the world of underground DJs. His boredom with traditional approaches to playing and arranging music, a sense of isolation from an emerging generation of young music fans, and his illness set the stage for the new version of Everything but the Girl. The band had explored soul and bossa nova in the early '80s and began to experiment with downtempo funk, deep house, and jazzy drum 'n' bass. Watt actually remixed a version of "Missing" under the pseudonym Little Joey and fully submerged himself in the U.K. drum 'n' bass scene in 1994. The new techno approach was flushed out on Walking Wounded, their Virgin Records debut. The title-track and "Wrong" both cracked the U.K. Top Ten. Because of Watt's dedication to the club world, the follow-up, Temperamental, was three years in the making and retained much of the same style. Watt has produced and added vocals, piano, and guitar to releases by Chicane, Deep Dish, Adam F., Beth Orton, Roni Size, and Massive Attack, among others.
Ξ Watt attributes his ability to stay energized and young at heart to his remix work and DJ side project, Lazy Dog, an ongoing club event that is hosted regularly in London. Watt and DJ Hannan (who also co-hosts Lazy Dog) released a two-disc set which included the UK hit "Tracey in My Room," on Astralwerks in the fall of 2000. The birth of Watt and Thorn's third child kept the duo busy and away from the studio for a time. Watt's remixing eased him back into recording with work for Sade, Sunshine Anderson, and Maxwell. In 2003 he formed the label and club Buzzin' Fly and began to record a series of deep house singles. Released a year later, Buzzin' Fly, Vol. 1 began a series of CDs featuring music from the label mixed together by Watt.
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Ξ Born on December 6 1962 in London to Glaswegian jazz musician and bandleader, Tommy Watt, and journalist and feature writer, Romany Bain, it was in 1981 that Ben first appeared on London indie, Cherry Red, as a young nineteen–year–old experimental folk artist. His first single was produced by the maverick Kevin Coyne. With his second — 1982's 'Summer into Winter' EP — he coaxed alt–folk icon Robert Wyatt into collaborating on two tracks, and soon his work was drawing comparisons in the press to Tim Buckley and John Martyn. His guitar–playing also set him apart, taking non–rock inspiration from Martyn, Joao Gilberto, Nick Drake and Vinni Reilly resulting in rich folk–jazz voicings. His early work culminated in his debut album — 1983's 'North Marine Drive' (UK Indie Album Chart Top 10).
RETURN TO SOLO
Ξ In March 2013 he announced he was returning to the solo career he parked in 1983. Ξ With a raft of new songs he performed two low–key solo shows at tiny folk n' blues basement, The Slaughtered Lamb, in London's Clerkenwell. Accompanied by ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler on lead guitar, he showcased a dozen new songs to sell-out crowds on August 20 and 21. A mini–UK tour followed in November in the midst of recording sessions for a new album.
Ξ Watt lives with his spouse and creative partner Thorn in Hampstead, North London, UK. They met at Hull University in 1981 and after 28 years as a couple, they married in 2009 at the Chelsea Registry Office. Their twin daughters Jean and Alfie were born in 1998, and their son Blake was born in 2001.
Ξ North Marine Drive (1983, Cherry Red)
Ξ Hendra (2014, Caroline International)
Singles and EPs:
Ξ "Cant" (June 1981, Cherry Red)
Ξ "Summer Into Winter" EP with Robert Wyatt (March 1982, Cherry Red)
Ξ "Some Things Don't Matter" (February 1983, Cherry Red)
Ξ "Lone Cat" (April 2003, Buzzin' Fly)
Ξ "A Stronger Man" with Sananda Maitreya (January 2004, Buzzin' Fly)
Ξ "Outspoken Part 1" feat. "Pop a Cap in Yo' Ass" with Estelle and "Attack, Ξ Attack, Attack" with Baby Blak (January 2005, Buzzin' Fly)
Ξ Buzzin' Fly Vol 2 EP feat. "Le Boom" by Justin Martin, remixes of "Lone Cat (Holding On)" by Justin Martin and "Pop a Cap in Yo Ass" by Ben Watt with Estelle (April 2005, Buzzin' Fly)
Ξ "We Are Silver" EP includes "Old Soul" and "Lone Cat" remix (April 2007, Buzzin' Fly)
Ξ "Just a Blip" features on Buzzin' Fly Vol 4 Sampler EP, (June 2007, Buzzin' Fly)
Ξ "Guinea Pig" (October 2008, Buzzin' Fly)
Compilations mixed by Ben Watt:
Ξ Lazy Dog Vol. 1 with Jay Hannan (October 2000, Virgin)
Ξ Back to Mine with Tracey Thorn as Everything but the Girl (May 2001)
Ξ Lazy Dog Vol. 2 with Jay Hannan (March 2002, Virgin)
Ξ Buzzin' Fly Vol 1: Replenishing Music for the Modern Soul (March 2004, Buzzin' Fly)
Ξ Buzzin' Fly Vol 2: Replenishing Music for the Modern Soul (April 2005, Buzzin' Fly)
Ξ Inthemix.06 with Ivan Gough (Australian release; 2 CDs) (November 2006)
Ξ Buzzin' Fly Vol 3 (June 2006, Buzzin' Fly)
Ξ Buzzin' Fly Vol 4 (May 2007, Buzzin' Fly)
Ξ Buzzin' Fly — 5 Golden Years in the Wilderness (June 2008, Buzzin' Fly)
|Ben Watt — Hendra (2014)|