|Johnny Parry Chamber Orchestra — Fields And Birds And Things (2012)|
Johnny Parry Chamber Orchestra — Fields And Birds And Things
¶ "The confident yet surprisingly self-effacing Johnny Parry came across like the million-selling artist he certainly deserves to become".
¶ "We’ve been here before with Waits, Cave and Cohen, and yet there’s a freshness to what Parry’s doing".
Location: London and Bedford, England
Album release: April 23, 2012
Record Label: Lost Toys Records
01. Keep Kicking And Screaming 3:57
02. Lie In A Whole 2:19
03. Rebuild It Piece By Piece 7:17
04. Little Prayer No.14 2:59
05. Men Will Hang Again 4:26
06. Lucy Isabella And I 5:55
07. God Still Loves Me 4:09
08. Love And Death Will Hunt You Down 6:10
09. Love And Death 5:36
10. More Fields And Birds And Things 4:36
11. Find Your Way Home 7:25
• David J Lynch - Bass, BV's
• Ben Milway - Drums, Percussion, BV's
• Johnny Parry - Vocals, Piano, Keyboard instruments, Guitar, Percussion
• Donna Lennard (used to be Loomans) - Soprano
• Margit Van Der Swan - Cello
• Merlyn Sturt - Viola
• Anne-Marie Kirby - Violin
• Carine Ries - Violin
• Ed Bruggemeyer - Violin
• Zoe Robertson - Violin
• Bertie Anderson - Viola
• Naomi Watts - Cello
• Emily Hurrell - Cello
• Neil McIntyre - Trumpet, Cornett
• Jim Bennett - Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Whistling
• Jenny Hird - Sax, Oboe
• Roger Illingworth - Sax, Toy Piano, Percussion
• Chez Taylor - Sax
• Claire McIntyre - Sacbutt, Trombone
• Andrea Tweedale - Soprano
• Rosie Middleton - Mezzo Soprano
• Emma Hardy - Soprano
• The Whybirds (Ben Haswell, Dave Banks, Taff Thatcher, Luke Tuchscherer), Commander Nick Parry, James MacDowell, Rich Cooper, John Blamey, Tris Steyn, Mike Heard - Men
• Siegfried Bulow - Narration
• Fi Salomon - vocals
• Ru Cook - Guitar
• Andy Holden - Artwork and films
By Howard Male | Sunday, 10 June 2012 (http://www.theartsdesk.com)
Rarely has the dankly Gothic been more uplifting
¶ In this self-sufficient age of laptops and loop pedals you have to admire the Werner Herzog-like vision and ambition of a singer-songwriter who decides his compositions deserve to be fully brought to life by an orchestra. After all, who has their own orchestra these days? Tony Bennett, perhaps, or Barbra Streisand? But certainly not someone who’s most recent video has so far only garnered 400 hits on YouTube. Yet last night in the acoustically idea setting of the Union Chapel, the confident yet surprisingly self-effacing Johnny Parry came across like the million-selling artist he certainly deserves to become.
¶ Dressed in traditional doom merchant crooner uniform of white shirt, black trousers and black waistcoat, Parry spent the whole concert at the piano with some 30 musicians pressing in from all sides on the modestly proportioned stage. However, just in case we should get bored with the unadulterated pleasure of hearing his recently released third album majestically brought to life by a saxophone quartet, brass section, orchestra strings, choir, drummer, bassist, guitarist and percussionists, a screen had been erected in front of the altar on which perfectly synchronised images were projected for added distraction.
¶ Parry (or his regular filmmaking collaborator Andy Holden) is wise enough to realise that context is everything when juxtaposing imagery to music. Therefore it’s pointless to pull out all the CGI stops or curvaceous dancers when a slow-motion shot of rain streaming down the outside of a train window can be just as hypnotic if the music framing it has a suitable amount of gravitas. And Parry’s music is nothing but gravitas. His voice could be best described as a growled whisper that occasionally expands into a Bowie-esque croon. He uses this still not fully matured instrument to rage against a god he doesn’t believe in, lovers who haunt him and a world that seem intent on doing him harm. We’ve been here before with Waits, Cave, Cohen and others, and yet there’s no question that there’s a freshness and originality to what Parry’s doing.
¶ For one thing, there’s hope and humour in much of his material. The words of the ostensibly sombre lament “Rebuild It Piece By Piece” (see video below) entirely consists of sayings, proverbs and aphorisms (“The darkest hour is before the dawn,/ So take the bull by the horns”). The song’s video is made up of frames from Marvel comics in which the speech bubbles contain the words as they occur in the song. The juxtaposition of banal yet occasionally wise words, funereal music and gaudy super hero imagery has a cumulative effect which is unexpectedly powerful and moving. And there’s nothing more moving than being moved when you least expect to be.
¶ Musically, the nearest comparison with much of Parry’s work is the aching melancholy and righteous anger of And No More Shall We Part-era Nick Cave. In fact Parry’s bolshy trumpet-powered march, “God Loves Me” seems to have the same mix of wit, religious scepticism and holy delirium as Cave’s “God is in the House”. But the high point of last night’s sublime concert was the opening track from his new album Fields & Birds & Things. The two-chord-centred “Keep Kicking & Screaming”, gradually builds in the manner of Bowie’s “Heroes” but also brings to mind Joy Division at their most elegiac and Arcade Fire at their least relentless. In other words, there’s so much in Parry’s music which left me feeling how incomprehensible it is that he is not yet more widely known and appreciated. What he pulled off last night was a logistical and musical miracle.
¶ Johnny grew up in a small village in the English countryside. This involved a lot of running around in circles followed by a brief period of being institutionalised.
¶ It wasn't until Johnny was fifteen that he picked up an instrument, buying a guitar, in that same way that many 15-year-old boys do. After receiving some particularly generous comments about a poem he wrote for a funeral he immediately started writing songs as there was little evidence of other paths to head down. At the age of 18 Johnny swapped to the piano and started to get interested in arranging.
¶ Although not from a musical family Johnny is a distant relative of Sir Hubert Parry, the composer of the hymn Jerusalem. This classical theme developed whilst Johnny studied at college exploring the heavyweight composers such as Shostakovich, Mahler and Stravinsky.
¶ Whilst at college Johnny's main musical project evolved into the 'Useless Wooden Toys'. This band included fellow lost toys records artist Roger Illingworth (Show Without Punch), Dr John Dalymoore (organic chemist extrodinaire) and long term Johnny Parry collaborators Ben Milway and David Lynch.
¶ 'Useless Wooden Toys' released three tracks produced in collaboration with producer Ru Cook (also producer for Break Your Little Heart and Songs Without A Purpose), and toured around London's less salubrious venues.
¶ The band became less active over a few years as various members drifted off to universities and music colleges leaving Johnny to start his first large project.
¶ In 2002 Johnny travelled to Canada to have his music coupled with dance. After arriving in Toronto the plans fell through and Johnny decided to make his first solo record, 'Break your Little Heart'. Johnny spent a month wandering the streets listening to buskers and visiting open mic nights to recruit a selection of Toronto's finest underground musicians. Johnny's producer Ru Cook flew out to capture the sessions in St Pauls Trinity Church.
¶ With the album finished Johnny returned to the UK and got in touch with old musical friends Ben Milway (drums) and Dave Lynch (bass) to re-interpret the songs for a live show. Artist Andy Holden also joined the project to build individual short films to go along side each track.
¶ Johnny spent several months touring BYLH around the UK, traveling hundreds of miles in his infamous white skoda. Whilst promoting this album Johnny also started producing arranging for other artists, including Karl Stevens, Joe Roberts and later John Redfern, Show Without Punch, Dan Moore and Betty Francis.
¶ In 2005 the second album was conceived. Whilst living in south London with a group of artists Johnny started to explore a different side to his craft. After an intensive period of studying orchestration techniques hundreds of pages of scrutinized manuscript were brought to the studio, arranged for the trio and a small chamber orchestra. The 2007 release of 'Songs Without a Purpose'(SWP), combined with more live films by Andy Holden was worked into a tour around the UK with ocasional trips into main land Europe.
¶ During 2007 Johnny combined with old friends Show Without Punch and Grubby Mitts (featuring Roger Illingworth and Andy Holden) to form Lost Toys records. This mini label helps the three acts collaborate logistically and musically.
¶ As Johnny started to work more closely with David Lynch and Ben Milway the name 'The Johnny Parry Trio' was adopted to represent the wider influences of the ensemble.
In late 2007 the Trio embarked on part one of three EP's, 'The Little Prayers'. After spending the summer building their own recording studio in the countryside the trio started recording in November 07. The record features music composed over the last 8 years, some of which has been played live before, and a few which appear as alternate interpretations on other albums. In their production of this project all the parts of all the songs are performed by the trio, with a less elaborate orchestration than previous recordings, leading to a more traditional song based album.
¶ The first unveiling of the new compositions and arrangements was at the Luminiare, January 2008. Johnny is continuing to promote Songs Without A Purpose and the Little Prayers EP with gigs around London, the Uk and performances abroad. Over the last few months Johnny has been gigging with a paired down acoustic show. This is a stark contrast with Johnny's traditional show which features backing tracks and projected visuals. These more intimate gigs have been performed at Slaughtered Lamb, 12 bar, Biddle Brothers and the Spitz. The trio mix intimate acoustic shows with laptop led visual extravaganzas depending on the venue and other bands sharing their bills.
Whilst touring the the UK with the Little Prayers EP Johnny started work on a new and ambitious project.
¶ On May 9th Johnny Parry launched his new album 'More Love & Death' with a performance at London's Union Chapel. This performance gave birth to the Johnny Parry Chamber Orchestra, which includes a string quartet, trumpet, sopranos, saxophones and live visuals. 'More Love & Death' sees Johnny return to his orchestral roots and The Johnny Parry Chamber Orchestra is embarking on a series of gigs to perform these expansive orchestral arrangements live.
¶ “Sounds like the menacing soundtrack to some Gothic Victorian carnival, a ghostly Leonard Cohen remixed by David Lynch, avant-garde classical liturgy worthy of Penderecki” - Uncut
¶ "Johnny Parry vaults his way from being just another singer-songwriter to something more akin to the UK's equivalent of Sufjan Stevens, an artist with a distinctive musical vision" The Independent
¶ "Absolutely Dazzling" Clash Magazine - 'Essential Ten' section
¶ "Complex, cinematic music that builds intricate landscapes of sound..., Compelling... Intoxicating... an unusual delight" - MOJO
¶ "For once that most ill-fitting cliche 'widescreen' might just be appropriate." - Word Magazine
¶ "A spectacular cacophony" - Timeout
¶ "This is an impressive, innovative and unique piece of work. If at first the shell seems difficult to break, persevere. Lurking inside is an unusual and enchanting box of secrets." - soundsxp
¶ "Overlaid vocals and thick harmonies combine to deliver a powerful and unique album, replete with drama... a vibrant piece of work." - Aesthetica Magazine
¶ "A wonderful cross between the old BBC Radiophonic Orchestra and the second, slightly mad, side of Todd Rundgren’s Initiation LP." - Sunday Express
¶ "This may certainly well be the most ambitious record of 2012. Genius...everything seems to fall in place to create a simply astonishing piece of music." Elusive Little Comments, pre-review
¶ “Fields and Birds and Things is a fantastic listen. It might take a little while to truly get into it, but I can only say that you must persevere, give it a few more listens and soon you will see that even with the subjects behind these songs, it’s not overbearing at all. It’s ambition that has produced a stunning piece of work.” Elusive Little Comments, Album Review
¶ “A 30-plus member band that, judging by the singles, makes a fantastic noise.” For Folks Sake, single review
¶ "The result is a sprawling album, replete with shimmering horns and lush strings as he stakes his claim to be the UK’s very own Sufjan Stevens" For Folks Sake, Album Review
¶ "A beautiful place." - Monocule
¶ “Audio and visuals seem to come together into something entirely fitting and wonderful.” 405, single review
¶ "There is a wonderful juxtaposition of darkness and melancholy with lighter tones, irony with honesty, humour with sobriety. Each element of the orchestra complements the others perfectly, and each track is accompanied by a short film or animation, courtesy of Andy Holden. They are certainly a talented bunch who know how to put on a good show....It was an hour of visual and aural delight which seemed to pass all too quickly." - Planet Notion
¶ "...his performances are simply beautiful. How talent this big has gone under the radar for so long escapes me, but I suspect this is all about to change if Saturday's jaw-dropping performance was anything to go by!" - The 405
¶ "Mind-blowing music...already tipped to be the next best thing." - London Confidential
¶ "Extraordinary!" 4/5 - Rolling Stone DE
¶ "I wondered where this music had been all my life." - Tom Robinson Radio 6
¶ "My heart flew up like a bungee, narrowly missing my jaw on its way down. This was a voice. A hell of a voice." - The Rambler
¶ "Brooding blend of gothic songs and Nyman-esque instrumentation." - Time out
¶ "More Love & Death" is genius, one that builds off of trauma and bad choices, blends it with the moody echoes of some of his heroes, and creates art that remains, despite the fringes, stark and brutally honest. That genius is, more than the sum of its parts, Johnny Parry himself." - Musicemissions
¶ "As Parry has proved it once more with More Love And Death, his dark and beautiful and complex world is a work of genius." - Daily Vault
¶ "Parry's poems of morbid carnality and romance are framed by heavy velvet curtains of stylized theatrical gloom" - Uncut
¶ "Overall, to imaging this, just put Tom Waits in front of A Silver Mt Zion, an opera singer is in the wings doing vocal exercises. Gravelly vocals over sometimes elegant and sometimes Kurt Weill like musicscapes, earthy imagery contrasting with polite strings, the gamekeeper is in the drawing room enjoying the ladies from behind. Sometimes though the songs are more like dream sequences ‘Kicking and Screaming’ with its spoken bookends and dividers draws the ear towards another world where opera is the opiate, I expect the Flying Dutchman to arrive at any moment and deliver me from my dream. If I was taken away and delivered to ‘Dine Alone’ it could only be to an ante-chamber to a circle of hell, sparse percussion marking each moment, tremulous vocals with a deep choral rumbling percolating up menacingly from below." - Americana UK
¶ "Parry's lyrics are the best. Recommended. (Rating: 5++)" - Baby sue
¶ "Parry's rough voice (that inevitably recalls something of Tom Waits) is matched with the operatic soprano of Donna Loomans. The combination is unique: emotional, compelling, eerie, majestic. The quality of this album is evident in every single note." -
¶ “A piano led thing of beauty.” - Timeout
¶ “Beautifully orchestrated” - Plan B
¶ “Songs Without A Purpose is one of the most beautiful records ever made.
...his music brims with such beauty, elegance and bountifulness that it is impossible not to look at him as a poetic and musical genius. - Yes, he is that good.” - Daily Vault
¶ "...songs start out beautiful, swing through nightmarish, and end masterful...they’re uncomfortably beautiful; even, occasionally, tenderly funny ... It turns out this twisted character loves the same things as any retarded hippy. This album makes light out of some genuine darkness, and art out of some real songcraft. These songs are simply better written - better composed - than almost anything out there." - Scene Point Blank, Gluck
¶ Tracks featured on special Radio 3 Late Junction show of 'Extraordinary voices'
¶ “...drama that would bring an opera house to its feet.” - disclaimerband.com - "Genius" Bearded Magazine
¶ “A modern pop opera that demands your fullest attention... experience his music as soon as possible.” - Smoother Magazine
¶ “...rises above the saccharine thanks to Parry's vulnerable, heartfelt delivery and the horrific images conjured up by the lyrics ...stunning” - Leonards Lair
¶ “I believe the album just IS...it's own piece of poetry. Bizarre? Definitely. Beautiful? Absolutely." - The Big Takeover
¶ “...a real underground gem. Beautiful music created with acute attention to detail. We love this one. (Rating: 5++)” - Babysue
¶ “This is a classic record. 9/10” - The Mag, 2007
¶ “Parry's voice grabs you by the throat. This music drips right into your soul. ...mind-blowing” - DaMusic
¶ “Extremely beautiful and dark” - Radio 1 Belgium, Cucamunga
¶ also listed in the ‘best albums of the year’:
¶ “...in 2003 Johnny Parry brought out his debut Break your Little Heart and he raised quite some suspicions that he would soon become one of the greats. This second album only proves us right.” - Gonzo Circus
¶ “...it'll either get too uncomfortable for you to bear any longer, or else you'll be able to accept it as the norm and any other singer thereafter will sound naff and artificial.” - Netrhythms
|Johnny Parry Chamber Orchestra — Fields And Birds And Things (2012)|