|Minor Victories — Minor Victories (June 3rd, 2016)|
Minor Victories — Minor Victories (June 3rd, 2016) ■λ→ Minor Victories is the supergroup of Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, Editors’ Justin Lockey, Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite, and James Lockey of Hand Held Cine Club. Today, they’ve announced their debut album. The self–titled record is out June 3 on Fat Possum (US) and Play It Again Sam (worldwide). It’ll feature Mark Kozelek’s previously reported duet with Goswell, as well as a collaboration with the Twilight Sad’s James Graham. Below, watch the Hand Held Cine Club–directed video for “A Hundred Ropes,” featuring a band of samurai charging through a field in extremely slow motion. © MV Photo credit: Sally Lockey
Location: Dalserf, South Lanarkshire, Scotland ~ Newcastle, England, UK
Album release: June 3rd, 2016
Record Label: Fat Possum / Play It Again Sam
Genre: Indie Pop–Rock / Electronic
01. Give Up The Ghost 3:42
02. A Hundred Ropes 3:56
03. Breaking My Light 6:26
04. Scattered Ashes (Song For Richard) 4:19
05. Folk Arp 6:43
06. Cogs 3:20
07. For You Always 3:52
08. Out To Sea 4:11
09. The Thief 7:27
10. Higher Hopes 6:21
℗ 2016 Minor Victories
♣ Rachel Goswell, Vocals, guitar, bass, drums, tambourine
♣ Stuart Leslie Braithwaite, Guitar, Drums, vocals, composer
♣ Justin Lockey, Guitar
♣ James Lockey, Producer, Songwriter
♣ Mark Kozelek of Red House Painters/Sun Kill Moon
♣ James Graham of the Twilight Sad. © Slowdive, Village Underground, Rachel Goswell and Christian Savill
Notes: Stuart´s technique: Braithwaite’s musical technique is characterized by the heavy usage of effects pedals, used to create ambient instrumental guitar sounds. As with much music associated with the post–rock style, his playing emphasizes melody and dynamic contrast over virtuosity.
Speaking about the video A Hundred Ropes, Justin Lockey said:
■λ→ So it’s a one shot.. only actually 10 seconds of real time footage stretched out over minutes, with our humdinger of a tune relentlessly pounding away as the soundtrack! There’s an actual reason for this too! Basically the way I see it, we’re at a point where music videos or as they are most commonly known as nowadays “bits of content for the internets” are so crammed with narrative with an insane and relentless amounts of cuts / editing etc to keep you interested that it’s become the norm to Tony Scott the fuck out of every single frame these days...(we know as we are definitely 100% guilty of this on numerous occasions in the past!) But nowadays to be totally honest it just gives me a massive fucking headache watching music videos most of the time!
■λ→ So, at the end of the day there’s nothing quite like the simplicity and beauty of a one shot done right... And a bunch of samurai’s emerging from a field and charging towards you at just under 1000 fps in monochrome? Well that’s always gonna look pretty cool whichever way you cut it.Review
By Evan Rytlewski, Score: 6.0
■λ→ Minor Victories includes members of Mogwai, Editors, and Slowdive, and their self–titled debut is a mix of sighing shoegaze, cinematic wanderlust, and gloomy riffage.
■λ→ Minor Victories have wisely shied away from billing themselves as a supergroup, a term that implies a degree of star power they can’t quite deliver. They prefer the much more neutral descriptor “band.” Still, it’s impossible to separate the group from their other projects. Any band featuring Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite, and Editors guitarist Justin Lockey (along with his brother James) is going to carry certain expectations, and on their self–titled debut they live up to each and every one of them.
■λ→ The album’s creation involved a lot of emailing back and forth between members before some of them had even met, sort of a Postal Service situation only with a lot more CC’s. “We didn’t record in the same room, or at the same time,” they write in the album’s liner notes, “to be honest we probably didn’t start off with the same vision.” Shared visions are irrelevant, though, when you have a lineup of players with such defined lanes. The album’s sound feels preordained: Slowdive’s sighing shoegaze, Mogwai’s cinematic wanderlust, and Editors’ gloomy riffage are all represented, and in more or less equal measure.
■λ→ If there’s one thing all three of those bands have in common, it’s that you if you’re reading this site you probably know what they all sound like, but you probably can’t hum any of their songs off the top of your head. That’s not a knock; like a lot of acts from their respective scenes, those groups prioritized aesthetic statements over strong songwriting voices. That sonics–first mindset inevitably carries through Minor Victories, too. On opener “Give Up the Ghost,” Goswell sings broodingly about black roses and the blood surging through her veins, but it’s mostly an excuse for the song’s gothy ambiance, buzzsaw guitars, and moody orchestral accents. “A Hundred Ropes” and “Folk Arp” are even more sweeping, with even more dramatic string arrangements. Everybody in the group clearly knows their way around a studio, and the album rarely sounds less than superb.
■λ→ What’s missing, though, is the central promise of a supergroup: the thrill of hearing established musicians in a truly different context. Minor Victories’ lineup may stem from different circles, but their approaches are so complementary that there’s rarely any tension or surprise. Unsurprisingly, then, the album’s most memorable tracks each introduce an X factor. Twilight Sad’s James Graham gamely duets with Goswell on “Scattered Ashes (Song for Richard),” a pop number with handclap drums and a blissfully fuzzy riff that imagines a Jesus and Mary Chain cover of “Dancing in the Dark.” Then, a couple of tracks later, Mark Kozelek joins her for what’s essentially a stowaway Sun Kil Moon song, “For You Always.”
■λ→ It’s at once completely out of place, completely obnoxious, and completely welcome. Kozelek goes into full Benji overshare mode, rattling off a flood of dates and locations with almost obsessive, journalistic detail. “We met once in Los Angeles just around the time of the Columbine murders and Mojave 3 were playing on Sunset Boulevard at Tower Records…” he sings (well, sort of sings), recounting his 20–year friendship with Goswell and its periodic romantic undertones. For her verses, Goswell mirrors his wordy delivery, and though she can match neither the grace nor the clumsiness of his prose, it’s exciting to finally hear her outside her element. Like everything Kozelek has a hand in, it’ll drive some listeners absolutely nuts. But in one song he does what Minor Victories manages only intermittently: He makes a lasting impression. ■λ→ http://pitchfork.com/ © Lens Beyond / Rachel Goswell and Christian Savill
■λ→ A happy accident? A feted coming together of like minds? Something beyond and outside their control? Minor Victories birth and progress has contained elements of all of this and more, both for those on the inside and us lot, looking in through the window.
■λ→ The ‘facts’ are this. Justin Lockey, currently guitarist with Editors but polymath of film, photography and music comes towards the end of the mammoth touring schedule for the band’s fourth album, ‘The Weight Of Your Love’ and finds an itch to make something against that he has been engaged with in his day job that needs scratching. His vision is of an extreme noise EP topped off by a delicate female voice. Serendipity comes calling in the shape of a shared management relationship with Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell. Her musical appetite fully restored with the feted reunion of her original band, tracks are shared and two songs take shape. The two have never met.
■λ→ Perhaps another guitarist might be good on one or two tracks? Names are suggested, Rachel mentions that she has seen a fair amount of Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite on Slowdive’s summer trips around the world’s fields and they have become good friends. This is agreed as a very good idea by the pair. Stuart listens and adds guitars. Stuart has never met Justin. He’s in. He has some other ideas that perhaps might be added to the collection of tracks?
■λ→ Justin and Rachel meet briefly at Latitude. For literally minutes. I can confirm this. I was there. They meet again and properly at Crear in Northern Scotland with Editors starting recording of fifth studio album, ‘In Dream’, to which Rachel contributes vocals. Justin has still not met Stuart. The first song Justin plays through the PA at Crear whilst setting up is an early version of ‘Out To Sea’.
■λ→ Lulls and stops follow as the individual’s other band’s stuff gets in the way. Rachel phones Justin after a night out and asks the question outright, ‘are we finishing this stuff or what?’. Justin plays the stuff to his brother James, former member of BEF, bass player, partner in film makers Hand Held Cine Club. James likes the stuff. He has a few things on his hard drive. Perhaps they could be added? The EP grows into something indefinably bigger. James has never met Rachel or Stuart.
■λ→ James journeys to Glasgow to work on his tracks with Stuart and engineer Tony Doogan at Mogwai’s Castle of Doom Studio. James is understandably apprehensive, he’s staying at Stuart’s house and, remember, he’s never met him. In two days the pair lay down tracks so quickly that the second day sees them looking for parts to record. Stuart plays drums on some tracks, James plays everything on ‘Cogs’, Stuart and James have now met but Stuart has still not met Justin.
■λ→ Justin sits in Newcastle at the centre of an increasing spider’s web of recordings and additional people contributing, James from Twilight Sad on ‘Scattered Ashes’, Mark Kozelek on his lyric ‘For You Always’, editing and re–editing, Skyping and sending and the extreme noise EP becomes an album that starts to feature all the contributor’s various tastes. Justin hardly picks up his guitar, his role has mutated to something between orchestrator and engineer, adding the strings and orchestral washes, the clicks and the ambient noise that swell these already vast tracks into something beyond the original vision of any of the contributors. The virtual geography of the band now spans the country from Exeter to Glasgow and across the Atlantic.
■λ→ Justin finally meets Stuart. Stuart is in Newcastle at a gig. He mentions the project to a friend who points out that Justin’s house is around the corner. Drinks are arranged, bonds are quickly forged. James has still never met Rachel.
■λ→ Over the course of six months this bunch of virtual and real mates, this band that has never actually all been in the same room at the same time swap ideas and songs, fragments and finished recordings through broadband connections. Layers are added and taken away, Rachel receives tranches of instrumentals to add lyrics and vocals and works with partner Steve Clarke, another addition to the cast, to create finished songs.
■λ→ So, is this a band or not? Bands hang out and play in rehearsal rooms don’t they?
■λ→ ‘It’s a band’, all four insist individually (naturally) on Skype. More so, the album is a product of that very process. As Justin sagely notes, ‘people don’t realise how many band don’t talk to each other’ in marked contrast to this wired network with a process which Rachel explains as ‘this real excitement about what we are doing, emails and texts flying in all day from everyone’. James points to the whole recording period as being ‘weirdly, lacking in any stress, things just happened’ and all remark that the lack of fixed sessions and schedules meant that they could contribute at their own pace in their own time and on their own terms. Rachel goes so far as to suggest that her vocals would not have been as they are were that conventional route have been followed, citing a set up that allowed her ‘a freedom to be more expressive’. Stuart talks of ‘the space to add’ to the music free of immediate opinions. Freedom is a word that all use, that sense that anything was possible and all ideas would be considered. Humility is a word that those looking in might add, a gathering of talented individuals prepared to step back from their own individual egos to allow the whole to prosper.
■λ→ Stuart in an aside suggests that ‘it’s quite a miracle that people with such busy lives found time to make this record’ and yet Minor Victories, the album, is a record that all four, with their vast experience of making records, describe as lacking in pressure. According to Justin, that’s for a very simple reason, ‘we don’t have to prove to people we’re a good band, the standard of the music meant that we aren’t dragging anyone along for the ride. At the start, and all the way through, we were doing it for the fuck of it, to make something we know is good’.
■λ→ That spirit, the real essence of what Minor Victories are about, a twist on the ‘anyone can do it’ ethic of punk towards ‘you can do anything’ means that Minor Victories are far more than one album of songs. The films that began with a 90 second short last year featuring a Doncaster TV repairman grooving in his shop will continue to define the band, helmed by Justin and James. Further shorts will add to the approach. According to James, actors will be ‘local and not pros’, locations will be in his home town of Doncaster, a further non–conventional addition to the project, the aim being ‘to shoot things that are normally not seen, to use something that is normal to me in a way that makes it remarkable’.
■λ→ Soon the project that became a band that have never been together in the same room becomes a public reality and the album that started life as an EP will be available for all to hear. For the band this is as much of a surprise as it may be for those waiting to hear it. Stuart still marvels that it has happened, saying ‘starting a band where some of the people have never met each other is something I’ve never heard of’, James wonders how ‘I’ve made a record with people I’d never have imagined I would have the chance to work with’ whilst Rachel describes it as ‘the most exciting thing I’ve done to date’. As for Justin, whose itch began the whole process, he still hasn’t quite worked out what his little noise EP has become but is beginning to think that ‘we’ve stealthily made the record I always have wanted to make without me actually realising it’.
■λ→ And, in case you are still wondering, James finally met Rachel in London recently. I can confirm this. I was there.
Twitter JL: https://twitter.com/justin_lockey?lang=cs
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|Minor Victories — Minor Victories (June 3rd, 2016)|