|The Sea Nymphs — On the Dry Land (4th November 2016)|
The Sea Nymphs — On the Dry Land (4th Nov. 2016)♣ The Sea Nymphs je tzv. vedlejším projektem tří hlavních protagonistů, jmenovitě Tim Smith, Sarah Smith a William D. Drake z kapely Cardiacs. Album odhaluje řadu skrytých hloubek. Ukázalo se, že nejsme na souši vůbec, ale na palubě velké lodi s fantastickou kapelou. William D. Drake napsal: “Mám rád věci z hluboké, temné minulosti. V současné době jsme bombardováni věcmi v rádiu po celou dobu, takže vždycky mě zajímalo, jaké písně se hrály v 15. století, které jsme nikdy nelyšeli. Musí existovat některé opravdu fantastické písně, které jsou již zcela zapomenuty.” Tato postava nás zřejmě zajímat bude. Ví dnes ještě vůbec někdo, že Drake hrál na klávesy mimo jiné pro Slowdive/Mojave 3 zpěvačky Rachel Goswell? A to má za sebou 30 alb buď vlastních, nebo v různých seskupeních (Cardiacs, The Sea Nymphs, Mr and Mrs Smith and Mr Drake, Nervous, Luke of Puppies, nebo na sólo~albech Rachel Goswell.) Citlivkám může občas vadit smyčcový vodopád (Bye Bye Spirit), omluvou může být fakt, že společenské poměry dnes určují agresivní pohané, primitivizmus je každodenní normou, což ovlivňuje i kontext hudebního světa. On The Dry Land je vyvrcholením všeho, co The Sea Nymphs slibovali v toku času svých předcházejících alb, a “zdaleka nejbohatší hodina kapely”. Jejich přehled v hudebním cítění učinil album zcela kompaktním, současným dílem, poznamenal a převýšil význam velké většiny individuálních skladeb; zejména skládám kompliment úžasnému prolínání hudebních stylů a určitě také absenci okázalostí. A tak můžeme tuto věc uzavřít s tím, že stojí za soustředěný poslech, protože je progresivnější formálně i obsahově oproti tvorbě Renaissance a Curved Air.
♣ The Sea Nymphs is a side project created by Tim Smith, Sarah Smith and William D. Drake of Cardiacs. Their musical style is much lighter than that of their parent outfit, Cardiacs; the songs dispense with the use of loud guitars and drums, in favour of differing vocal rhythms, keyboards and brass instruments. However, the music still contains Cardiacs’ trademark off~the~wall chord progressions and sudden time changes, albeit in a slightly gentler fashion.
♣ Credit also to Mark Crawtha (Redbus Noface), Craig Fortnam (North Sea Radio Orchestra), and James Larcombe (Stars In Battledress, Admiral’s Hard, the William D Drake band, etc, etc, etc…), who have done a peerless job in mixing these 25~year old recordings. Michael Chapman’s wonderfully decorative circular art frames the album, he also worked on the artwork for Dronne, he like them circles. And also thanks to Mary at ABC for making this all possible.Location: Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, England
Album release: 4th November 2016
Genres: Psychedelic pop
Record Label: Alphabet Business Concern
01 After 2:15
02 Eating A Heart Out 2:50
03 Big River 2:01
04 Sea Snake Beware 2:54
05 Mirmaid’s Purse 2:07
06 Cut Yourself Kidding 3:08
07 Bye Bye Spirit 4:31
08 Heaven Haven 1:40
09 Anchors Away 0:23
10 On The Dry Land 1:46
11 The Black Blooded Clam 2:47
12 The Sea Ritual 2:22
13 Liberated And Handsome 1:37
14 A Kind Of Keeper 1:24
15 Wanky 2:26
♣ Tim Smith — Lead Vocals, Guitar and Keyboards
♣ Sarah Smith — Backing Vocals, Vocals, Saxophone, Clarinet, Recorder
♣ William D. Drake — Keyboards and Backing Vocals
♣ Music, Lyrics: Tim Smith 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 13, 14
♣ Music: Tim Smith 8, 15
♣ Lyrics: Tim Smith 4, 10
♣ Music: William D. Drake 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12
♣ Lyrics: Gerard Manley Hopkins 8
♣ Lyrics: George Darley 12
♣ Lyrics: William D. Drake 11
♣ Artwork, Design — Michael Chapman
♣ Edited By [Editing And Assembly], Recording Supervisor [Recording Assistance in 2015/16] — James Larcombe
♣ Mastered: Ron Synovitz
♣ Percussion [Banging Things]: The Sea Nymphs
♣ Producer: The Sea Nymphs
♣ Production Manager [Project Management]: Mary Wren
♣ Recording Supervisor [Recording Assistance in 2015/16]: Craig Fortnam
♣ Recording Supervisor [Recording Assistance in 2015/16], Mixed: Mark Cawthra
Born: 3 July 1961 in Carshalton, London Borough of Sutton, England
Instruments: Vocals, Guitar, Organ, Piano, Synthesizer, Mellotron, Flute, Recorder, Percussion
William D. Drake:
Birth name: William Derek Drake
Born: 7 February 1962, Chelmsford, Essex, England
Instruments: Vocals, piano, harmonium, organ, Fender Rhodes electric piano, mellotron, keyboards.
By Sam Shepherd | first published: 4 Nov 2016 | Score: ****
♣ When Tim Smith was taken ill back in 2008, it seemed as if a door to a different world had been slammed shut. In the land, sea and air of the place that Cardiacs called home, things were peculiar. Sometimes there were lovely giraffes eating leaves and running fast, and occasionally there’d be a hastily assembled dog complete with insect hooves. Musically, Cardiacs could be a daunting proposition too.
♣ Time changes, key changes, stops, starts, fiddly bits, punk outbursts, heavenly praises and orchestral feats of extreme grandeur were all part of the band’s make-up, and often all those aspects were thrown into a single song. It might have sounded confusing, but once it clicked, nothing by any other band could possibly ever measure up. For some though, it never made sense, and Cardiacs could drive some to absolute distraction.
♣ Yet, there was another side to Tim Smith’s songwriting. It wasn’t all sonic puzzles begging to be solved before running off into the distance. Sometimes he channelled a softer side. An offshoot of Cardiacs, Sea Nymphs was Tim Smith, William D Drake (keyboards/vocals) and Sarah Smith, and it’s fair to say that their music was a little more consistent and focused than that of the band that spawned them.
♣ Their debut album was recorded in 1992, and explored calmer territory. There were hints of folk, dancehall and snatches of classical influence, something that had always been present in Cardiacs’ work (check out Dirty Boy for a stunning example) but had not always been quite so easy to identify. After what seems like an eternity, the door to the Cardiacs world has creaked open once again. Peeping through to the other side, there’s a beach and an expanse of water and the gentle call of the Sea Nymphs. On Dry Land was recorded at the same time as the band’s ‘92 debut, and as such continues in very much the same vein. Essentially acting as something of a companion piece, or the second half of a double album lost in the post for the best part of 25 years or bobbing around on the ocean, like a message in a bottle.
♣ Tim Smith’s return to the studio is something to be truly thankful for, and under his guidance this album has been polished and rendered shipshape. The music itself is at times absolutely sublime and that much is evidence right from very first moments of After, which feels like a sweet summer breeze carrying the voices of children out across a babbling stream. This is the stuff dreams are made of. Eating A Heart out stays in that magical, ephemeral place with Sarah’s vocals floating above what appears to be a simplistic nursery tune. Where Cardiacs might have taken such an idea down a darkened corridor, Sea Nymphs allow for an almost meditative state to play out.
♣ Moving into more emotional territory, Big River strips things back and gives a chance to hear Tim Smith singing over acoustic guitar. His voice is one of the few things that is never mentioned in reviews of Cardiacs, but perhaps that’s because there’s so much else going on that it’s hard to focus. Here, he’s front and centre, and it’s astonishing how fragile and emotional he sounds when in isolation. It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking performance. Bill Drake’s wonky piano sea shanty Sea Snake Beware also serves as a kind of solo piece, and like the contributions from the other Sea Nymphs it succeeds by virtue of it’s weird mix of childlike simplicity (Bill’s vocals) and complicated musical flourishes (almost everything else).
♣ When their individual strengths are foregrounded, they’re good, but it’s when they come together, fully in harmony they’re positively sublime. Examples are scattered thoughout the album, but the clanking steam powered Black Blooded Clam is perhaps where it comes together perfectly. Switching between awkwardness and dainty surefootedness, it’s peculiar yet somehow makes perfect sense. At times it’s like a Mozart piece taken apart and reassembled by Heath Robinson.
♣ There’s a ratchety aesthetic to be found on a number of these songs, Mirmaid’s Purse could easily have been found soundtracking the village scenes on Final Fantasy VII, whilst The Sea Ritual initially sounds as if Bill Drake is defending his piano from an onslaught of angry crows. Closing track Wanky meanwhile does what it says on the tin, and is a bit of a wanky classical piece, perfect for performing compulsory ablutions to, at the behest of an oppressive overlord.
♣ There’s plenty to love about On Dry Land. It is quite a deceptive album however; initially seeming simplistic but slowly unveiling an array of hidden depths. Turns out we’re not on dry land at all, but on board a big ship with a fantastic house band.
Sean Kitching, November 2nd, 2016 12:42
♣ The release of On the Dry Land, the second album recorded under the name Sea Nymphs, is undoubtedly something of an event for Cardiacs fans, being the first (largely) unheard material to have surfaced since Tim Smith’s tragic heart attack and stroke in June 2008. Comprised of Cardiacs’ core members Tim Smith, William D. Drake and Sarah Smith, Sea Nymphs showcased a gentler side to Smith and Drake’s songwriting that may appeal to fans of unique music otherwise put off by Cardiacs’ unholy racket and heart~racing tempos. Allegedly recorded, along with the first, self~titled album, sometime at the start of the 90s, On the Dry Land, remained on the shelf until Smith recently recovered sufficiently from his illness to return to the studio to oversee its completion.
♣ Whereas Cardiacs recordings are often filled to overflowing with meticulous details in amidst the treacherous sonic scree of multi~tracked guitars, drums and vocals, Sea Nymphs utilise a sparser palette of piano, mellotron, organ, sax, recorder, percussion, guitar and bass that has its closest reference point somewhere in between the psychedelic folk of The Incredible String Band and the work of classical English composer Vaughan Williams, without sounding very much like either. This really is unique and otherwordly music, at times hinting at the phantasmagorical ‘Lady in the Radiator’ song from David Lynch’s Eraserhead and at others sounding like some subtly blasphemous religious music leaking out of a ruined and vine~overrun church long relapsed into some undefined form of parallel world paganism.
♣ According to Bill Drake: “It sort of comes less from specific musical influences than from this thing that the three of us shared that we just sort of understood. We used to hang onto each other, saying ‘we are three’ (in silly voices). We knew what we were doing but we couldn’t really put it into words. I think that maybe the thing that makes you become a writer is that you absorb everything around you from when you’re born. So you’d hear music from the television, the music your parents are playing and you’d be influenced by that without realising. TV theme songs were really good back in those days, like Animal Magic, they were quite catchy. Watch With Mother had music. We were musical magpies really. I suppose you just find your own voices out of that. Tim, Sarah and I had created a strong atmosphere in Cardiacs together and so we had that to work from. Tim and I both wrote loads of music throughout the early 80s, a lot of extra music that didn’t just go on Cardiacs records. So there was a place for another band for the three of us, as we just adored working with each other. I personally had to go to church every day at the school I went to, so you’d sing the hymn and then there’d be this amazing organ music at the end of the service and that was generally English composers, along the lines of Vaughan Williams, but also some lesser known. Pure melody, and I suppose that’s what we were in love with. Tim’s songs, as you know, are just packed with melodies.’
♣ Surreal and ethereal throughout and retaining much of Cardiacs’ musical DNA without resorting to their usual forceful attack, most Sea Nymphs songs are perfect miniatures of around two~and~a~half minutes in length. The quality and diversity of tracks on On The Dry Land makes it immediately apparent that this is no selection of thrown together outtakes. The wonderfully sublime and eerie melody of ‘Mirmaid’s Purse’ oozes into one’s ears as though through a crack in time, all bedecked in moss and crawling with tiny insects. Title track ‘On The Dry Land,’ clocks in, perfectly formed, at 1:46, its uplifting combination of thumping brass, twinkling harpsichord~like keys and soaring, transcendent vocal an irresistible hook pulling the listener back repeatedly. Set to handclaps and the sound of smashing cutlery, ‘The Black Blooded Clam’ is the album’s most chaotic and chthonic tune, a devilish ditty calling forth the oceanic deity of its title as if the song itself were an incantation. Album closer, the puerilely titled ‘Wanky’, a snippet of which first appeared in the ‘on the tour bus’ section of Cardiacs’ mighty live film, All That Glitters Is A Mare’s Nest, is a deceptively simple looped melody of the kind one might find in a music box hidden away in some dusty attic, which in the hands of Smith and Drake attains an epic and delirious mantric~like effect that sends the spirit soaring heavenward. How very like Tim Smith’s disarming sense of humour to call such a sublime and spiritual piece of music by such a juvenile name. Both Smith and Drake have a number of standout tunes herein and it’s a joy to hear them working together on this material whilst clearly at the peak of their powers. Smith’s skill as an arranger and producer and Drake’s beautiful, classically trained piano playing makes for an idiosyncratic and hugely productive creative synergy.
♣ With the excitement surrounding the airing of the previously unreleased material, it would be easy, though entirely remiss of me, to overlook the charms of the original self~titled album, now released for the first time on vinyl alongside On The Dry Land. It’s entirely appropriate that the copper coloured sea horse on its cover perfectly complements the tiny translucent marine creatures adorning the ‘new’ album, as the two really deserve to be heard alongside one another. ‘The Spirit Spout’ spits forth its percussive opening like an automaton on the verge of going haywire, before settling into a sparser, hymn~like tone. ‘Nil In The Nest’ twins nicely with ‘On The Dry Land’ with its oompah brass and effortlessly ascending guitar and church organ vibe. ‘Lucky Lucy,’ like many of the tunes on this album, treads a wonderfully fine line between elation and melancholy, diaphanous keyboards afloat in veils like a morning fog. ‘Dog Eats Spine’ is the Nymphs at their most surreal, Drake’s playful piano scampering in quick, light steps, mimicking the movement of tiny canine legs. ‘Sarah On A Worm’ sits nicely alongside ‘Mirmaid’s Purse’ and ‘Wanky’ as a music~box curio melody, complete within itself that could almost run eternally on repeat. The dreamy ‘Lilly White’s Party,’ seemingly composed of space more than anything else and dotted here and there with the twittering of birds and a meowing cat, transports the listener into a blissful state that’s the sonic equivalent of a slowly dawning sunrise on a luminously clear winter’s morning.
♣ Taken together, these recordings offer an embarrassment of riches too abundant to cover each in detail and offering, in their own way, a vision of psychedelic songwriting as unique and wondrous as that other great English eccentric, Syd Barrett, if he had been a clergyman from another century, driven mad not by the excessive use of LSD but by the obsessive search for esoteric and forbidden melodies. ♣ http://thequietus.com/
Article by: Jez Rowden
Tim Smith: https://www.facebook.com/tim.smith.587268?fref=ts
William D. Drake: https://williamddrake.wordpress.com/
William D. Drake: https://www.facebook.com/williamddrakefriends/?fref=ts
Cardiacs Museum, tribute page: http://cardiacs.org/
♣ Mr and Mrs Smith and Mr Drake Cassette (1984) ALPH 003/CD (2001) AME CD004
♣ Appealing To Venus 7” (1991) ALPH 016
♣ The Sea Nymphs Cassette (1992)/CD (1995) ALPH CD021/LP ALPH LP021 (2016)
♣ Appealing To Venus Reissue CD (1998) ORGAN044
♣ On the Dry Land CD/LP (2016) ALPH CD032/ALPH LP 032
|The Sea Nymphs — On the Dry Land (4th November 2016)|
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