China – Third Time Lucky

The Paper Cinema’s Odyssey has just returned from our third tour of China. We visited Hangzhou, Nanjing, Yangzhou and Shanghai, and had a great time. Great to see that the musical saw is still really appreciated over there!

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Bendith

October 12, 2016

I’m just back from a lovely mini-tour with the All-Welsh-All-Star-Supergroup, Bendith! A collaboration between Caernarfon based family band Plu and Cardiff based Carwyn Ellis, aka Colorama. It was a treat to perform with such a brilliant group of musicians and an interesting line up. Here we are before the home gig at Galeri, Caernarfon. BENDIGEDIG!

bendith

Busy Bee

Rather a long hiatus since my last post, as I have been busy settling into Bristol, and busy getting busy with music! I’ve been out gigging with Sam Lee & Friends which has been a joy, playing many festivals such as Rio Loco Toulouse, Glastonbury, Port Eliot and Greenman to come – wellies at the ready.

Just wanted to share this new ongoing project with musical maestro Chris Reed, fellow Bristolian and MD of The Paper Cinema. We have been trying out some ideas with live looping and violin, and the results are getting very interesting. I am embracing technology!

https://soundcloud.com/chrislittleboat/for-solo-violin-and-electronics-1

PALIMPSEST…Moon Day Walk

You know when you can see the moon in the daytime? Yes this. And then you go for a walk, and especially if it’s Winter, the afternoon light can be strangely like a dusk, although it’s still daylight. And you walk along by the copse of trees below the mountain, standing in a huddle, and you watch a buzzard overhead, and you have the feeling that the scene before you is trying to tell you something…

MoonDayWalk

This song begins with field recordings taken around Plas Newydd Llangollen, and the local church bells of St.Collens Church. I wanted to weave Nature into the song, using the bells to set the scene for the musical saw and dulcitone. I could’t resist tapping into the recently published NASA Sounds of Space too! A huge library archive of many different sounds recorded during space missions and journeys – the perfect combination to take us to the moon, and back.

That’s if we want to come back…

My Moon Day Walk
Blue and bright
Sparkling river
Day in night
Bird circling high, cutting cold
My body warm from your hold

Wrapped in many layers to keep me warm
Stop my heart tumbling out
On the ground, in the dirt
Let the animals take it for their own

Peering to the moon
At her face
Waxy whiteness, blank half space
And she spoke
With the birds
With the trees
And she said – beware

Moon Day Walk

Listen to Moon Day Walk

PALIMPSEST…Lonely Waltz

There is little to say about this track, as when you hear it it explains itself – I think there is a time when we have all danced the Lonely Waltz.

I wanted to include an instrumental waltz to explore a track in 3/4 time, yet with the understanding that a waltz is danced by two people. I had also recently acquired a delightful little sixties Italian mini electric organ – perfect! This was in fact the last track to be recorded on the album, and nearly didn’t make it. I’m very glad it did.

Now, if we’re all ready, let’s begin…

Listen to Lonely Waltz

waltz

PALIMPSEST…Bone Spoon

Third up on the album PALIMPSEST we have the inimitable Bone Spoon, a personal favourite.  Like every track on the album, I’m illuminating a true story. Here are the lyrics:

I gave you a bone spoon, a spoon made of bone

Take it and keep it to have in your home
When the egg’s ready – it will crack!
So line up your soldiers from front and to back

The yolk it is yellow, the circle is white
So taste it, and lick it, and eat it up right
Oh egg! You’re so salty, and sweet, and hot
Your tongue it is hungry and eats every drop

Bone spoon, bone spoon, bone spoon, bone spoon

But why don’t you use it?
You threw it away!
Buried in the ground for another day
The soil it is sticky – your fingers are black!
Poor spoon is covered as you turn your back

Yet the spoon is growing to a tall tree –
The Bone Tree is born! For you and for me
So do not go hungry with your bone spoon –
Come see me, and bring it, and let it be soon

Bone spoon, bone spoon, bone spoon, bone spoon

I wanted one track to be a devilish nursery rhyme, reminiscent of playground rhymes and childhood chatter, complete with wonky recorders, swanee whistle and a broken violin.The ‘broken violin’ I used was an old cheap violin that was coming apart at the seams, yet still with some flexibility in the wood. This means that when you play it, you can squeeze the violin between your shoulder and chin, compressing the wood closer together, which fluidly changes the pitch.

After the horror of the opening section we move into an instrumental based on the ‘Bone Spoon’ riff, where cello features strongly. I used that old trick of ‘paper pizzicato’ where you weave a piece of paper loosely into the stings to create a buzzy sound effect.

I would like to hear that!

BoneSpoon

PALIMPSEST…Flying

One of my favourite birds of all time is the Buzzard. There are now plenty of them here in North Wales; in fact, once you start spotting them, it’s difficult to stop. If you’re lucky you might see one hopping in a field not so far away, on the ground, looking for worms. Or you might see one perched on top of a street light on the dual carriageway, looking quite fluffy. Or generally the ones I see most often are in the sky, either very close or very high, circling, always a group of three. I can watch them circling for a lifetime, and listening to their call. Seeing them like this always remind’s me of Picasso’s ‘Three Dancers’.

Whilst at university, briefly studying Janáček’s opera The Cunning Little Vixen, I was particularly taken by the scenes in which the Vixen dreams of being a young girl. It seems this transmogrification has stayed with me, and played on my mind the many times I have watched buzzards, mainly around The Panorama of Llangollen. It is normal for a human to wonder what it feels like to fly, but I wonder what it really feels like to actually be a bird? Or perhaps….am I actually a bird, dreaming at night I’m a human?

common-buzzard-in-flight1

For this track there is a wild array of instruments that includes autoharp, violin, viola and cello, alongside layered voices. You might read in some places that the whole album was recorded with one mic – and much to my shame, this is indeed true! 95% of the album was recorded with a Rode NT2, placed at some inventive and unusual angles with the aid of chairs and even a ladder, with much traipsing back and forth to my laptop.  Well, needs must. Hopefully the track does transport you far away, to high above the mountains, far away from anything….

I would like to hear this!

Please take me to your Bandcamp!

PALIMPSEST…The Book of David

There is just over a month to go before my debut album ‘Palimpsest’ is released on 08/01/2016. In the run-up to the release I want to give a bit of background info about the different tracks, and how they came into being. Starting with…The Book of David.

Around two years ago whilst on tour, I was staying at a friend’s house in Cardiff when I woke up in the middle of the night, with a bass line in my head. It was most definitely being played on a harpsichord, with a finger click backbeat. So I sang it into my phone, nice and croaky, and promptly fell back to sleep. When I awoke and listened to the recording (after having a chuckle at the 3am quality recording) I realised that this was ‘The Book of David’. And so the album began.

This track is a cornerstone of the whole album, and indeed there would be no album without it. It is both true and imaginary, has happened and is happening, was written and is being written. In historical terms, David is the Son of Jesse, seduces Bathsheba, and is quoted by many musicians from Josquin des Prez to Leonard Cohen – so I think we are in good company. Indeed I originally thought the album may be called The Book of David – but American artists Dj Quik put paid to that – much to my chagrin, he released Book of David in 2011.

In terms of instrumentation, tracking down a harpsichord with zero budget is fairly tricky. After a fair bit of badgering, I was allowed access to a harpsichord at Prifysgol Bangor/University of Bangor, North Wales. It was one of the hottest days on the year, so I off trundled, ready for my 2 hour time slot. Of course on arrival, things had to follow a slightly different plan, due to a bit of a mix-up. The only harpsichord available was in a large hall where they were setting up for a final year recital in exactly 30 minutes. The harpsichord was untuned, and I had no time to check the position of the mic. So I recorded the three different harpsichord parts in 10 minutes, in a cold sweat, whilst the kind young chap who had let me in quietly continued putting out audience chairs in rows. If you listen very carefully, you might be able to hear him!

You can hear the track here:

Take me to Bandcamp!

Sarajevo MESS Festival

Last week The Paper Cinema whizzed over to Bosnia to take part in the MESS Festival, to deliver a workshop and perform a show. The festival itself began in the sixties and is a monument to the determination and spirit of the organisers and participants – each October it presents around 50 productions from all over the world. During the siege of Sarajevo the festival continued, which is an overwhelming thought.

I had not visited Bosnia before so was amazed and awed in equal measure at the history of the city. Seeing Ottoman buildings in all their glory, and then walking ten minutes further on to see a wall covered in gunshots, is not something I will forget.

Our show was at maximum capacity and had sold out two weeks previously, which was tremendously exciting for us. The festival organisers encouraged people to attend with or without tickets, and when showtime arrived there were many people squeezed and huddled in, sat in every corner of the room possible, with no floor left bare! It made for a pretty electric atmosphere. I really appreciated the zeal and spirit the audience provided.

Here is myself and guitarist Celestino outside the theatre after our fist day setting up, and also myself as a puppet! Thank you to everyone at MESS Festival, all the audience and workshops participants, and The British Council for making it happen. We really hope we can visit again.

MESSfest

Puppetpic

“We are So Shanghai right now”

Touchdown! After our trip in September 2014, the new touring team of Paper Cinema had the fantastic opportunity to visit China once again, preceded with  a week in Taiwan. What incredible places! During June we visited Kaohsiung, Beijing, Shenzhen and Shanghai, performing at various venues. The audiences were very warm and receptive, and we had some stimulating Q&A’s after many shows and a great workshop in Kaohsiung.

A highlight for me had to be attending a folk music concert with the incredible Qing Ge-le, a horse-head violinist extraordinaire! Finally, I had the chance not only to hear and watch the instrument being performed live, but also to meet the Master backstage, and have a try of the horse head violin. WOW!  Needless to say – I was dreadful, as it is far more tricky than it looks.

Thank you China and Taiwan for an amazing trip.

Dear Serge…with Collectress

Was great to catch up with my old sisters Collectress this week in London, after a flying visit to Poland with Paper Cinema.

We rehearsed for Dear Serge, a range of eclectic live performances taking place this Saturday at the De La Warr Pavillion, Bexhill. Brilliant to play with Quinta and Rebecca again!  We worked on material form their album Mondegreen, a few snippets of which I played many moons ago.

Next week I set sail for Taiwan and China with The Paper Cinema. My little violin is ready for the East once more!

dear_serge_logo

R2 Folk Awards

It was with great pleasure I watched the 10 Mewn Bws gang perform at the Radio 2 Folk Awards last month, held in Cardiff. They were able to honour the life of Meredydd Evans who sadly passed away in February, without whose knowledge and passion our journey into Welsh folk music would have been lacking a vital source and fire. Well done #10MewnBws!!! Here is a lovely photo of us all taken at the Eisteddfod in 2013, alongside his lovely wife Phyllis and fellow musicologist Roy Sauer:

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It was a fantastic night also for fellow Welsh (super)-group 9Bach, who won the Album of the Year for their work Tincian. I hope that we can all perform there again! Exciting times, and brilliant to see such a range of folk performers from all over UK and beyond.

You can read a great article about the night here:

http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2015/apr/23/bbc-folk-awards-wales-homegrown-talent-9bach-meredydd-evans-nancy-kerr-sam-sweeney

2C Hit Austria

2C Hit Austria

So we have a new touring team for The Paper Cinema’s Odyssey. And what a great bunch we are! We have been christened ‘2nd Crew’ after the ‘Original Crew’. I can also craft this into hand shapes in a post-hiphop … Continue reading

On the Move

Over the past few weeks I have been on the move. Paper Cinema played at Flatpack Festival Birmingham and had a brilliant time, then caught the train to Brussels and headed to Theatre 140. We were nothing short of STAGGERED to learn that some incredible acts have played there over the past few decades – time to get the Clang Claxon out – Serge Gainsbourg, BB King, Pina Bausch, Thelonious Monk, Nico, Sun Ra, Pink Floyd…..Brussels was an incredible city too and as a new visitor, I’m really desperate to go back already. However I was most sad to finish my work with the ‘Old Crew’ (cue many tears and surreptitious planting of small presents around the stage), but equally invigorated to be part of the new touring team. The music department also had a day out at The Musical Instrument Museum there, which was phenomenal! Absolutely every instrument under the sun, with sounds, and even an old Welsh instrument, a crwth! (can you spot him in the photos below?)

After Brussels I took part in a fascinating course called Field Studies, led by Joseph Kohlmaier http://www.field-studies.org. Highlights for me were singing Moondog rounds with Melanie Pappenheim and the rest of my group, and meeting some incredibly interesting and like-minded classically trained musicians who are now doing their own thing. Hurrah for that!

Return to Wales was completed with a brief sojourn at The Straw Kitchen, Whichford https://twitter.com/TheStrawKitchen. You must visit if you can. Incredible food, people, place, ethics, and a piano you can play. All one can want!

Studio Days

Or studio daze….. For the past couple of months I have locked myself away with my laptop, recording equipment, a whole host of queer instruments and lots of paper on the walls. My debut EP is being created! I hope that it will be ready when the daffodils are out, the snow has gone and the sunshine has returned.

Here’s to 2015