[Single Review]: Christian Gregory – Count On You

Christian Gregory 3“Won’t be long until we make it through.”

When success and good fortune come your way there are generally two routes people go down: cash in, or give something back. After his debut record in 2012 broke the top ten in seven countries, went certified gold in two and garnered a Mercury Prize nomination, you might have expected Michael Kiwanuka to either have rested on his laurels or sped on with album No. 2. Instead, Kiwanuka has elected to build something lasting and set up a label called Movement Records. While Kiwanuka will act as the label’s A&R man, scouting and representing new artists, the day-to-day label running and recording sessions will operate out of North London where the Movement Records team have set up a studio kitted out with a treasure trove of vintage instruments and bespoke analogue recording equipment gathered over ten years. With an emphasis on a soul-rooted sound and traditional recording techniques, as well as capturing artists live on tape in one take, Kiwanuka explains the Movement Records philosophy: “Music from the heart goes straight to the heart. Music that can move you is good music and that’s what Movement Records are focused on doing”. Their recent flagship release Count On You comes from multi-instrumentalist songwriter (and Movement Records head of operations and co-founder), Christian Gregory.

Co-written with Michael Kiwanuka, Count On You is a good time record that rolls along on a bass and percussion groove that harks back to Bill Withers’s Still Bill era. This offers a solid platform for Christian Gregory’s slinky guitarwork and hollering expression of camaraderie. His voice lies somewhere between Al Green’s high tenderness and Teddy Pendergrass’s husky confidence, taking off into flights during the revelrous choruses and psyched-out bridge. He also has a few tricks up his sleeve with departures into fuzz and wah-wah laden guitar interludes and psychedelic tinges of brass during the outro. “I love when records have details that you only notice after you’ve heard it over and over again,” Gregory reveals. “On Count On You, we recorded the core parts of the track in one take to catch a live vibe. Then I got in the studio and experimented with unusual recording techniques to add different details and textures to the track”. If Movement Records’s remit is to produce soulful tunes with an old-school production ethic then Count On You starts things as they mean to go on. It doesn’t just rock, it rolls too.

With offices on both sides of the Atlantic and as-yet unannounced live showcases and releases scheduled throughout 2014, Movement Records look set to stake their claim during 2014. And while Michael Kiwanuka himself is still signed to Polydor/Communion, it will be interesting to see if he releases his material through Movement Records in the future and what collaborations this will lead to. More importantly, with creative artists playing essential roles in the running of the company, what talent will be attracted to the label in future and will it create a collaborative atmosphere conducive to creativity, like Communion who first picked up on Kiwanuka and released his first two EPs? I certainly think Movement Records has the potential to do so.

Originally published on Hercules Moments

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[Single Review]: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Jubilee Street

jubilee street-592‘She had a history, but she had no past’

So, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds release their new album, Push The Sky Away, tomorrow and I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited about it. I’ve followed Nick Cave’s output for the best part of ten years now and he’s one of those rare artists that is relentlessly energetic and not afraid to turn their hand to anything. From film soundtracks to novels and all points in between, everything he touches turns golden. If there’s one artist you can always place good money on, it’s Nick Cave.

I suppose the reason I’m so interested in this album is that it will be the first Bad Seeds record to be released since the departure of Cave’s first mate, Mick Harvey. This move didn’t seem so strange as since No More Shall We Part, one of my favourite Nick Cave albums, Cave has been gravitating closer towards Warren Ellis as a songwriting partner, most evident in their stunning film soundtracks. This also means that the difference between the crews of the Bad Seeds and Cave’s busman’s holiday, Grinderman, is even smaller than before. Obviously, this means that there is an increased risk that the output of both bands will start to mimic the other. So I suppose I’m anxious as well as excited.

Listening to the two preview tracks from Push The Sky Away, ‘Jubilee Street’ and ‘We No Who U R’, it seems that these fears may be hopefully allayed. These songs definitely do not belong to the lecherously raucous domain of Grinderman. If anything, it seems that the departure of Mick Harvey’s groove-driven guitarwork has allowed for more space for the Bad Seeds to stretch out in. That is not to discredit Harvey, far from it. I consider him to be one of the most tactful and talented musicians of the last 25 years and his work with PJ Harvey is as great as his Bad Seeds work. But, these tracks are definitely of a more meditative and contemplative atmosphere that bears more resemblance to Cave’s soundtrack work than with any Bad Seeds or Grinderman precursor. They’re restrained and muscular, as if Cave and co. are pulling their punches, not quite revealing all. The bass, percussion and organ elements are definitely more fleshed out and it allows for what I can only really describe as ‘space to breathe’.

‘Jubilee Street’, named after what Cave mistakenly thought to be the red-light district in Brighton, is arguably the strongest ballad Cave has written since 2004’s Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus and, in typical Cave style, is about the relationship between a prostitute and her john. It’s a track that is beautiful in its restrained simplicity: The groove is solemn, the beats are minimal and the strings are lean and refined. The mood lingers somewhere between reverence and menace (Cave’s prime stomping grounds) and allows the perfect platform for Cave’s half parable/half pulp novel. It is a testament to Cave’s subtle yet commanding vocals that he can make a line like ‘I’ve got a foetus on a leash’ sound completely acceptable (given the circumstances) rather than shocking and distasteful. Juxtaposed with these raw moments are some of Cave’s finest cut sentiments, like ‘Here I come up the hill, / I’m pushing my wheel of love’ and ‘ten-ton catastrophe on a sixty-pound chain’. The song’s finale is magnificent, lifting Cave’s sermon to transcendental heights. That may sound wishy-washy, but honestly, it is that good. Ray Winstone also puts in a surprisingly restrained performance in the video.

If tracks such as this are any indication, then Push the Sky Away is looking to be a rewardingly enigmatic affair where the Bad Seeds have lost none of their energy and gravitas for their restraint. If anything it has honed and refined their craft to scalpel sharp keenness. The music seems more spiritual and gestures to what may lie beyond the song, rather than defining its limits. Maybe that’s what the forthcoming album’s title, Push The Sky Away, is really suggesting: an indication of the infinite.

Push The Sky Away will be available 18th February through Mute Records.