Tag Archive: peter blegvad

SWINDON105_5Logo-300x186This week we interview Olly Ward who will be playing Blackadder at the Arts Centre. Music from: Ethemia, The Computers, The Fixed, We Ghosts, SoulSmith, British Harlem, Andy Partridge/Peter Blegvad/Stu Rowe, WalkerBroad, Matthew Caron, The Playmakers, Hip Route.


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How do you sum up such a unique and wonderfully contrasting musical project as Gonwards using mere words? The usual go to choices, eclectic and experimental, hardly seem potent enough for such a Frankenstein. It’s an album fashioned by musical magpies, everything from swampy blues to vaudeville, sunny calypso vibes to desolate eastern dirges flits past the listener, topped off with vocals, largely flatly delivered spoken word. But even if the building blocks may be comfortingly familiar, the resulting architecture is strangely fluid, being both futuristic and baroque and morphing through everything in between. The words themselves are as mysterious and challenging as the music that weaves around it. Kafka-esque descriptions of futuristic trombones that can be used as weapons, the nostalgia of childhood night time drives, plus the age-old question…do spark plugs think? Add to that the fact that people as disparate as Wordsworth, Jacques Cousteau and Omar Khayyam wandering through and you get an idea of just how lateral thinking, not to mention flippant, this all is.


It’s difficult to think of another set of brains that could couple such wide reaching music with such deep thinking, witty and downright weird stories than the people behind XTC and Slapp Happy. The best way to sum up the way they mix accessible melody with the avant-garde, groove with experimentation is this; just think of it as the product of a new production team in the music industry – Stockhausen, Aitkin and Waterman. If only….


By Dave Franklin for The Ocelot Magazine (Dec 12)

Reviewed by Sam Bates

I’ve struggled with how to begin this review for a long time, it seems. So I’m going to approach it in slightly oblique (and strangely fitting) fashion – at the end. ‘Gonwards’ by Peter Blegvad and Andy Partridge is a wonderful record; a dense, dizzying, joyous and sometimes scary journey of juxtaposition and contradiction. It deserves a place in the collection of anyone who enjoys the challenge of really living with an album, rather than treating it as a forty-five minute distraction from the horrors of the tube journey to work. So there; I’ve given you the verdict. If you want to know why, then read on…


This is an album that gleefully revels in contrast. There are recurring lyrical themes that take new meaning in their shared context: man and machine become one, in the cases of ‘The Cryonic Trombone’ and the piano-led Lennon-esque stomp of ‘What A Car You Are’, while religion sits tight with science and technology elsewhere. This discordance is often repeated in the sounds and textures on offer – ‘From Germ to Gem’ mixes pseudo-Gregorian chant with a slow, liquid funk (and horns blaring straight from Bernard Herrmann’s ‘Taxi Driver’ score), while ‘The Devil’s Lexicon’ superimposes howling blues harp with heartbeats, programmed beats and gang vocals reminiscent of The Birthday Party.


There is often a feeling of tension and release, too. The album’s centrepiece, ‘The Cryonic Trombone’, is a nearly eight-minute exercise in sustained unease. Blegvad’s prodigiously deep voice seems to appear right inside your skull, telling a cryptic tale of a trombonist that becomes one with his instrument. The song builds over a wash of shifting textures, with clashing pitches and timbres palpating against African hand percussion. Just as it builds to a crescendo, it drops away into a beautiful orchestral arrangement, made all the more welcome because of the nightmare before it.


It’s not all oppression and heavy mood though – Blegvad has been quoted as saying he is, ‘to [his] bones a flippant individual’ and this playfulness comes to the fore on tracks such as ‘St. Augustine Says’: a brilliantly wonky pop tune that’s like Brian Wilson rearranged by Adrian Belew. Later, ‘The Impeccable Dandy In White’ is an impossibly catchy calypso with the fantastic line, ‘His slacks are cut so tight/He’s unable to relax his smile’ and a slippery, meandering tin-can guitar solo that wouldn’t sound out of place on Gracelands! There are moments of serenity too; ‘The Dope On Perelman’ boasts a luscious 6/8 groove drenched in a descending string arrangement that would not sound out of place on Beck’s ‘Sea Change’. The album closes on a wryly sarcastic note, with the final track ‘Worse On The Way’ an upliftingly sad waltz as broken and cracked as the Soviet-era Russia it evokes so well.


The production, ably performed by Andy Partridge and Stuart Rowe, is fantastic. Every track is given it’s own sonic environment to inhabit. There is a depth and dynamic here not found in a lot of modern production – sounds exist in their own space, and sit in a three-dimensional plane with each other: some bursting to the front, others lurking behind. Writ large over it all is Blegvad’s sonorous baritone; at times confessional, intimate and others exultant and manic. Part spoken word, part sung, and underpinned by Andy Partridge’s dense harmonies, the vocals provide the detail to the dense landscapes of found sound, old and new instrumentation and otherworldy effects.


I’m running out of superlatives, to be honest. So I’ll quit while I’m ahead and just reiterate what I said at the start of this review: This is a stunning album, it’s a triumph of uneasy listening and it deserves a place on everyone’s Record Of The Year lists. Considering it’s sitting pretty with the likes of new releases by Grizzly Bear, Tame Impala and Animal Collective, that’s high praise indeed.


‘Gonwards’ is available to buy now from Ape House – www.ape.uk.net– be sure to check out the limited-edition boxset!