From time to time, Spacebomb leaves its mark on musical projects of all shapes and sizes, some to be released by Spacebomb Records, and some destined for other labels or purposes. From sessions in our studios to one-of-a-kind film scores and everything in between, the Spacebomb Productions emblem signifies that our arrangers and musicians can be attributed to the sounds you hear. You’ll know it when you hear it.
Flo Morrissey & Matthew E. White – Gentlewoman, Ruby Man
Flo Morrissey & Matthew E. White have joined forces for a very special collaboration in the shape of Gentlewoman, Ruby Man, a new album set for release on 13th January 2017 via Glassnote Records. The English singer songwriter and US-based artist, songwriter and producer made the album together at Spacembomb, in Richmond, Virginia, a collection of their own takes on a selection of favourite songs by artists as diverse as Frank Ocean, The Bee Gees, James Blake, Roy Ayers and Leonard Cohen. The first of these, Little Wings’ Look At What The Light Did, is revealed today, along with a short film about the making of the album and how it came to be…
Morrissey and White first met in person at a Lee Hazelwood tribute at the Barbican in the autumn of 2015. They sang Some Velvet Morning, solidified a correspondence into a friendship and discussed a desire to work together in the near future. That desire grew into Gentlewoman, Ruby Man, in some ways a straightforward duets record, of a kind that has fallen out of fashion: two separate entities meeting to record a collection of great songs as a one-off, Marvin & Tammi-style. In other ways it’s a more unique beast: less typical back and forth duets, more subtle and complimentary spotlight sharing. It’s a small miracle and a testament to the hard work and natural chemistry of these two artists that they were able to pull it off, finding each other and collaborating on a project of this kind across the ocean.Both Morrissey and White seem destined to travel beyond genre, although they have explored more definable traditions in earlier releases. Morrissey’s Tomorrow Will Be Beautiful (2015) is an honest and beatific affair, a refreshing outlier in a resurging field of folk rock that had fallen into glossy commercialism. White’s stunning debut Big Inner (2012) and its follow-up Fresh Blood (2015) are two southern soul journeys, engaging and idiosyncratic statements crafted at Spacebomb with the Spacebomb House Band. Gentlewoman, Ruby Man is more difficult to categorize, closing with a leftfield, but utterly sublime chant to Lord Krishna. The fact that it actually works signals what kind of a special universe this project exists in.
White’s production takes cues from the touchstones of tape that have become recording canon, he flourishes under a benevolent regime of preparation and in-the-moment respect for the musician’s intuition. Flo’s ethereal voice, meanwhile, timeless to begin with, has matured and strengthened, bringing a richness and magical core to everything it touches, and she really sings the night out. White’s honeydrop vocal caresses offer a complimentary texture or prowl in the lead.
These are big songs tackled with zero insecurity and ego, the band fiery and tight, taking the pressure and throwing away conventionality. An album of covers could have slipped into mindless eclecticism, commercial efforts at popularity or crate digging cred, but White and Morrissey simply picked good, sometimes unexpected songs that they love and feel connected to, from Grease (1978), to a spine-tingling take on the title track from James Blake’s The Colour In Anything (2016). Ten tracks that will feed the heart and move the body.
1. Look At What The Light Did (Little Wings cover)
2. Thinking ‘Bout You (Frank Ocean cover)
3. Looking For You (Nino Ferrer cover)
4. Colour Of Anything (James Blake cover)
5. Everybody Loves The Sunshine (Roy Ayers cover)
6. Grease (Bee Gees cover)
7. Suzanne (Leonard Cohen cover)
8. Sunday Morning (Velvet Underground cover)
9. Heaven Can Wait (Charlotte Gainsbourg cover)
10. Govindam (George Harrison cover)
Foxygen – Hang
Foxygen, the duo of Sam France and Jonathan Rado, announce their new album Hang (out January 20th on Jagjaguwar), which was arranged, orchestrated and conducted by Trey Pollard at Spacebomb, with additional arranging by Matthew E. White.
On their first proper studio record, the Los Angeles pair once again present their uncanny knack for pulling together myriad strands of influences to an elaborate, uncompromising vision. And this time, they’ve gone true big band! Every song on Hang features a 40-plus-piece symphony orchestra arranged and conducted by Trey Pollard with additional arranging from Matthew E. White. Additionally, Hang was recorded with the brother rhythm section duo of Brian and Michael D’Addario, also known as the Lemon Twigs, and features Steven Drozd of the Flaming Lips on select tracks. Written and produced entirely by Foxygen, Hang was recorded on 2” tape at Electro Vox Studios in Los Angeles.
Lead single, “Follow The Leader,” is one of the album’s most upbeat songs. As described by the band, “it was a blast to make! It’s a positive anthem, with some lyrical scenarios we don’t quite understand.”
Foxygen – “America”
“The LA psych-poppers have now officially returned with sumptuously arranged new single” – Stereogum
Arranged, orchestrated and conducted by Trey Pollard
Additional arranging by Matthew E. White
Cocoon – Welcome Home
French recording artist Cocoon releases his long-awaited third album Welcome Home today via Barclay/Universal Music. Spacebomb worked on the new record at our studio in Richmond, Virginia, produced by Matthew E. White and horns and strings arranged and conducted by Trey Pollard.
Cocoon appeared on the French scene barely ten years ago and soon established their reputation as the driving force of a new folk movement. Led by singer-songwriter Mark Daumail, with Morgane Imbeaud singing harmonies, the group released two albums that went platinum. They also scored a hit with “Chupee,” taken from My Friends All Died in a Plane Crash in 2007.
After Cocoon’s last tour, Mark Daumail put the group on standby and set out to explore new musical landscapes, now as a solo artist.
Recording a first album in his own name, he swapped Cocoon’s acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies for the electronic sounds of machines and programming. “I wanted to play around with synths and beatboxes,” he remembers today. The musician from Clermont had left Paris to settle among the vineyards of Bordeaux, where he set up his recording studio. He began to spend time there a year and a half ago when his family suffered a private drama. “Our first child was born with a heart malformation. We found ourselves trapped in a tunnel between the hospital, intensive care and the cordon sanitaire protecting our baby.”
Soon, Mark found a way of dealing with the situation, playing guitar at his baby’s bedside and writing him a first song: “Get Well Soon.” In it, he sings, “It’s been a tough year for my family,” alluding directly to the ordeal they faced.
When his son had recovered, the experience provided material for some of the happiest songs Mark had ever written. “I wanted to write a glowing album,” he explains. Mission accomplished!
To make the new record, he decided to put away his synths and return to a more organic musical approach. “I needed some analog warmth.”
Having written a number of new songs, Mark played them for the people close to him, who immediately decided they would be perfect for Cocoon, but when Mark contacted his former associate Morgane Imbeaud, she declined his offer to join the recording sessions, preferring to continue her personal projects Un orage (A Storm) and Les Songes de Léo (Leo’s Dreams). So Mark began to work on the album alone as he searched actively for the right female vocalists to feature in the new songs. “I loved both Natalie Prass’s singing and the Matthew E. White and Trey Pollard arrangements on her album,” he recalls. After laying down the guitar, bass and drum foundations of the album in Bordeaux, Mark Daumail contacted Matthew E. White and sent him demos. The arranger was enthusiastic about the songs and Mark went to meet him in Richmond, Virginia.
The dynamic city with its population of one million was home to a very active musical scene, like Portland. A collective of many talented young musicians and artists revolved around Matthew E. White’s studio and label: Spacebomb.
In just a week, Mark recorded three new tracks with this team: “Grandaddy,” “Shooting Star,” and “Up For Sale.” They were produced by Matthew E. White, who also supervised additional recordings, wrote the brass sections and introduced Mark to strings arranger Trey Pollard. Trey came up with tailored orchestrations whose Willie Mitchell-style soul flavor echoed the album’s lyrics. “The musicians immediately understood what the album was about,” he notes. The Resound Choir and its gospel harmonies added the final touch to the tracks’ emotional spectrum.
Meanwhile, Mark finally met with Natalie Prass. She added her haunting vocals to two tracks: “Retreat” and “Watch My Back.” The last song on the album, “Up for Sale,” is a glorious duet with Matthew E. White that continues the record’s family theme. “I wrote it when I found out that our family house on Bréhat Island, where I spent my summers when I was a child and teenager, had to be sold.” He stayed in that house in midwinter to complete the album’s lyrics.
Mark recorded his vocals in the former studios of East German radio in Berlin, taking particular care with his accent. As a result, he has never sung so brilliantly as on “Welcome Home,” a bright, warm record that he sees as his most successful project since he started out ten years ago. “I’m not so scared of writer’s block anymore. I think I know how to put together a song.”
The tracks on Welcome Home are reflected in the illustrations of American artist Esther Pearl Watson, who handled the album’s artwork. “I got in touch and asked her to draw a house for each of the songs. I wanted a record about home life and also the emotional side of the family. The album is my way of saying to my son, ‘Welcome home.’ He was always the record’s connecting thread. The day he came home was a miracle I had to celebrate.” And what better way of marking the event than with this, the finest album from Cocoon, a project that has never lived up to its name so well? “I began to cry when the record was finished. That day, I knew my son had been born a second time,” concludes Mark Daumail.
Cocoon’s Welcome Home, a Spacebomb Production, is out now via Barclay/Universal Music France
Slow Club – One Day All Of This Won’t Matter Any More
Spacebomb is proud to have recorded the new album from Slow Club, One Day All Of This Won’t Matter Any More, out now on Moshi Moshi Records. Produced by Matthew E. White, the record features Spacebomb house band members Pinson Chanselle (Drums/Perc/Timpani), Cameron Ralston (Bass), Alan Parker (Guitar/Lapsteel), Daniel Clarke (Rhodes/Clav/Wurlitzer/Mellotron/Synths), as well as Resound on backing vocals.
How do you keep a band interesting after ten years? It’s a question Slow Club’s Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor must have asked themselves as they started work on their fourth album. From the cute indie-folk of their 2009 debut Yeah So, to the wonky-pop of its follow up Paradise, two years later, to the sophisticated, polished soul of 2014’s Complete Surrender, this is a band that have never stood still, going out of their way to present a new version of themselves on every release, while maintaining the spirit, the warmth and the chemistry that has marked their music since they formed in 2006.
Yet Slow Club 2016 are a very different proposition to the indie duo of a decade ago, who carried makeshift percussion rigs around their native Sheffield in parents’ cars, sang everything in close harmony and wrote from a shared perspective. The pair live in different parts of the country now, and work in very different ways. Charles is in London. Rebecca lives in Margate, throwing herself into the artistic community there. Charles writes obliquely, using short stories and found narratives to transmit his ideas, while Rebecca’s lyrics are starker and more personal, channelling her heartbreak and happiness in a very direct way. How do you bring two distinct styles, two distinct lives, back together and make them feel like the same band?
The answer seems to be producer Matthew E. White, the master of Southern-gothic folk, whose in-house band at Richmond’s Spacebomb provided the consistency and tone the album required. On previous records the duo would play most of the instruments themselves, aided by occasional friends. Here they handed their songs to Spacebomb’s core unit: guitarist Alan Parker, drummer Pinson Chanselle, bassist Cameron Ralston and keyboard player Daniel Clarke, encouraging them to develop their parts and help arrange the music. Almost every track was played live in the studio, allowing the long-established session band’s natural chemistry to augment Charles and Rebecca’s, with the double advantage of recording being very effective, and also comparatively quick.
“It desperately needed that.” says Rebecca, “We weren’t as on the same page about what we wanted this time, we were sort-of blindly going into it. We needed someone to come in and take control. Going in there with those guys leant itself to that. It was perfect.”
Wistfulness and acceptance are very much themes here. On ‘Come On Poet’, a clear highlight, Rebecca, giving one of her best-ever vocal performances, sings about “a chronic impatience, sufferer waiting for time to heal… Babies taking their lead from elders who still don’t know anything,” while Charles’s Silver Morning is about “a guy who won once and lost it all”.
If all of this seems a little introspective, at their heart Slow Club are still a pop band and One Day… contains some of the best melodies they’ve yet created. The duo’s knack for writing hooks and melody has, if anything, become stronger. There are choruses here you instantly feel you’ve known your whole life, like the timeless, reassuring refrain of “I’ll always be by your side” in ‘Ancient Rolling Sea’, or the Dolly Parton via-Linda Ronstadt anthem of self-celebration through the darkest times that is ‘Champion’. Perhaps best of all are a pair of songs to be found at the top of what traditionalists would call “side 2”- ‘Rebecca Casanova’, a slice of widescreen, four-to-the-floor pop that recalls soft-rock giants Fleetwood Mac in the way it channels heartbreak onto the dancefloor, and ‘Tattoo Of The King’, a Charles Watson tale that takes Neil Young and the Doobie Brothers to the disco. Neither sound like anything Slow Club have done before, while still somehow sounding like Slow Club always have. And if that seems like a contradiction, like two ideas saying something different but working together, well that’s Slow Club 2016 through and through.
Slow Club’s One Day All Of This Won’t Matter Any More, a Spacebomb Production, is out now via Moshi Moshi Records