::simon raymonde – cocteau twins ::

Jazz was not something that I have ever rushed into. Growing up in a house filled wholly with pop music as the son of a songwriter and
string arranger ( my old man wrote songs for Dusty Springfield and arranged on records by The Walker Brothers ), and with elder
brothers and sisters into Beach Boys, Beatles, Nilsson, T.Rex, I came to jazz very late. I was working in a record shop between 1980 and
1983 before I joined Cocteau Twins and I had not really embraced much since 1977 except punk, reggae, then American punk and then
post punk. I was a bit narrow-minded you could say. My manager at the shop was an old jazz freak and despite our age difference and
backgrounds, after he closed up the store we used to stay in the shop all night listening to music, smoking and drinking. I would play
him things like Public Image, Josef K, The Pop Group and The Associates and he would play all his favourite jazzers like Dexter Gordon
and Charlie Parker. It was a real eye opener and before too long, I fell quite deeply in love with Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and
Coltrane. I realised I could like Joy Divison, The Slits, Lee Perry, Subway Sect, Nick Drake AND John Coltrane! It had a profound affect on
my listening really!! ‘My Favourite Things’ is that rarity; a classic recording that you simply cannot get tired of. The playing of McCoy Tyner
on piano and his drummer Elvin Jones still amazes me today, some twenty years on. Having said all that, i am not really into jazz. I went
to see Round Midnight a couple of times, but that’s about it. I am happy for now with Miles, Monk and Coltrane.

Mogwai: ‘I know YOU are but who am I’
With a label that has invested heavily in instrumental music throughout our short history, and coming from a band like Cocteau Twins it
will come as no surprise that I supplement my diet with regular intakes of Mogwai. From the Happy Songs for Happy People album, this
song begins with a simple funeral piano repetition that is both delicate and doleful. Saturated in emotion, the piece develops with the
introduction of subtle warp-esque drum electronics and carefully placed vibes. For those who place Mogwai lazily in a post rock/ quiet
loud quiet loud loud loud corner,  this album and this song in particular illustrates just what an incredibly diverse and adventurous band
Mogwai have become. The affinity and affection between bands like Explosions in The Sky, Dirty Three and Mogwai ( two of whom I am
hugely proud to work with ) is also a joy to behold. My one regret since starting up this label: in 1998 Bella Union was based at our  
{Cocteau Twins ) studio and shortly after we set the label up, the band broke up, the studio folded and within a month or so had shipped
out and moved in to our current offices. In October 2005 we decided to have a bit of a spring clean here and a dusty box was pulled out
from behind the sofa with a bunch of old cassettes, demos, Cocteaus sessions etc. and some fascinating things were found.  Paul, the
marketing manager here at Bella Union, with a rather concerned look forming on his handsome face, pulled out a cassette of Mogwai
demos from 1996.  I swear I had never seen that before. My stomach has never felt right since he found that cassette. I told Stuart from
Mogwai this the other day, he was very lovely and said ” ah don’t worry, it wasn’t very good anyway!” Well, through sheer terror, i didn’t
listen to it till today and Stuart, you are a terrible liar!

Scott Walker: ‘The World’s Strongest Man’
Ha, well I could have chosen any track from Scott 1,2 3 or 4.  After my father died suddenly and before his time in 1989, I begun to search
around old record shops for things he had been involved with, like Dusty Springfield, David Bowie, Helen Shapiro, and Walker Brothers
albums. In my pursuits I found Scott 3 and 4 on vinyl and even though I noticed Dad wasn’t on these, I bought them anyway and
unwittingly begun an obsession that sees no sign of abating. What is it with Scott Walker? Many are perhaps attracted by the fall from
grace, a pop idol of the mid 60s, who went solo and flopped famously. A man who when faced with flagging sales of Scott 3 ( his lyrical
dexterity displayed on all his albums didn’t apparently stretch to his album titles! ), did not resort to type and bring in the big pop
numbers, oh no! He returned with Scott 4, his first album containing all his own material, and sang of death, war, totalitarianism, loss
and other prime TOP OF THE POPS subject matter! To me however, the history and theories are all just peripheral to the real point here.
Scott Walker sings from deep inside with a truth and a beauty that you cannot fake with one of THE great voices. The music isn’t bad
either; songs like Boy Child sound like something Jonny Greenwood would have come up with for OK Computer, so other-wordly and
modern does it sound. ‘World’s Strongest Man’ is a beautiful song about honesty and frailties. And didn’t you know, that I am not the
world’s strongest man???. Needless to say the album sales were disastrous and it signalled the end of Scott’s deal with Fontana. I am
glad to know that me missing out on Mogwai was not the only stupid label decision in this list ( weird footnote: when Cocteau Twins left
4AD in 1991, we signed to…Fontana!! Needless to say, we got dropped after disastrous album sales too!! ).

The Innocence Mission: ‘The Lakes Of Canada’
I-pods by their very design are instruments for privacy and splendid isolation,  and truly I find the more intimate the music, the better. This
song from the little known album ‘Birds Of My Neighbourhood’ is staggering beautiful. Written by Don and Karen Peris during a period of
personal loss, their sadness and shared experiences resonate through each note and every syllable. It is not a ‘difficult’ album, but it is
incredibly emotional. I remember bringing this back from the USA and going off on holiday with my family driving around Brittany,
listening to this with tears streaming down my face and a huge lump in my throat. I had an opportunity to release the album here in UK in
1999 (it still has yet to find its way to our shores domestically), but my efforts were met with some resistance which I succumbed to, but
as I cannot go for more than a week without hearing it still, six years on, I am going to go back and see if I can get it out here. Karen Peris
has without doubt one of the most affecting voices I have ever heard. Stina Nordenstam and Joanna Newsome have similar styles and
both have written wonderful songs, but this album is a real hidden gem. ‘The Lakes of Canada’ starts with a simple strummed guitar
and Karen sings of seasons or maybe circumstances changing. She effortlessly evokes feelings of wonder, of awe: ‘my little mouth, my
winter lungs, don t tell me what cannot be done, cannot be done. Talk of loneliness and quiet voices, I am shy but you can reach me,
rowing on the lakes of Canada. Oh laughing man, what have you won, don’t tell me what cannot be done’? It is also an album ahead of
its time, as its folk leanings came long before the latest Nick Drake revival hit town. If you like iron and wine, James Yorkston and Sufjan,
pick this up and see what I mean. If you don’t see it on my release schedule within a few months, you have my permission to search it
out elsewhere!!

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: ‘Red Right Hand’
The King. Nothing pleases me more in 2005 than to see news of Nick Cave dates coming up, a new film, a forthcoming album. simply
the best songwriter and most brilliant performer consistently for the last 25 years. As a fan even of his pre-Birthday Party band The Boys
Next Door, I have grown up with Nick Cave accompanying all my triumphs and travails with new music at every turn. I cannot think of  a
period in all those years where I have tired of his music, found things going stale. That is a phenomenal achievement if you think about
it. The supposed greats, like Bowie, Lou Reed, REM, etc etc have all had their duffers. Nick has not. I have most Birthday Party and Nick
Cave albums on my i-pod and I could have picked Mr Clarinet, God Is In The House, Into My Arms, Mercy Seat, Jennifer’s Veil, The
Weeping Song, There She Goes (My beautiful world), Nobody’s Baby Now, and dozens more, but I picked Red Right Hand as every time I
hear it, it takes me straight back to the Brixton Academy in 2001 where 5000 people sang along to every word as if we were in a spiritual
frenzy. Pure magic (and when Nick Cave walked onto the stage at the Barbican just a couple of months ago as Dirty Three?’ suprise
fourth member in the Don’t Look Back performance of their classic album Ocean Songs, I cannot deny the presence of a throat lump and
a tear scribbling my cheek!). This track is probably not going to be on Bella Union as it’s a cover of a Hank Williams song that Josh
recorded just to sell on the road! So I don’t think this qualifies as cheating!

Josh Pearson: ‘So Lonesome’
The former Lift to Experience mainman Josh Pearson has been in the wilderness for a couple of years since personal tragedies swept
through the band, leaving all three members numb and severed. Stories reached us, from far flung corners of Texas, some more bizarre
than others, of Josh?’ slow decline. Sightings at SXSW in 2003, 4 and 5 did little to reassure us of his ability to return, yet I kept in touch
with him, offering hope and support where I could. In March this year in Texas, I saw him and sensed a massive improvement, though I
wasn’t able to see as much of him as I would have liked as sadly I was struck down with a dreadful flu and spent most of the week in
bed. However, his eyes seemed clear and while he looked a little pale and withdrawn, for the first time in a few years, I felt very positive
about him. Josh’s well being and facilitating his return to recording and performing are hugely important to me and after a few months of
long phone calls and gentle cajoling, Josh was here with his guitar ( I like to think I had something to do with it, but in actuality his main
reason for coming was to enter the World Beard Championship in Berlin in October!!). Dirty Three were huge fans and invited him to
support the band around Europe and UK. This was a wonderful opportunity for Josh to play with one of his favourite bands, in front of real
music fans. I have to say to this day one of my proudest moments was receiving a call from Warren Ellis ( Dirty Three and Bad Seed
violinist ) telling me what an absolute pleasure it was having Josh with them. He even called me one day when Josh was away in Paris
doing a solo show, to say how much he missed him. I know what a genius this boy is, and I don’t use that word lightly, and yet to hear
these words from such a true gentleman as Warren Ellis delighted me more than I can say. To the song then, a gloriously spaced out
cover. Hearing Pearson singing again is going to raise smiles everywhere, and he doesn’t disappoint. Imagine hearing a country song
while you were on mushrooms in a spaceship a million miles above the earth just surrounded by deep blue sky and stars. You know
what I mean. Genius just about covers it.

Words and photograph courtesy of Simon Raymonde. Simon is also head of Bella Union Records. For more info: www.bellaunion.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *