I know this is supposed to be a photography blog but I’m equally as passionate about music. I love my photographic career but I do miss that part of my radio career when I was fronting a contemporary music show. That experience goes all the way back to the turn of the 70s when, at the age of 16, I co-presented a rock show on BBC Radio Nottingham. Always the biggest buzz I got was championing the music I loved – and hearing back from listeners who loved what I played. Three albums this year have had me drooling with delight: Robert John Godfrey’s The Art of Melody (The Enid keyboardsman in classical mode, channelling Rachmaninov); Jacco Gardner’s Cabinet of Curiosities (redolent of late 60s psych-pop channelling Syd Barrett – see cover sleeve opposite); and Leon Singer’s Arc of Iris (an album of sophisticated chamber pop, every track like a Brian Wilson-esque ‘pocket symphony’).
However, for the moment all these are taking a back seat to the latest album by Julianna Barwick called Nepenthe. I have always loved choral sounds – from Enya to The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices through to King’s College. If you love any of the latter, Nepenthe will have you in raptures. The radio presenter who introduced me to Julianna is Chris Evans (no, this Chris Evans is a grown-up who presents a show of melodious, alternative contemporary music on a Wolverhampton community radio station). Chris reckons Julianna’s music is the sort he expects to hear in heaven, which tells you something about the celestial sound of Nepenthe. To get you even closer, to me it’s more the Siren sound Jason (of the Argonauts) wanted to hear so badly that he strapped himself to the mast. If you have Spotify, the album is on there. If not, here is a track on You Tube which takes you to Iceland where Julianna recorded the album with Sigur Ros producer Alex Somers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTuxswB_Rew
In many ways, Nepenthe summons up the glacial beauty of Iceland. It’s sublime music, for sure, no better described than in the Mojo review that speaks of Julianna’s ‘angel tones and free-floating radiance newly influenced by the breathtaking, often alien wonders of her host country… this is an album of joyously abstracted rapture, trading earthbound sorrows for a narcotic serenity and soul-stirring beauty that leaves the real world feeling reassuringly distant.’ Hear hear… and DO hear hear if you can.