Lord Of The Rings director Peter Jackson has announced that he is currently at work on a new Beatles documentary.
It’s based on 55 hours of previously unreleased footage (plus 140 hours of audio) of The Beatles in the studio, shot between January 2 and January 31, 1969, during the making of Let It Be. The footage was originally captured by Michael Lindsay-Hogg for the Let It Be movie.
Peter Jackson says: “The 55 hours of never-before-seen footage and 140 hours of audio made available to us, ensures this movie will be the ultimate ‘fly on the wall’ experience that Beatles fans have long dreamt about – it’s like a time machine transports us back to 1969, and we get to sit in the studio watching these four friends make great music together.
“I was relieved to discover the reality is very different to the myth. After reviewing all the footage and audio that Michael Lindsay-Hogg shot 18 months before they broke up, it’s simply an amazing historical treasure-trove. Sure, there’s moments of drama – but none of the discord this project has long been associated with. Watching John, Paul, George, and Ringo work together, creating now-classic songs from scratch, is not only fascinating – it’s funny, uplifting and surprisingly intimate.
“I’m thrilled and honoured to have been entrusted with this remarkable footage – making the movie will be a sheer joy.”
The footage will be restored by Park Road Post of Wellington, New Zealand, using techniques developed for Jackson’s recent acclaimed WW1 documentary.
The untitled Beatles film is currently in production and the release date will be announced in due course. Following its release, a restored version of the original Let It Be movie directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg will also be made available.
David Gilmour has announced that he is auctioning off more than 120 guitars from his personal collection.
The collection includes many of his famous Pink Floyd guitars, including his 1969 Black Fender Stratocaster (AKA ‘The Black Strat’) played on “Money”, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and “Comfortably Numb” (estimate: $100,000-150,000).
Other guitars offered for auction include ‘The #0001 Stratocaster’ played on “Another Brick In The Wall (Parts Two and Three)” (estimate: $100,000-150,000); a 1955 Gibson Les Paul, famous for Gilmour’s guitar solo on “Another Brick in the Wall (Part Two)” (estimate: $30,000-50,000); and a rare Gretsch White Penguin 6134 (estimate: $100,000-150,000). All sale proceeds will benefit charitable causes.
Says Gilmour: “These guitars have been very good to me and many of them have gifted me pieces of music over the years. They have paid for themselves many times over, but it’s now time that they moved on. Guitars were made to be played and it is my wish that wherever they end up, they continue to give their owners the gift of music. By auctioning these guitars I hope that I can give some help where it is really needed and through my charitable foundation do some good in this world. It will be a wrench to see them go and perhaps one day I’ll have to track one or two of them down and buy them back!”
The collection will be on show at Christie’s in London from March 27-31, with the auction taking place in New York on June 20.
As awards season approaches, leave it to Mexico’s Alfonso Cuarón to redefine the boundaries of Oscar bait.
After the interstellar $100m Hollywood thrills of Gravity, which partnered Sandra Bullock with George Clooney in space, his follow-up is a Spanish-language drama, made for just over a tenth of the cost, starring a complete unknown in a film that could conceivably compete for both Best Picture and Best Foreign Film – even after making its debut on the small screen as a Netflix Original. The pros and cons of the streaming service can be debated endlessly, mostly negatively for its often lax quality control, but Roma is a terrific argument for its blank-cheque, no-questions-asked attitude to directors with a vision.
The setting is ’70s Mexico, where Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) is maid to a professional married couple and their four children. What transpires is a low-key soap opera, but seen from the maid’s perspective, as the husband and wife drift apart, leaving Cleo to step in where the kids are concerned. The scenarios range from the slight to the melodramatic and, when local riots break out, even epic – mostly as a backdrop to Cleo’s troubled love life – but the beauty of Cuarón’s film is its simplicity. Though its production values are anything but basic, recreating the director’s youth in shimmering high-definition monochrome, Roma is really a film about human contact, and what seems at first glance to be a film steeped in middle-class privilege soon reveals itself to be so much more thoughtful.
Some of its technical excellence – notably its immersive Dolby sound, not to mention its beautiful cinematography, will be lost on even the biggest TV – but in the cinema (where it arguably belongs), Roma has a hypnotic power that only builds over its somewhat overlong running time. Cuarón has made more entertaining movies for sure, but none so heartfelt and even soulful.
Moved to define his creative identity in an interview early last year, William Tyler said he thinks of himself chiefly as “a composer who plays guitar, rather than a guitar player who writes instrumental music”. That might sound like an inconsequential fudge but is in fact pretty revealing in terms of his motivation and intent: Tyler’s understatedly eloquent playing may take the lead role in all his panoramic ‘scenes’, but what really makes him tick is set construction.
Which is presumably why the Nashville native’s fourth album sees him again opting for substantive composition over the melodic themes that dominated 2016’s Modern Country. It also sees him playing solely acoustic, with musicians including electric guitarist and loop wrangler Meg Duffy (who’s worked with the likes of Kevin Morby, Weyes Blood and The War On Drugs and records solo as Hand Habits) and, on one song, Bill Frisell. But despite these crucially empathetic contributions and subtle additions on piano, organ, Omnichord and more, it’s Tyler’s unplugged finger-picking that shapes these 10 tracks. As he told Uncut, since he always finds himself “gravitating back towards a certain kind of acoustic mindset” and most of his touring tends to be solo, it made sense to write songs that can easily be carried unaccompanied.
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Goes West was written in LA, where Tyler moved at the end of 2016, not only drawn there because his sister had already shifted but also propelled via emotional fallout from the US election and an urge to make the kind of major life change triggered by relocation – and thus discover something new. It’s a migration pattern rooted in the history of white US settlement, of course, and one endlessly romanticised, notably in the “go west, young man” exhortation spread via a 19th-century New York Tribune editorial. But although that gung-ho mythos has nothing to do with Tyler’s record, the symbolic hope of California – with its history, geography and general disposition so different from Tennessee’s – surely does.
Still, these songs aren’t “about” his new home in any real sense, certainly not in the way that the rambling, landscape-through-a-car-window evocations of Modern Country were his eulogy to a terminally ill rural America. Rather, California has made its mark via a kind of oxygenated expansiveness flooded with sunlight rather than pocked with regret, 10 individually kinetic pieces in a holding pattern of meditative calm.
Tyler has said that “most” of Goes West consists of love songs, a disclosure that’s slightly intriguing and also (brilliantly) 100 per-cent proofed against further probing due to the fact that there’s obviously no lyrical evidence of this. Titles like “Eventual Surrender”, “Rebecca” and “Venus In Aquarius” might point at matters of the heart, but no more. As with all Tyler’s work – and classical and instrumental music in general – there are no narrative levers, so all listeners can do is surrender to its nuanced glow. Thanks in no small part to Tucker Martine’s and bassist Bradley Cook’s impeccable production, this warmth spreads from opener “Alpine Star”, with its fleet-footed tempo changes, sudden shifts between minor and major chords and gently gushing synth, right through to spangled closer “Our Lady Of The Desert”, where Tyler’s acoustic, piano and shuffling brush patterns soar and dip as if in orbit around Bill Frisell’s elegantly minimal electric peals.
To mention purity in relation to Tyler’s music is tempting but misleading, not least of all because his early folk touchstones were fusionist Sandy Bull, Takoma school experimentalists John Fahey and Robbie Basho and determined outlier Michael Chapman. But however many brief diversions a track might make, on every one there’s a cleanness and single-minded articulacy of sound that somehow focuses the mind and lifts the spirits. Standouts are “Virginia Is For Loners”, which freckles its clear strings-picking with gnarly electric textures and blooms slowly while an organ moans and beats softly boom; the sweet “Fail Safe”, whose steady gallop is a reminder of Tyler’s love of Neu!; and “Man In A Hurry”, where brief flashes of Cline-ish electric guitar do vital character work without stealing the show. “Call Me When I’m Breathing Again” is the set’s most straightforward track in its echoing of late-’60s English pastoral folk, while “Not In Our Stars” nudges at Wyndham Hill’s jazzy New Age-ism, although there’s no great shame in that.
Tyler readily admits that he’s a romantic and jokes that his view of the world “almost always involves falling in love – either with someone specific or a national park”. There’s no radical change in that world view on Goes West, but the author’s humanistic, heart-first approach, coupled with his songs’ compellingly opaque expression and egoless playing makes reliability more rewarding.
As first reported in Uncut last year, a Frank Zappa hologram tour is coming to the UK in May.
The Bizarre World Of Frank Zappa will feature a holographic Zappa performing along with some his former bandmates, including guitarists Ray White and Mike Keneally, bassist Scott Thunes, multi-instrumentalist Robert Martin and drummer and Zappa archivist Joe “Vaultmeister” Travers – with special guests set to join in on some shows.
The previously unseen footage of Frank Zappa is taken from a performance he filmed on an LA soundstage in 1974, with posthumous usage in mind.
“My father and I actively discussed 3D and ‘holography’ and it was a concept he actively engaged in,” says Ahmet Zappa, who is closely involved with producing the show. “This is a love letter and a journey celebrating the genius artistry of Frank Zappa. On a personal note, I feel like I am finishing something my father started years ago. And let’s not forget, Frank himself will be rocking his fans, alongside his bandmates like nobody’s business.
“We will be pushing the limits of what anyone has seen holographically on stage before in a live venue. Circumstances, objects, places and subject matter from Frank’s songs and imagination will be brought to life for the first time on stage. We are anthropomorphizing Frank’s music, so his own hand drawn illustrations, classic imagery from his album artwork and characters from his songs can all interact and perform on stage.”
Check our the tourdates below. Tickets are available here.
EDINBURGH Playhouse, Thu 9 May 2019
GATESHEAD Sage, Sat 11 May 2019
MANCHESTER Bridgewater Hall, Sun 12 May 2019
BIRMINGHAM Symphony Hall, Mon 13 May 2019
LONDON The Palladium, Tue 12 May 2019
The concerts are part of the Apollo Nights Summer Series 2019, which include a dining experience by chef Bryn Williams. Dining experience tickets are available from £195, while non-dining tickets are available in the royal circle from £65.
Tickets go on general sale on Friday (February 1) at 10am from here, with a pre-sale starting tomorrow (January 30).
Other artists performing as part of the Apollo Nights Summer Series include George Benson and Marc Almond.
Further down the bill you can find a host of Uncut favourites, including Big Thief, Richard Thompson, Khruangbin, The Comet Is Coming, Hen Ogledd, Aldous Harding, Gwenno, Julia Jacklin, A Certain Ratio, Stealing Sheep, Anna St Louis and many more.
Also on the bill for May 25 are Interpol, The Raconteurs, Johnny Marr, Parquet Courts, Jarvis Cocker, Courtney Barnett, Connan Mockasin and Anna Calvi.
New names have been added to the All Points East line-up for the other days that weekend. Joining The Chemical Brothers on Friday May 24 are Jon Hopkins, Peggy Gou, Róisín Murphy, Optimo, Petite Noir and Maurice Fulton; new to the Christine & The Queens day on May 26 are James Blake, Kamasi Washington, Princess Nokia, Bob Moses and Andrew Weatherall.
Tickets for The Strokes day go on sale on Friday (February 1) at 9am from here. General admission costs £65 with VIP passes at £109.95.
The album was recorded at a family home overlooking a fishing village in Étretat, Normandy, over four days last summer. It was engineered by Dan Cox and produced by Jai Stanley. Check out the tracklisting below:
All At Sea
Who’s Been Having You Over
Paradise Is Under Your Nose
Narcissistic Teen Makes First XI
Someone Else To Be
Lamentable Ballad of Gascony Avenue
A Fool There Was
Punk Buck Bonafide
Doherty is currently on a sold out solo tour of the UK but will join up with the Puta Madres for some full-band dates in February (see below). Tickets are available from here.
Wednesday 13th York – Fibbers
Thursday 14th Margate – Fort Road Yard SOLD OUT
Friday 15th Derby – The Venue
Saturday 16th Northwich – The Plaza
Monday 18th Swindon – Level 3
Tuesday 19th Swansea – Sin City
Support comes from Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Kaiser Chiefs, with more acts to be announced.
Pete Townshend says: “The Who are touring again in 2019. Roger christened this tour Moving On! I love it. It is what both of us want to do. Move on, with new music, classic Who music, all performed in new and exciting ways. Taking risks, nothing to lose. Looking forward to seeing you all. Are you ready?”
For early access to tickets, you can pre-order an exclusive limited signed edition of the band’s soon to be announced new studio album here. Pre-sale starts from Wednesday (January 30) at 10am. Tickets go on general sale on Friday (February 01) at 10am from here.
Tickets for both shows are on sale from Wednesday (Jan 30) at 9am from here.
In addition, Madness will release a new autobiography called Before We Was We on 26 September 26 through Virgin Books. They also have “new studio material in the works”.
Says Suggs: “We saw off 8 prime ministers, 12 England managers and a nasty bout of lumbago. But, it’s not the endless achievements, not the unforgettable memories, it’s the fact we’re even still alive! (and miraculously in the rudest of health, thanks for asking.) Raise your glasses, lower your swords ‘arise sir Madness!’ Get stuck in! Here’s to the next forty.”
“I probably did myself a favour by not struggling on with it too long,” says Shirley Collins, discussing her 38-year retirement, ended by the release of Lodestar in 2016. “Although I minded not being ‘Shirley Collins the singer’… but I’m that again now!”
To celebrate the publication of Collins’ new book, All In The Downs, and the release of the soundtrack to the recent film about her life, Uncut joins the garrulous Sussex-born folk singer, now 82, for a pot of Earl Grey at her picturesque cottage in Lewes. Up for discussion are nine of her finest albums, her journeys around America with Alan Lomax and the time Hendrix came for tea, as well her work with Davy Graham, various Fairport members and, of course, with her late sister Dolly.
“It’s all quite amazing that we came to make [2016’s] Lodestar,” she marvels. “And there’s another one that we’re going to record later this year. I’ve got the songs ready, and I think it’ll be better than Lodestar because my singing’s got stronger since I’ve been out on the road.”
SHIRLEY COLLINS SWEET ENGLAND ARGO, 1959 Collins’ debut, a hastily recorded set of folk songs mostly accompanied by her own banjo
This was recorded by Alan Lomax and Peter Kennedy in ’58, before Alan went back to the States in July. He and Peter recorded two albums’ worth of songs before he went – they were basically all the songs I knew at that time, a lot of them from Cecil Sharp’s English Folk-Songs For Schools. I knew some from Aunt Grace and Grandad, and the rest I had been finding when I first came to London, in the library at Cecil Sharp House. I was quite proud of the fact these songs had been recorded, but it was too soon, really – it wasn’t very good! We had an awful lot to get through in those sessions, so some of them were one-takes – and they do sound like it. In 1959 I went to America for nine months [with Alan Lomax]; it was incredible. Recording Mississippi Fred McDowell was one of the great days of my life. Just after five o’clock, Fred walked out of the wood into the clearing, in his dungarees – he’d been picking cotton all day. He sat on one of the stoops and started to play, and it was just incredible. The most electrifying sound I’d heard. At the end of the first song, “61 Highway”, Alan wrote the word “perfect” in his notebook, because it was.
SHIRLEY COLLINS & DAVY GRAHAM FOLK ROOTS, NEW ROUTES DECCA, 1964 Collins joins the pioneering guitarist for this landmark LP of folk fusion
[Producer] Austin John Marshall and I were married by this time. He loved jazz, but I hated it. One night he came home from a club and said, “I’ve seen this great guitar player – I think you and he could work together.” He explained that Davy played African and Indian riffs, and I thought, ‘I don’t think so…’ But Davy came up to the house and he was lovely. He played “She Moves Through The Fair”, and it was just extraordinary. It had all these African and Indian influences in it, but it made it more Irish in a way. I was completely bowled over. We started thinking about songs we could do, and the obvious ones were Appalachian ones like “Pretty Saro”; because of the modes, they had that Eastern sound. It was a thrill to do – though I was a bit scared of Davy, because he was very intellectual, always carrying a book about something that was above me, usually Eastern religions, of which I had no interest. And he took drugs, so you had to be slightly wary of him, yet he was a gentle and generous man. It was recorded at Abbey Road, with Davy and I perched on stools, which was never my favourite position for singing – and quite a distance apart! We played on TV, too. The producer said to me, “I thought you were supposed to be beautiful?” No, I never claimed that… And then he didn’t want “Reynardine”, so we did “House Of The Rising Sun” instead. I still feel annoyed to this day that we couldn’t do what we wanted to do!
SHIRLEY COLLINS THE SWEET PRIMEROSES TOPIC, 1967 The start of a fruitful collaboration with sister Dolly Collins and the flute organ, and the LP that established Collins’ signature style
I realised it probably couldn’t continue with Davy, because he was too tricky to work with. One time we were doing a concert north of London, so we met at King’s Cross, and he said he couldn’t travel on the same train as me for some reason. It was a really bad start to an evening’s gig, to wonder why. He was just in a different world. So I was sitting one evening in the house at Blackheath, and I got Folk Songs Of North America out, which was the last thing Alan Lomax produced before he went back to the States. I was leafing through it, and I saw there were some keyboard arrangements – so I went over to Dolly’s, and she played them on the piano. They were perfectly nice, but they didn’t enhance the songs. So I said, “Why don’t you write some arrangements?” She turned up a few days later with her first arrangement, for three French horns… “Dolly! How are we going to take three French horns to gigs?” So she went away and started on keyboard arrangements. They were so lovely to sing with, so right and appropriate. John and I used to go to rehearsals at the Early Music Centre in London – it was there that we heard the portative organ. I heard the first few notes and thought, ‘God, I’ve got to sing with that.’ So Dolly began to write for the flute organ. We never owned it, we always had to hire it – £120 a time. We used to go to Noel Mander’s organ factory in Bow and put it in the back of the estate car that Dolly’s husband had.
Just a quick reminder that we have a splendid new issue in the shops – or you can buy a copy online now – featuring Leonard Cohen, The Yardbirds, Bob Marley, Crass, Lambchop and a ton of other great stuff. And now on with this week’s selection of new goodies…
On February 8, Sony Masterworks will release an album called Music Inspired By The Film Roma, in reference to Alfonso Cuarón’s new Netflix film Roma which has just been nominated for 10 Oscars.
Not to be confused with the film’s soundtrack, Music Inspired By The Film Roma features new recordings by Beck, Patti Smith, Laura Marling, Unkle and more – some of which incorporate ambient sounds from the film.
“Tarantula” is a cover of a 1982 song by 4AD signees Colourbox. It features Feist on backing vocals and orchestral arrangements by Beck in collaboration with his father, David Campbell.
Check out the full tracklisting for Music Inspired By The Film Roma below:
Tepeji 21 (The Sounds of ROMA) – Ciudad de México
Wing – Patti Smith
Tarantula – Beck
When I Was Older – Billie Eilish
PSYCHO – Bu Cuarón
On My Knees – UNKLE featuring Michael Kiwanaku
Con El Viento – Jessie Reyez
Marooned – El-P & Wilder Zoby
Cumbia del Borras – Sonido Gallo Negro
La Hora Exacta – Quique Rangel
Cleo Who Takes Care Of You – Ibeyi
We Are Always Alone – DJ Shadow
Between These Hands – Asaf Avidan
Those Were The Days – Laura Marling
ROMA – T Bone Burnett
The track kicks off a new series of their Drift project, which saw them release new music on a weekly basis last autumn. More new material is expected over the coming weeks.
Underworld also recently posted an album of demos called Coming Out Of Texas, “a collection of rough work in progress material featuring Karl’s guitar”. Listen here.
Explains the band’s Rick Smith: “The recordings are raw and partly inspired by American lo-fi alternative rock, the high desert around Coachella and one of Karl’s road trips across the Texas flat lands. These tracks are part of Underworld’s writing process and were never intended for release but over the years they’ve become part of the late night soundtrack for the live crew on the tour bus going from gig to gig and country to country.”
Both tracks were produced by Ariel Rechtshaid and Ezra Koenig. “Harmony Hall” features additional production from former Vampire Weekend member Rostam Batmanglij, while “2021” was co-written by Yellow Magic Orchestra’s Haruomi Hosono.
Another “2-song drop” is expected from Vampire Weekend next month.
In an extensive interview feature in the current issue of Uncut, Pratt discusses her songwriting process: “It’s a bit like a dream. When you wake up, if you don’t keep focusing on it, you start to forget the major parts of it. That kind of dream state, that mental state, is very similar to the one that is utilised when I’m writing.”
You can read much more about Jessica Pratt in the latest issue of Uncut, on sale now with Leonard Cohen on the cover. There is also a Jessica Pratt song on the accompanying free CD.
In the latest issue of Uncut – in shops now or available to buy online by clicking here – we look back at the making of Bob Marley & The Wailers‘ greatest albums with the help of key personnel, including Marley’s Wailers bandmates Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett, Donald Kinsey and Junior Marvin.
In this extract from Graeme Thomson’s article, the trio discuss the making of their 1977 classic Exodus. Exiled in London, Marley and The Wailers make an album for all-comers: Side One is by turns angry, philosophical and mystical; Side Two offers uplifting party tunes.
JUNIOR MARVIN: I met Bob in London on Valentine’s Day 1977. We started rehearsing right away. My first jam that day was “Exodus”, “Waiting In Vain” and “Jamming” – we played each song for about 45 minutes. Bob was still putting final touches to the lyrics and the music with the keyboard player, Tyrone Downie, who at the time was filling in on bass. Tyrone and myself helped write “Exodus” and “Is This Love?” It was a very electric experience. It was the first time I ever saw somebody’s aura. He was so happy to be alive after the shooting, smiling and having a good time. He was very comfortable in London. There was a great Jamaican and Afro-Caribbean community, people from Ethiopia, Africa…
ASTON BARRETT: We spent some good times in London. Just living life, all of us in the band, doing music as we always did. Recording at Island studios was a vibe. It was nice.
JUNIOR MARVIN: There was no rush in the studio, nobody watching the clock. We had it booked 24 hours a day; for Bob that was a dream come true. The songs on Exodus were generally more recent than the ones on Kaya. “Waiting In Vain” was fresh because he had just fallen in love with Cindy Breakspeare. “Exodus” was partly written because Bob had left Jamaica after the shooting attempt – “movement of Jah people,” meaning everyone is part of that movement, no matter your colour, creed or history. “Natural Mystic” was very current, because he couldn’t believe he was still alive, getting protection from the spiritual vibration. The songs definitely had continuity and a special sense of time and place. It had love songs, too, but it had a militant edge. We had a good time recording live, the organic way. It would be drums, bass, piano, acoustic guitar, lead guitar, and rough vocals. Bob would redo his rhythm guitar, and a lot of the vocals. We spent a lot of time mixing, trying to perfect everything. We’d compare our album with the top albums of the time and see how ours measured up sonically. It wasn’t just great songs, but musically almost perfect. It really revolutionised the sound of reggae.
You can read much more about Bob Marley & The Wailers in the latest issue of Uncut, on sale now with Leonard Cohen on the cover.
Around the time of their last album, 2015’s Fading Frontier, something about Deerhunter changed. It might have had to do with the serious accident the band’s enigmatic frontman and chief songwriter Bradford Cox suffered in the summer of 2014 – he was hit by a car – which left him feeling emotionally numb following the recuperative course of painkillers he was prescribed. You could reason, too, that after a decade of wilfully experimental and wildly indulgent art rock, which resulted in a couple of this decade’s outsider masterpieces in Halcyon Digest and Monomania, the group naturally mellowed and chose to focus their considerable abilities.
Either way, Fading Frontier found them taking stock of their anxieties and reining in their flights of fantasy to compose a very human and heartfelt record, proving, not that it were needed, that Cox could engage in a kind of direct, emotional pop. At the time, he likened Fading Frontier to the first day of spring after a brutal winter. Were we to extend that analogy, its follow-up Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? might be a glorious day in late summer, but on closer inspection things are slightly off: the fruit hanging from the trees is rotten and shrivelled, the animals are lame, and the water in the streams tastes bitter, metallic. The earth is toxic.
Part eco-lament, part eulogy for emotion, part reflection on the 24-hour news cycle in the age of Trump and the threat of nationalism, on WHEAD? Cox delivers a fairly stark status update for humanity – “Walk around and you’ll see what’s fading”, he warns on “Death In Midsummer” – but sugars the pill by wrapping the message in some of Deerhunter’s prettiest songs to date; the dopamine hits we crave while scrolling through our feeds. Baroque harpsichord and mandolin melodies are sprinkled liberally across “Death In Midsummer”, “What Happens To People” and “Element”, which clip along jauntily as if the band were parading down Carnaby Street on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Tucked near the end of the album, the effortless “Plains”, where Cox muses on the actor James Dean’s time in Marfa, Texas, could become the radio hit they’ve so far managed to avoid.
Cox says he has never worked so hard on an album, the fully formed demos he made in the attic studio of his Atlanta home brought to various studios to record with the band and regular producer Ben Allen. What’s new about this record is the involvement of Welsh musician Cate Le Bon, known for her freewheeling lo-fi solo work and as part of Drinks. Cox recruited her as producer after the pair worked together during last year’s Marfa Myths series in the artist outpost of Marfa, where they returned to finish this album. He struggles to pin down her precise qualities, implying that her mere presence in the studio is inspiration enough, but there’s a freshness and looseness to the material not heard before. Her layered vocals on the celestial “Tarnung”, a Visible Cloaks-style marimba shimmer written by Lockett Pundt, provide a moment of tranquillity.
Like Sonic Youth before them, what makes Deerhunter one of today’s great American bands is their ability to absorb their environment and channel this into music that always strives to be different to what they’ve done before and which challenges preconceptions of who they are. In acknowledging that “No One’s Sleeping” is a response to the senseless murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in June 2016, her namesake, the archetypal wildcard dreamer, reveals that in fact he’s very much engaged with reality, though he keeps politics out of this Lodger-period Bowie number, preferring his usual allegory: “In the country there’s much duress. Violence has taken hold. Follow me, the golden void.”
Not everything is a success: on an album that explores relatively formal and concise songwriting, the more abstract pieces fall flat, such as the Numan-ish synth exercise “Greenpoint Gothic’ or “Détournement”’s cybernetic drift. In staking out an oddly agreeable middle-ground for Deerhunter, Cox risks forfeiting that element of danger and weirdness that made his band so special. Having restrained himself in that regard, his questing spirit is manifested in other ways, not least, on this album, in his cautious sense of responsibility and his despair for the planet and society. “Your cage is what you make it”, he sings on “Futurism”. “If you decorate it, it goes by faster.” At the age of 36, Cox is facing the future, and he’s not sure whether to laugh or cry.