My Favourite Music Of 2011

Unlike the dickheads who are paid to write about free CDs for newspapers, i think 2011 was a year when a lot of great music got made. I, like everyone else in the world, only got to hear a tiny fraction of it, so this is in no way a ‘best of’ list for the year, just a handful of things that I heard that constitutes my favourites from that tiny selection. Also in no particular order. I’ll start with the ones you can hear straight away, and then list a few that aren’t available to stream online…

Calamateur – The Quiet In The Land

Andrew Howie’s been making brilliant music for years. I love pretty much everything he does. Here he gets angry, he tackles doubt and confusion head-on and writes music to match. It’s at times unsettling but is nothing short of brilliant. (if you get it pay lots for it, so Andrew will send you the hour long ambient track that comes with it – it too is marvellous)

Rob Szabo – Rob Szabo

Rob’s an outstandingly great singer-songwriter. He’s one of those people who like Tracy Chapman, will suffer in his career from being consistently brilliant – there’s no big story in ‘great musician puts out another great record’. Fortunately, we no longer need big stories. We just want great music. and THIS is truly masterful music. I love it.

Lower Case Noises – Migratory Patterns

Andy Othling creates amazing soundscapes that on headphones will make any place you walk through while listening to it feel like a whole new landscape. I love all of his music that I’ve heard, and this is his best so far, IMHO.

Deborah Jordan – What You See

Soulful IDM/Electronica gorgeousness from an incredible singer. Love it.

Fer Isella – #Cosecha

A pure twitter discovery – Argentinean post-jazz experimenter making utterly gorgeous music. A bit fusion-y but without the unnecessary twiddles. Some 70s Miles, some ECM, and then a few songs to finish. Great stuff.

FreekBass – Concentrate

Supremely funky goodness at the intersection of old school funk, hip-hop and electronica. Magic.

Of those that were made by people who don’t put their music on bandcamp, I’d recommend checking out a few of my favourites:

  • The Waterboys – An Appointment With Mr Yeats
  • Bruce Cockburn – Small Source Of Comfort
  • Paul Simon – So Beautiful Or So What
  • Tiger Darrow – Hello and You Know Who You Are (two amazing albums, released by an 18 year old, on the SAME DAY.)
  • Animals As Leaders – Weightless
  • Yvonne Lyon – More Than Mine
  • Civil Wars – Barton Hollow
  • Kt Tunstall – the Scarlet Tulip EP
  • Bela Fleck and The Flecktones – Rocket Science.

That’s a fair chunk of the new music I’ve been enjoying this year. Google ‘em, find ‘em on a streaming thing if they’re there, or just buy the indie ones by people who are nice enough to let you hear the stuffs you’re about to buy 😉

2011 – A Year In Music

I’m going to stick to what happened to Lobelia, Flapjack and I during the year, rather than a world-events review. I leave that to those who have the time and resources to do the subject justice.

We kicked off 2011 in a new (if temporary) home, one where for the first time in a long time we would be able to record vocals and guitar. I’d finished 2010 with a couple of new tracks being recorded, so plans were hatched for both Lo and I to start making new records. Continue reading “2011 – A Year In Music”

New Album Out Next Week!

If we’re friends on Facebook or Twitter, you may already know that I have a new album coming out next week.

It was recorded live in Minneapolis, after a fortuitous sequence of events (outlined in the sleeve notes) lead us to play in an art exhibition by a fabulous artist called Geoff Bush.

The music was all improvised in response to Geoff’s beautiful art. His theme for his work is ‘Believe In Peace’ – which is also the title of the album, and his work is based on the I Ching from which the four track titles come.

So we have four tracks, all played on my fretless 6 string bass (I only take one bass with me on tour in the US), and there’s some clever weirdness going on from my Kaoss Pad.

Here’s the opening track from it. Like all my recent stuff, it’s mixed and mastered for good speakers/headphones, so if you’re listening to this on a laptop, you’re going to miss a lot…

Enjoy, please tell your friends, and look out for the finished thing on the 1st or 2nd of January! 🙂

A Birthday Present, From Me To You

Today’s my birthday, and to celebrate, I’m offering you a free download. Please feel free to go and grab an album of your choice from my site, with no obligation to pay at all. if you feel like paying, please download two albums – the first one’s on me.

All I ask in return is that if you like it, you tell your friends about it. On Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Forums, or even in actual real life. However feels most comfortable to you.

So head over to and have a listen to the stuff there, or just click the download link on my latest album in the widget below:

Why I’ve Taken My Music Off Spotify…

A few weeks back, Andrew Dubber and I recorded a podcast, in which we talked about Spotify. A lot. I outlined in that some of the reasons why I’m taking my music off the service, and now that I’ve finally got round to it, I’ll write about them too.

It’s become de rigueur for labels and artists to take their music off the service, citing the low payout per stream as their primary reason. That’s not my reason.

Neither is it to do with their often eff-up metadata or the lack of control over artist bios and weblinks (though all three of those are massive issues they need to address).

No, my argument is simply a fair trade one, not a ‘this is best for my career’ one. In fact, I think I’ll probably, to some degree, lessen the chances of some listeners finding me. I’ve made it harder for those who share Spotify links to their favourite music to share my music (though not physically much harder, given that ultimately Bandcamp links are way more useful, in that they’re cross-platform, don’t require an app, never play you ads and will even create embeddable players when you drop them into Facebook, with integral ‘download/buy’ links.)

No, I have two main complaints:

  • One, the service is at least part owned by the Major labels, who have a controlling say in how it all works, how the payments work, and who gets what.
  • Two, As far as I can see, Spotify have just attempted to stay inside the law with regards to artist/writer payments, involving protracted negotiations with the rights orgs. At no point have they, as far as I can tell, made any offer to musicians over and above the absolute minimum. The reason it’s ‘as far as I can see’ is that Spotify won’t tell anyone what they pay. Their payments are obscured, and they defer to the labels saying that artists only get paid by the labels and collection agencies anyway. It’s bollocks. If they are paying x-amount per stream to the PRS, we should be told that. If there’s any more that goes straight to the distributors/labels, we should be told that too. To claim it’s ‘commercially sensitive’ just means ‘we’ve done a deal with the Majors that makes indie artists look like goons, and we don’t want them to know’.

This may well be because, as this article claims, the majors have it rigged anyway. It’s certainly true that anyone paying Spotify to listen to my music is also funding the Major record labels. Labels that I hope will cease to exist before too long.

So, I’ve pulled my music off there. Being there was doing me no harm, I’m not expecting to see an upsurge in sales, though thanks to the total absence of tracking data, I’ve never been able to see whether anyone bought my music after hearing it on Spotify.

IF you have been listening to my music on Spotify up until now, please feel free to go and download it from– there’s loads more there than was ever on Spotify, with the correct titles and everything – it’s got artwork, sleevenotes, and your Spotify app will play it anyway once you’ve downloaded it. It just won’t be giving any money to the bastards who are trying to force insane legislation through the UK and US courts to ruin the internet.

(if at the time of reading you check Spotify and my music is still there, it just means they haven’t pulled it from their system yet. No need to tell me in the comments 🙂 ) 

Two New Recordings On Soundcloud

I’ve got loads I need to blog about, sorry for the silence here. First up, here are two new recordings.

Firstly, here’s a rough mix of one of the pieces from my improv gig with Corey Mwamba last week in Derby. Corey’s a remarkable musician, and we had a wonderful gig. The whole show should be up on Bandcamp at some point (projects are backing up and I need to start releasing some of them!)

This is the 2nd thing we played on the night – I missed all but the last 15 seconds of the first thing with the recording. Corey starts out on recorder, then switches to vibes. His restraint through the first half is a great lesson in the parameters of improv. Too often, improvisors play all over everything, particularly melody players, rather than ‘arranging on the fly’ and creating space, colour and texture. Throughout the gig, Corey’s choice of when to play and when not to, as well as what to play when he did, was brilliant. A truly remarkable musician.

Please check out the other gigs Corey’s putting on at Deda in Derby. It’s a lovely place to play, and he’s doing good things there. Here’s the tune:

Also recently added to Soundcloud, this is a thing I was playing around with a couple of weeks ago, that I LOVE the feel of. Sadly, I don’t have the recording of how I came up with it, just these two loops that were there at the end. It’s going to be really tough to match the gentle flow of this, and it may be that I end up leaving this as is for the next record. we’ll see…

Please feel free to share both of those with your friends, to click the ‘like’ button, tweet the link to it… all that kind of help sharing the recordings around is SO important to us as musicians who can’t afford promo budgets and magazine adverts to let people know what we’re up to!

An Embarrassment Of Riches (Some Great New Music Recommendations)

I’ve been finding SO much great music of late, that I thought it was about time I blogged about some of it. I’ve been posting a lot of it to Facebook and Twitter, but it can get lost in the stream there. So here’s a few of my favourites of late (you can play all of them direct from this page, and if you click the download link on any of the players you can buy the albums): Continue reading “An Embarrassment Of Riches (Some Great New Music Recommendations)”

10,000 Jonis – Celebrate by Sharing.

Today is Joni Mitchell’s birthday. She’s 68.

Joni has influenced my music perhaps more than any other single musician. She’s not a bassist and she doesn’t loop, but the connection her music makes, the way it draws you into the story, into her world, the feeling of almost too much access into the inner recesses of her mind, all wrapped in just the right music for each story, is exactly what I’ve tried to do. Her music is the gold standard. Continue reading “10,000 Jonis – Celebrate by Sharing.”

Three Gigs in November!

I’ve got three gigs this month! Yes!

After quite a while off from the live scene thanks to moving house and all the stuffs that go on around that, Lo and I are going to be down in Devon and Cornwall on the 12th and 13th November, playing with the brilliant saxophonist Andy Williamson – I’ve known Andy for ages, and we’ve done a couple of really lovely gigs together over the years. He’s a joy to play with and a delightful man to hang out with, so we’re hugely looking forward to the visit.

Nov 12th St Endellion, St Endellion Church, North Cornwall
Nov 13th Ashburton Devon, St Lawrence Chapel – both with Andy Williamson and Lobelia

Then, on the 24th, I’m playing a duo show in Derby with another old collaboratorCorey Mwamba. Corey’s an exceptional vibraphonist, composer and music maker. The gig I did with his band at the London Jazz Festival a few years back was possibly the hardest music I’ve ever had to play, but also some of the most enjoyable. Here we’ll be improvising, making a gorgeous noise between us, and you’re invited to come and enjoy it with us.

24th November, Deda, Chapel St, Derby, with Corey Mwamba.