New album news – LEYlines V out now

Right, I’ve got a ton of half-written blog posts about all kinds of stuff, but here’s some news that’s exciting!

We’ve just released LEYlines V – the fifth album by me, Andy Edwards and Phi Yaan-Zek. It’s the 2nd set from the that gave us LEYlines IV, which came out a month ago, so if you want to recreate the gig feeling, just listen to the two albums about 15 minutes apart, buy yourself some very reasonably priced drinks in the break and have a chat with some likeminded oddballs about what you just heard 🙂

The gig was at Tower Of Song here in Birmingham, almost exactly two years ago, and as I said when LEYlines IV came out, represented a pretty significant leap forward (or maybe sideways!) for the band (see this blog post for more info on the LEYlines history). Everything we do is fully improvised, and so there’s no sense that any of us need to maintain any continuity gear-wise from one gig to the next, so we always turn up with a different set of sounds. Andy has his ‘LEYlines kit’ which is a hybrid set-up of percussion and small drums (best seen in this video from our duo album Over Time) and Phi uses LEYlines as an R&D space for new sounds and approaches to processing and manipulating his guitar sound… to quite extraordinary effect…

For my part, these two albums have some of the most OTT ‘fusion-esque’ playing I’ve ever done on them – there are a lot of moments where Phi and I have swapped our traditional roles, and while he’s providing texture and harmony, I’m playing crazy lead lines 🙂 You can listen for yourself here:

You’ll notice that there are two different editions of the album, with different artworks, subtitles, and even the way the tracks have been cut up… It’s one of the joys of LEYlines as a project, that we get to really mess with conventions around what an album even is (and we can’t even be consistent about how we render ‘LEYlines’ in text form! ha!)… Is the music inextricably attached to that title and artwork? Are those just emblems or avatars – metadata that helps us tell stories with it?

With a project as resolutely uncommercial as LEYlines (yet equally resolute in our commitment to its sustainability), we get to experiment without the sense that we’re somehow missing out on thousands of pounds of lost revenue to confused improv fans unable to find the definitive version of this particular music! It’s a joy to make music with people as curious about this stuff as I am. We’re all ploughing through the range of possible paths for creative musicians in the digital era, and together we get to try things out, see what works, see what’s got harder and what’s got easier… And LEYlines is one such space of the explorable.

So, if you’re a subscriber, you’ll already have the subscriber exclusive graffiti edition. If you’re not, you can subscribe within the next week to get it, or you can check out the version embedded above from Phi’s Bandcamp account, and get it as a single album from him… He’s running a special offer where you get LEYlines IV as well bundled in if you buy it very soon… so maybe hop on that.

We’ve got a couple more LEYlines recordings in the bag, and are planning some more shows very soon – now that I’ve stopped teaching at Kidderminster College, I won’t get to see Andy  and Phi on a weekly basis, so making sure we get regular opportunities to play together feels even more important than ever – they’ve been such a huge part of my musical development over the last 6 years or so, and are two of my closest friends, so I have no inclination to let go of this amazing musical sandpit that we’ve created here! Expect more LEYlines action, live and recorded, very soon! 🙂

As always, I’d emplore you to check out Phi and Andy’s music via their Bandcamp accounts – Phi’s studio record from last year, Reality Is My Plaything is truly the album of a lifetime – 10 years in the making, and just an extraordinary achievement. Likewise, Andy’s body of work is full of incredible music, and his latest project, Kundabuffa is an exploration of the intersection of improvisation and electronic soul and jazz that just keeps getting better and more remarkable.

shop.pyzmusic.com is Phi’s Bandcamp page
andyedwards.bandcamp.com is Andy’s.

band photo of the trio LEYlines

New LEYlines Album Out Now – LEYlines IV – with Two Ways To Get It

Phi Yaan-Zek, Andy Edwards and myself are LEYlines. Or we do LEYlines. I’m not sure whether LEYlines is an entity or a process, but whatever it is, LEYlines is us and/or how we make music 🙂

And we have a brand new live album out, recorded at Tower Of Song in Birmingham in 2017. This is the first set, and the second set will be out next month, as LEYlines V! And there are two ways you can get it:

Firstly, it’s out as a stand-alone Bandcamp release via Phi Yaan-Zek’s page: that’s where you can listen to it and buy it, and Phi’s running a special offer to get LEYlines V with it too (when it’s out next month). Here it is, hit play and stream it while you read the rest of this:

Alternatively you can get it as a subscriber to me on Bandcamp – it comes with different artwork (pictured), and as a single track instead of being chopped up Phi-style, but it’s the same music.

BUT you’ll need to subscribe this week, cos next week, it’ll cease to be part of the back catalogue offer for new subscribers – all existing subscribers will keep it (there’s no mechanism within Bandcamp for taking stuff back – it’s yours forever once you’ve got it!) but this won’t be part of the bundle you get for signing up after the weekend. If you want it then, you’ll have to buy it from Phi even if you subscribe at a later date…

So, go check it out, then have a look at stevelawson.bandcamp.com/subscribe for the rest of the info on the Subscription. It’ll be more than worth your time and money 😉

The End Of An Era- Finishing A Teaching Job

So yesterday was my last day of one of my teaching jobs. It’s one I’d had for about 6 years (my longest ever non-self employed job), and one that was the beginning of my return to teaching actual courses rather than one-off masterclasses after a break of over a decade.

The real joy of it was working with these guys:

Phi Yaan-Zek and Andy Edwards are both such excellent teachers and musicians, and between us I don’t think we had a single conversation in the 6 years I was there that wasn’t on some level about how we could making teaching better. It was such a joy to work with these guys on trying to come up with innovative methods to help music students connect with their creativity in ways that were conscious of the cultural and economic environment they were moving into, but not deterministically bound by those constraints when considering the role of creative practice in changing culture… We were constantly looking for ways to inspire the students to dig deep into themselves and pursue something other than purely commercial measures of meaning and value for their work. And, judging by the parade of extraordinary creative people we helped release back into the wild, we did OK.

The context wasn’t ideal – HE in the UK is a tough area to work in right now wherever you are, all the moreso in a provincial college with no underlying commitment to creative practice or focus on the arts. We, like everyone else around the country in the many, many institutions like ours, were constantly trying to make something worthwhile for the students. There were times when we were REALLY good at that, and times when we struggled, but we still punched (and the course continues to punch) WELL above our weight in terms of the circumstances we were (are) in. The course wasn’t reliant on me for what made it good (Andy’s extraordinary legacy in inspiring music students in the West Midlands stretches back decades before he met me!), so will continue to provide a worthwhile education to the students there. And, while there’s a ton of nonsense that I won’t miss at all about being there, I’ll dearly miss these guys, and Meldra, who more recently came on board to teach the vocalists, and brought so much wisdom and experience to the team.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll know that Phi, Andy and I are LEYlines – so it’s not like we’re not going to be working together still making music, and I’m probably going to end up Skyping the pair of them to argue about Wittgenstein and Heidegger, Phenomenology and Aesthetics, and how the hell we turn this or that scheme of work into a course worth studying…

But for now, we’ve got a LEYlines album coming out this weekend, gigs to organise, and I’ve got a PhD to write that I’m 18 months behind on (the real reason I quit my job there). And come September, I’ll still be working at the one college teaching gig I’ve kept on, at BIMM here in Birmingham.

(BTW, this also means I may have more time for some more private Skype students, so if you want a bass lesson or two get in touch…)