For the past three years, former Gods Toys & I vocalist Dill has been making up for the time lost out of music for personal & health reasons by becoming the most prolific of writers & recorders of original material you can imagine & has also become a confident & idiosyncratic instrumentalist, playing on all his tracks in this series.
I have reviewed all eight of his albums (issued under the stage name "Daffod'i'll") during this period between 2017 & 2020 (though on a couple of occasions, so rapidly did they come out that I have been obliged to review several together. In chronological order of release they are:
‘Love & Peace!'
‘I Wondered Lonesome As a Crowd'
‘Sky Blue Pink'
‘Pink Blue Sky'
Now Dill has distilled the 98 songs down to fifteen for a compilation, (‘The Best of Albums 1â€‹-â€‹8‘) namely:
"How Are You?", "Hi!" "You Handle It", "Cathy Come Home", "Here She Comes", "Eye N Eyes", "Summer Sunrise", "Crackpot Dream" , "Africa", "Is She", "Sunshine Girl", "America", "Boom Boom Bang Baby", "Without a Word" and "The Kingdom of Heaven" (please see my previous reviews for my take on each of these).
I'm not sure how he managed to do this nor what criteria were applied (I could imagine good cases being made for songs such as "MASS , Everything OK", "Flowers", "Galileo Galilei Galilee" "Babble On Babylon" or "See the Lightning, Beat the Rock") and perhaps the album could also be seen as a good sampler collection to introduce people to his very individual style & diverse set of styles : like Island Records used to do so well both for genres & to develop interests in then neglected & often equally idiosyncratic artists like Nick Drake. So, if you are coming fresh to his recent work, this may well be your best starting point before exploring the whole series.
After the success of my recent features on Ian Todd & Chloë Boehm, here is another one I think you'll find interesting & I think topical.
The journeys of artists interests me & no two are the same. The other interests of their's can be just as fascinating & simply by listening to them, it is not always possible to discern what else they are up to: some evangelise from the stage, other compartmentalise, often for entirely understandable reasons. Some even use different names for different activities.
One person who is very open & articulate about her range of talents & interests is Naomi Beth Rogers (I hope you downloaded her track "Run" from ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Two').
I have mentioned in previous reviews of her work, both of her live performances & of her ‘Parallel Lines' EP that among her many other facets are other art forms notably dance & poetry but also mental well being: indeed she even had some shows on local radio talking about this in great detail. To that end, I thought it might be timely now to both delineate her career to date for you & share her thoughts on good mental health during the current adverse situation.
Currently twenty three years old & coming from Warwick, Naomi Beth played some local open mics in her early teens but has been playing more intensively over the past couple of years after training in musical theatre. Moving to Barcelona at eighteen to study at their Institute of Arts, she found the stimulating environment & experience helped her begin writing songs seriously. However the story is not that simple nor benevolent as during her time at university Naomi Beth developed mental health issues & her music both created a safe space for her which helped as did the multiple friendships generated by performing them.
It was after her return from Barcelona that she recorded the ‘Parallel Lines' EP with David John of Stone Bear Records which in turn has launched a virtuous spiral of success & development as more & more people have appreciated her skill, leading to her own headline gigs, playing festivals, local radio appearances on Radio Abbey & HillzFM "...and most importantly the music community gave me a sense of home after I moved back, new friendships, inspiration and support"
In her own words: "I spent the year travelling a lot ... and then coming home and the music was always there
For a long time I'd wanted to use the arts to help others. I volunteered at a refugee camp in Greece and after seeing the way sharing music, dance and art with the kids positively impacted their lives, I decided to train as an arts psychotherapist so I can make this passion my career. I'm in my first year.
Whilst learning songwriting is still my biggest outlet, and I plan to continue to record, play live and write.
Self isolating is a tough time but it's amazing to see how the online world has kept me inspired, even brought me two new writing partners and reminded me of the beautiful human spirit!
Music wise I've started collaborating and working with some new people and have a lot of stuff to record, so hopefully there will be new songs from me soon".
I took the opportunity of asking her which other artists she was currently really impressed with & could recommend to "Hot Music Live" readers. As the list potentially was too long, she highlighted Taylor Louise, Antonia Kirby, Chloë Boehm, Ellis Bloom, Curious George, Chessi O'Dowd, Merrymaker, Joe Dolman, Evergreen, Aaron Dudfield, Project Blackbird and Hannah Woof.
Turning next to the challenges of these days, we discussed the issues of anxiety around "fear about income, grief for life as we know it, loneliness" and that while potentially "everybody is susceptible, I think if you're self employed or perhaps already struggling with your mental health, you are more vulnerable in this circumstance"
Naomi Beth suggested these ideas from her own experience
"Knowing it's okay to feel some sadness, worry and grief. I try to let my feelings be, and not squash them"
"A sense of routine and daily exercise that I enjoy"
"Taking time to be excited about little things such as food, how my bedroom is, nice cups of tea"
"Accepting that I maybe won't be as productive as usual. But enjoying what I can do and focusing on that"
"FaceTiming friends, making time to support other people and check in, setting up little online projects such as writing with other people!"
To make matters more tricky, getting help when isolated & with many organisations either closed down or overwhelmed may itself be more limited than usual, so Naomi Beth suggests:
Mental health.org.uk This has a section of resources directly related to the climate at the moment,
Tara Brach has a series of talks/ guided meditations about self isolation, fear, creativity and mindfulness- she's amazing https://www.tarabrach.com/
"100 Days of Songwriting" has an awesome online community if you just want to stay motivated and creative and chat to other people too https://100daysofsongwriting.com/
Hopefully few or none of our readers will need these strategies but I'm really grateful to Naomi Beth for sharing her experience & insights: just in case they can make the difference with anyone. Don't forget too to check out her own website at https://www.naomibethjourney.com/ for myriad aspects of her activities.
Last week I wrote a piece for "Hot Music Live" looking at some of the (negative) implications for the music scene during the current crisis. As was emerging when I wrote it, artists deprived of income from live performances have released (possibly ahead of schedule) tracks, often choosing recorded material with resonances to our times. Many are already live streaming performances (mainly solo but occasionally having a go at reuniting bands via video links), some asking for donations in return & others monetising them entirely.
Venues simply can't do this, (though some recent movement for businesses from the Government may hopefully help commercial ones) so it's great to see the speed with which a new local music compilation, "Songs From The Vaults" has been put together and released on Bandcamp to raise funds for the Tin Music and Arts Centre.
You can buy it from this link for £5 (or give more if you are able)
As well as being one of my favourite local venues, and one of the very few community & charitable status arts centres for our area, it has extra emotional pull for me given that the final live review I wrote for the magazine before the closedown was of Stone Bear & Izzie Derry playing there.
Huge respect therefore to Joe Wilson of Year Without a Summer & Deathsex Bloodbath (check them out on "Hot Music Live Presents Volume One") for pulling this together. I'll let Joe explain his thinking on this:
"I think the thing with the Tin is that there's nowhere else in the city that would necessarily put on Vaudou Game, Hainbach or Anarchistwood, so to have a venue like that encourages more experimental thinking among local musicians, and then gives them a platform.... If the Tin went to the wall, for reasons beyond their control, then there would be a lot of acts with no natural home. That's before we talk about their community work, venue hire and so forth.
With places like Drapers no longer open, it's important to preserve the places which encourage artistic endeavour. For the stuff I've done musically, and the stuff the other folks on the compilation have done, that's always been the Tin. So the fundraising is a way of protecting the venue's survival through its closure, while also ensuring that the staff will continue to get paid throughout this time."
With reference to Joe's words, the compilation really does veer towards that experimental & radical side of musical creativity: the contributing artists stick their necks out a long way, ask questions others are reticent to ask & are reluctant to compromise their art in any way: so they are unlikely to get many gigs in your local to add to their income.
In fact so alternative & exploratory are the artists involved that although Sophie Hadlum had a track on "Hot Music Live Presents Volume Two" and at least one other artist will be on "Volume Three", not too many have been reviewed yet in the magazine, despite our pride in covering the diversity of local music & our delight in the esoteric: I think only Sophie, Ian Todd, We Are A Communist & Batsch to be honest. Some of them I've never previously heard of: which is a good thing for their credibility & a good thing for me as I have now been introduced to their music.
The other artists on the record (round of applause please for their generosity) are Ravens, WolfSuit, the Sequins, Delightful Young Mothers, Two Whole Quails, Charlie Tophill, Felix & Seline, Vieon, Cause of Accident, Dispute Settlement Mechanism, and RobinPlaysChords.
A round of applause too & a thought for all the staff at the Tin whose position must currently be a worry to them: not only the salaried employees but also those working there as sound engineers etc on a freelance basis. I am always impressed with their professionalism & friendliness & they deserve better than insecurity.
Under the circumstances, it almost seems superfluous to consider the actual songs as I normally would in a review. It's as esoteric as you would imagine & eclectic too. That no two tracks sounds remotely alike will not surprise you, from the manic/maniac surf-speed-punk of "Speed of Sound in Space" by We Are A Communist through Sophie Hadlum's much quieter & reflective piano piece "All I've Got Left Of Me", Ian Todd's neurotic & skittery "Parasites", Batsch's cool grooves on "Walking Beds" the soundscape of "Tote Mich Noch Einmal" by Two Whole Quails to the absolutely no holds barred whatsoever attack of Dispute Settlement Mechanism on "Queerpocalypse" there is arguably something here for everyone, assuming you have a suitably open mind to music way out of the mainstream. In the interests of succinctness so we all focus on the main goal of raising money plus my own inability to describe some of the tracks adequately, I think I'll leave them for you to explore, enjoy & create your own responses.
It would be dreadful if all the artists emerged from seclusion with a pent up passion to play & audiences similarly to hear & see them, but they had nowhere to play. It's difficult to do too much at the moment as individuals to help commercial venues, but here we have a chance to help one which is a community charity, so please buy the album, spread the word & I'll see you at the Tin when this is over.
So, another day in lock down, another day I can't be writing about the great gig I went to last night.... thank goodness there are some really interesting records coming out (and allowing me to write reviews of artists I'd not necessarily heard before nor had they featured in the magazine) and look out for some featured artist articles too.
Today I'm pleased to introduce you (if you've not met before) to the Rugby based Deep Sea Divers and their album ‘The Greatest Gift' (dedicated to the late Mark Ernest, the original drummer for the band).
Formed originally in the early 1990s, the band is now effectively a project of writer/singer/multi-instrumentalist Dinesh Fernando (he plays guitars, keyboards, bass and synths on the record and produced it too) and he is accompanied on various tracks by Sophie White (viola & violins), Colin Allen & Astrid Tid Jones: both play drums (though not on the same tracks), Irenie White (backing vocals), Ian Hill (saxophone) and Jo Jo Barnes sings on the final track "And When You Go (Reprise)", a song about her split with the bassplayer of Powderblue, the band she & Dinesh were in until the personal split precipitated a band one.
The original incarnation (who were once likened to Smashing Pumpkins, of whom they had not in fact even heard of at that point) played prestigious venues like the Rock Garden & the Mean Fiddler & attracted record company interest, adding a horn section even but eventually went into a dormant state until Dinesh decided to come back to his songs with them.
The songs themselves are generally about relationships, whether Dinesh's own, those he has witnessed or those he has imagined: exploring the spectrum of emotions associated with them. A really clever touch is opening the album with a breezy instrumental version of that last track, signalling an optimism which is then completely flipped on its head by the Janus face "desolate abandonment" of the song with lyrics closing the collection.
The style is a bit elusive (and that is far more of a compliment than a criticism): rooted probably in folk (Dinesh started playing original songs in folk clubs thirty years ago and remains "grateful for how open minded and lovely folk audiences are") with high jangle factor moments, a very jazz orientated track "Little Things" (sax enhanced & the sort of heartbreaky jazz rather than the sultry sort, though occasionally it does threaten to fool you in that direction) and others even less easy to define.
The songs themselves are subtle yet also deceptively simple: uplifting melodies make one's heart soar until you realise how poignant the words you are listening to are. The production & arrangements are tastefully and apparently simple in sound too, avoiding overpowering numbers of instruments at any one time, thus putting the emphasis definitely on the songs & allowing the various lead instrumental parts such as the strings, the sax & lead guitars to ring with clarity & celebrate the musicianship.
It's tempting listening to these (or any songs at the moment) to imagine they were written about our current state of affairs (see also my recent reviews of Hannah Woof & Chessi O'Dowd) but of course they weren't, though a good song may well have applicability in various contexts & appeal to different listeners in different ways. Here "We Stand Alone" (a finger-picked piece, featuring, appropriately Dinesh alone) does to some extent also speak to our times as well as its original target. The following "Let It Heal" too seems to be speaking of what lies ahead, although taken out of the context I'm listening to it in & restoring it to its proper one, it is as you might imagine about recovery from sorrow & moving on. As for "Chaos" don't let me go too far down this road.... Actually this is one of my favourite tracks on the album: again just Dinesh & his guitar & probably the most prominently mixed vocal on the album, this perfectly weighted & paced song hits home hard in a slightly Elvis Costello way (not that it sounds particularly like him.
In fact Dinesh suggests that influences on the collection include Neil Young (solo and as part of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), John Martyn, Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, The Byrds, The Sundays, Cocteau Twins & Jeff Buckley: not a bad collection to be inspired by, though greatly to his credit not a song on the album is a direct pastiche of any of them.
"One Life" (co-written with the album's dedicatee) is perhaps the set's most "rock" track, combining interestingly jangly guitar & skittering funky drums (by Astrid) behind some really great lyrics.
The last track I'd like to single out (and the ones I haven't focused on are all great too: I'll leave them for you to explore yourselves: I don't want to spoil it by giving too many of the secrets away) is the instrumental "Luna", which was, for me, despite the excellence of the lyrics on all the other songs, the most affecting: played on an acoustic guitar it actually sounds like a minuet on a harpsichord...
Chalk up another on my list of "must catch live when I'm able"....
Read more articles in the magazine.