Released last year Grasscut’s 3rd album ‘Everyone Was A Bird’ saw the Brighton duo soar to new heights, it’s sublime mixture of electronica, post-rock, jazz, pop and classical finding favour with everyone from Mixmag to The Quietus, The Wire to Uncut.
In the months since its release the band have been creating a series of videos to accompany each track and today they’ve shared the final video, for ‘Half-Life’, created with film director Roger Hyams. All eight videos are now on YouTube and have been collected into one handy playlist.
Grasscut, the duo of Andrew Phillips and Marcus O’Dair, return in May with Everyone Was A Bird, their third album and first to be released on Lo Recordings. The band’s most live and organic album to date, Everyone Was A Bird sees Grasscut’s cinematic and immersive mix of electronica, post-rock and song augmented by live strings, drums, piano and guitar. It comes with liner notes by Robert Macfarlane, author of Landmarks, Mountains of the Mind, The Wild Places and The Old Ways.
The album is a search for identity and meaning, both through closely observing the places in which we live, and through digging around in the landscapes of our ancestors. Islander is set in the Jersey where Phillips grew up; The Field and Snowdown in the Sussex Downs, close to his current home in Brighton. The other songs are based in and around the Mawddach Estuary in mid Wales where his family comes from, and where he continues to spend much of his time. The album’s title meanwhile comes from the Siegfried Sassoon poem Everyone Sang. It concerns a moment of release in the World War One trenches, in which everyone bursts into song, and also reflects the album’s own journey from the landlocked Islander, via first single Curlews, to the soaring closer Red Kite.
Below you can watch the brand new video for ‘Curlews‘ the first single to be taken from the LP. The band have been busy with director Pedr Browne making videos for all the album’s tracks. Simple, stark and effective it really adds to the song’s melancholy mood.
As usual, Grasscut’s Andrew Phillips writes, sings, produces, and contributes guitar, piano, bass, synths and programming. But Everyone Was A Bird is also the band’s most live collection to date, featuring piano and double bass from Grasscut’s Marcus O’Dair, drums from Aram Zarikian (Andreya Triana/ Kathryn De Boer) and violin and viola from Emma Smith and Vince Sipprell (Elysian Quartet/Jon Hopkins/James Yorkston/Hot Chip/Micachu/Imogen Heap). Guests, meanwhile, include vocalists Elisabeth Nygård (LOOP Collective), Adrian Crowley (Chemikal Underground) and Seamus Fogarty (Fence/Lost Map), and renowned ECM reed player John Surman.
The sound of Everyone Was A Bird is heavily influenced by Phillips’ work as a screen composer, notably his string quartet-based score for the award-winning feature documentary Piper Alpha: Fire In The Night. With this album, Grasscut have taken the relationship between their music and visuals a step further by commissioning a series of landscape-based films from director Roger Hyams and photographer Pedr Browne to accompany each track on the album. These will also provide a backdrop to the new live show.
Grasscut’s music has always been deeply rooted in a sense of place, expressed through Phillips’ vocals and also a host of other voices past and present, sampled and live: WG Sebald, Hilaire Belloc, Ezra Pound, Robert Wyatt, James Mason, TS Eliot, Gazelle Twin, Philip Larkin, Kathleen Ferrier. Everyone Was A Bird again features many voices: Phillips is joined not only by Crowley and Nygård but also Hilaire Belloc, Sir Basil Spence and Siegfried Sassoon. Other voices are welcomed too: fans are invited to record their reflections on a landscape or place that is resonant for them, a selection of which will feature on a new Grasscut track. Those wishing to participate can simply leave a message on +44 7931 877331 or send an audio recording to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grasscut, the duo of Andrew Phillips and Marcus O’Dair, return with a new AA single, Catholic Architecture / Beacon, on Lo Recordings. Catholic Architecture sees the band cover, and pay tribute to, the revered English musician Robert Wyatt, whilst Beacon’s plaintive mix of live strings and electronic sounds acts as a bridge between Unearth, Grasscut’s second album, and Everyone Was A Bird, scheduled for release in 2015.
Robert Wyatt has long been a significant influence on Grasscut, Andrew a fan since the 1980s, while Marcus has just written his official biography, Different Every Time, published by Serpent’s Tail this October. Indeed Catholic Architecture is the second time Grasscut and Wyatt’s paths have crossed, in 2012 they collaborated on the track Richardson Road with Wyatt contributing cornet, piano and vocals. Wyatt subsequently picked Richardson Road as one of his favourite guest appearances and the song features on the Different Every Time compilation released by Domino Records this autumn to accompany the biography.
“His clarity, both vocal and instrumental, struck me when I was 16 and have stayed with me all my working life as a kind of touchstone. Working with him has been such a highlight; what he brought to the song completely transformed it. You realise, watching him and listening, that it’s a life brought to bear in music.” – Andrew Phillips
For this new version of Catholic Architecture Grasscut have taken their cue from the sound of Robert’s 1982 Rough Trade compilation, Nothing Can Stop Us. The song itself, meanwhile, comes from Robert’s 1991 album Dondestan. The highly evocative lyrics, by Robert’s wife Alfreda Benge, describe empty homes in an off-season holiday resort near Barcelona, and Grasscut’s interpretation, with its sparse elegiac piano and muted brass, expertly captures that scene.
The second song on the single, Beacon, was inspired by a 12-mile walk from the English Channel to the top of Firle Beacon on the South Downs, on the occasion of the Summer Solstice. It’s about leaving the place you live and, when looking down on it from a height, finding it unfamiliar. Throughout the track’s four and a half minutes its sound transforms from electronic to live strings and drums, prefiguring the sound of the band’s new album.