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ALONE TOGETHER

Manchester songwriter Ryan Kennedy returns with his fourth album "The Unforgiving Current". Recorded in and around Tokyo hotel rooms, apartments and studios, the album is a badly lit stroll through Tokyo's winding streets, stopping in only the most questionable bars. Despite its seemingly overpopulated centres, there is often a strange isolation. This Isolation would be the fuel behind "the Unforgiving Current".

After moving to Tokyo early 2018 Kennedy began work on the album. Amidst language and work issues his rosey outlook soon dimmed and what follows is Kennedy's exploration and loneliness in this foreign land. Previous musical similarities may be unearthed but what runs through this record is a vein of (dare I say) mature introspection which sets it apart from previous works.

STAFF COMMENTS

Patrick says: As a man who’s only made it 14 miles in 33 years, I was suitably awestruck when Manchester’s favourite dreamer swapped the greyscale drizzle of his hometown for the 45° summer of Tokyo. Oppressive heat and impressive toilets weren’t the only cause for culture shock though, and despite an intermediate grasp of the language and a really good haircut, Ryan Kennedy quickly tasted the loneliness of a long distance runner. But it’s better to be Alone Together and the Horsebeach discography has always had a therapeutic angle; sonic salve for psychological bruising – take daily for the rest of your life.
So unpacking his mini studio and opening the notebook, the bedroom auteur embarked on his mid-career masterpiece, plunging into lyrical depths on existence, ennui, affection and introspection. His voice, still coloured with the disarming fragility of old, is more mature and confident and the music keeps getting higher and higher. Shades of psychedelia lend a paisley tint to opening volley “‘Net Café Refuge” and “The Unforgiving Current”, while “Dreaming” and “Mourning Thoughts” infuse chiming indie with baggy rhythms and Marvin Gaye grooves. Drum machines and dream pop take the lead at the midpoint, first on the lovestruck “Vanessa” and then in the coastal cool of Balearic combo “Yuuki” and “Trust”, the latter especially indulging in its own brand of louche funk. The final three tracks mark a triumphant return to the pensive jangle and C86 haze of the earliest Horsebeach work, an emphatic reminder that you have to go away before you can come home.

FORMAT INFORMATION

Coloured LP Info: Includes a free EOY 2019 CD sampler.
Limited clear vinyl.

CD Info: Includes a free EOY 2019 CD sampler.

Horsebeach is the Manchester-based project masterminded by multi-instrumentalist and producer Ryan Kennedy. Two years on from the chiming majesty of II, he returns with Beauty And Sadness - ten rain-soaked vignettes touching on love, loss, regret and remorse. Conceptual, confessional and boldly melodic, it’s a deeply textured LP fusing the familiar C86 jangle with chirping synths, grooving rhythms and expansive ambience whilst meditating on break ups and fuck ups with striking lyrical honesty.

Melancholic, but never miserable, Beauty And Sadness is a celebration in the exquisite pain of longing. Named after Yasunari Kawabata's 1964 novel of the same name – a book which helped Kennedy through a difficult breakup – the source of the album’s title gives a clue as to what lies within, as Ryan explains; “It's about regret and an overlaying sense of loss but also a realisation of the beauty of starting again. I found some beauty in sadness, as it forced me to re-evaluate everything.”

Although the sound may be a departure from Horsebeach's norm, the recording process remains the same with Kennedy overseeing all aspects of production. Taking full control of his melodic output, Beauty And Sadness is the third record to be released on Horsebeach’s own Alone Together imprint.

Drawing on inspiration from either side of the Atlantic, both new and old, Horsebeach's music retains a certain appreciation to classic British guitar bands - The Smiths, Felt and groups from the C86 era are all indebted here. But Kennedy gives it a unique twist by delving into ambient electronics inspired by the likes of William Basinski and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma. From the album’s dream-like intro - soft with velveteen pads and the delicate romanticism from a speech sample of Japanese author, Yukio Mishima - hazy synths give way to propulsive percussion, rippling guitars and soaring chord progressions as the band’s bittersweet signature sound evolves with newfound poise and purpose.

STAFF COMMENTS

Barry says: From the saturated digital wavetable weirdness of the opening track, “Theme For Beauty” it would appear that Kennedy has taken a rapid turn from the hazy janglearica of his previous outings, but that only makes the impact of the later tracks all the more profound. Immediately we delve into the longing sorrow of “Alone”, as hummable as it is refined. The staggering majesty of “How Far Must We Go?” rolling and strutting forward confidently into the CR-78-led “Breeze”, a fitting closer to the 'Beauty' Chapter. “Theme For Sadness” once again revisits the synth-heavy mist of the first track before opening the doors for the profoundly memorable closing tetralogy. It is undeniable that we'll get a measure of stick for this, but if you wrote music this good, you'd be in our end of year list too. A majestic and unrivalled work of thought provoking, but ultimately impeccable rainy summer anthems.

Opening with the subtle rumble of early morning Chinatown, a hazy instrumental sharpens into focus with languid guitars, gently welcoming you into a dream of Kennedy's creation.

The summery groove and pop majesty of 'It's Alright' soon sends you spinning into infinity, cares eased by the warm tones of chiming guitars, while Beth de Cent's smokey vocals come together in perfect harmony with Kennedy's. 'Andy' treats you to a yearning tale of forbidden love, packed with homoerotic overtones so full blooded they'd make Morrissey blush like a young Caligula, while the marbled melodies of 'Broken Light' come on in nostalgic ripples and waves of sepia-tinged beauty. 'Let You Down' finds Kennedy's voice sounding better than ever, detailing visceral regret over a full bodied groove which marries the baggy backbeat of his hometown with the sultry exoticism of Thai-funk.

Opening the B-side with a masterful subtlety, synth led instrumental 'Midnight Pt.2' sees Kennedy taking us for a moonlit stroll by the ocean before 'Dana' ushers in the dawn with the greatest X-Files inspired song ever written (sorry Cerys). The antithesis of over-serious hipster cool, the earnestly emotional lyrics, anthemic chords and shimmering should be enough to prompt John Hughes to rise again and make a much needed sequel to The Breakfast Club. 'Disappear' finds Kennedy and drummer Matt Booth drinking in the cosmic vintage of Düsseldorf '72, as their chiming West Coast guitars are joined by celestial keys, head nodding bass grooves and a motorik rhythm. 'Clouds' draws us back into the haze as Kennedy's multi-tracked vocals gently melt into the swirl of flanged guitar, while 'Avoid The Light' closes the LP with a plea to stay in the dreamworld just a little longer.

Alive with lyrical depth, melodic intricacy and lush production, 'II' is the work of a confident and mature multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, and it's your new favourite LP.

For Fans of Real Estate, Flying Nun (early Chills / Verlaines / Sneaky Feelings etc), Scritti Politti, etc.

STAFF COMMENTS

Andy says: A deeper, richer sound prevails on this follow up to one of Piccadilly Records' Albums Of The Year (2014). When married to songs as beautiful as this, the result is another superb instalment from our Mancunian maestro.

Ryan Kennedy has been making music ever since he was a young teenager. Now in his early 20's, his dreams and desires have finally been distilled into this, his debut album. Written over the space of a year, but recorded in a fortnight, straight to tape, in Ryan's central Manchester flat, 'Horsebeach' is a gorgeous journey through Northern, jangly, dreamy guitar pop. From as far back as The Wake, through the now de rigeur C86, this is bedroom introspection gone widescreen.
                             
Gorgeous songs of love and longing, this music has a lilting, drifting quality, sometimes reminiscent of Felt, or of a meandering, jangle-tastic Real Estate, of whom Ryan is clearly a fan. Chiming guitars, brooding melodies, thoughtful words. 'Horsebeach' is a very lovely record indeed.


STAFF COMMENTS

Andy says: ‘Horsebeach’ is a self-released, recorded-in-a-bedroom (but hardly lo-fi) labour of love by local lad Ryan Kennedy. With no press to speak of and just a handful of spins on 6 Music, the album managed to become the Piccadilly Records surprise smash of the summer. It is a gorgeous journey through old-school, jangly, dreamy guitar pop. From as far back as Factory Records' The Wake, via Felt, the DIY ethic of C86 and right up to the present day (the kind of wistful sounds heard on Captured Tracks) this is lovely, considered, melancholy music where guitars chime, words provoke, and melodies meander beautifully. There's quite a few bands mining this peculiarly English sound right now, most of them Stateside, and a first listen to Horsebeach could well put you in mind of the best of them: Real Estate. It's in the ringing, shimmering guitars and sense of longing, but it's also in a shared love that's not like any other love. This one is different because it's The Smiths! Nothing is implied, Kennedy's heart is emblazoned right upon his sleeve. It's been 30 odd years so why not? Geographically and spiritually it's there in his blood, so to jingle like Johnny and murmur like Moz is clearly the most natural thing in the world. The boy can't help it! That's probably what's made the album such a hit in our shop. That and an accidental kinship with the burgeoning Mancunian Balearic collective. The tranquil, breezy drift of a number of tracks coupled with those hazy echoes of Smithsonia. That gentle sound, coming round again.


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