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Jim Noir

Deep Blue View

    AM Jazz was the moment we all became truly acquainted with Alan Roberts; the melodic maestro beneath Jim Noir’s dandy exterior, whose hypnotic minimalist symphonies waltzed their way to Piccadilly Records’ #2 Best Album of 2020. Not to mention a whole host of great reviews….

    No less than 12 months later arrives ‘Deep Blue View’ – not so much of a follow-up, as a mini-flipside moving the Jazz from AM to PM, between city and sea.

    “I originally had AM Jazz down as walking around some New York backstreet at 4am, smoking in a fedora, looking for crimes to solve but it now ends as night begins,” reveals Al, of his latest tale’s gradual evolution. “Deep Blue View is the night-time album now… like losing yourself deeper in the fog, or disappearing in the sea… would someone, or some 'thing' come to save you or would they , or it , come along for the ride?”

    Usually by now, Daveyhulme’s own could-be John Barry would have left distractions of success for suburban side-projects and writing with his fellow Mancunian musicians, but AM Jazz left unfinished business - and, with 50 or so session recordings leaving a litter of sonic debris strewn about the cutting room floor, one major clean-up. Deep Blue View is 6 brand new tracks crafted from its reconstructed and revived remnants, unfurling like Sinatra’s Wee Small Hours to reinforce the strangely beautiful atmosphere of Al’s now revered repertoire.

    “I had the urge to create something new and started playing around with different EPs and pseudonyms but when I sequenced these tracks, I was really happy how smoothly they flowed; it just needed an opener. I quickly wrote ‘Deep Blue View’ and it fell into place. It’s great, so I carried on, knowing it was time to save the best stuff for myself,” Al grins.

    Just as AM Jazz was created in the spirit of his earlier working style on debut album Tower of Love, Deep Blue View fuses Al’s love of finding the ‘right’ in the odd, weird, back-to-front and everything in between, with the hi-fi meets lo-fi sounds of his crate-digging curiosity and empathy for TV themes and movie soundtracks. Guided by melody, his home-based sorcery of working with analog, tape and field recordings opposed to the lure of studio mechanics allowed his inner subconscious to tap at the door and reveal itself in new musical forms. “In the studio it’s tempting to turn everything up loud but I’ve got bad tinnitus and don’t want to write anything else in a Beatles style. I have done all that now… at home I have a computer, a microphone and just go crazy and lose myself staring at the screen. Then suddenly loads of music is written.”

    Setting his inner autopilot to flight mode, ‘Peppergone’ adds to the tracks’ nocturnal narrative and appears reborn after a last-minute culling from AM Jazz’s initial tracklist. Like a beautifully romantic ode to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, it is a fitting tribute to dearly departed best friend 'Batfinks', written in the middle of a tough night. “I have no idea why or how the song came about because I was so upset to do anything, let alone record any music. But there you go. Somehow I did and it’s a really special thing. I know he would have dug me using his chords; growing up we’d both try to create the perfect chord sequence. This is his idea of that. I hope he doesn’t think it’s shit,” Al jests.

    Also revived from AM Jazz’s archive is the simmering groove of ‘Night Talk Late Street’ and instrumental ‘Star Six Seven’, whilst ‘Have Another Cigar’ weaves its own semi-autobiographical fairy-tale with lyrics written and sung by long-time pal and former housemate Aidan Smith. Transformed from backing track into a cool morsel of story pop, it recalls the drunken joy of when the pair would make recordings together between singing the Everly Brothers at full volume. “I’m sure it’s about not wanting the musical party to stop and having to get on with real life,” Al says.

    ‘String Beat’ meanwhile, soars like a beautiful Bond theme with the shimmer of Lee Hazlewood holidaying in Palm Springs, alongside perhaps, the waltzing string-like synthonies of some long-lost rhythm and blues orchestra of Davyhulme (whose real-life origins reside with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra), introduced to him by Super Furry Animals’ Cian Ciaran. “I’ve never created anything this moody before and have always threatened to do something John Barry-esque with some slightly dark and spooky musical changes.”

    First may not be worst, but as AM Jazz has proven, second can be best and as a master of suspense Jim’s Deep Blue View arranges the day to night pieces of another puzzle that makes a whole lot of sense.


    STAFF COMMENTS

    Andy says: Another absolutely beautiful record. Gonna be one of my favourites of the year, I can tell already.

    Barry says: Where 'A.M Jazz' wasn't particularly true to its name, 'Deep Blue View' plunges much more readily into smooth jazz waters, with swimming melodies and progressions perfectly befitting Roberts' hazy dreamlike vocal lines. A brilliantly cohesive and fitting follow-up to A.M Jazz, showing the rapid upwards trajectory of this local gem. Brilliant.

    A record to be enjoyed to its very last second AM Jazz is set to place this songwriter where he just might, finally, receive the recognition he deserves; from unsung hero to a truly worthy candidate for being called up to join the City of Manchester’s ranks of great musical icons. Whether you prefer to know him as Mr. Roberts or simply call him Al, it’s time to become acquainted with the real Jim Noir.

    Tossing his bowler onto the hat stand and sliding on his slippers, AM Jazz sees ‘Jim’ putting his feet up whilst Alan Roberts takes the lead. A creative masterpiece for the record player and the mantlepiece, it’s a multi-layered album that features close friends including those dearly departed, and is his truest record to date, by a songwriter painting his own hypnotic Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

    “I haven’t 'felt' like Jim Noir for a long time. I’m not sure I ever did; it was a construct of other people’s imaginations,” reveals Al. “AM Jazz is definitely the kind of music I make generally. It harks back to when I started making music years ago and didn’t worry about capturing a particular style. It will be nice to show people more of that. It's the best album I've written; real hypnotic minimalism, the good stuff!”

    15 years since he recorded the first ever 'Jim Noir' EP, AM Jazz is the record all Noirheads won’t be surprised Al had inside him. Letting the Beatlesesque stylings of his most recent album Finnish Line be (5 years ago no less), AM Jazz suits the Noir repertoire of his catalogue so far and is another homegrown offering which sees the Daveyhulme composer tinkering in his suburban Manchester studio once more, with the magic of his computer work sorcery, analog and tape recordings. “For this I went back to the slightly more haphazard way I wrote my first album, Tower Of Love, wherein I’d use things in front of me, or a bit wrong like headphones for a microphone, to make the most Hi-Fi Lo-fi album ever.”

    Whilst a brief disappearance of Jim’s online persona may have provoked bleak theories as to his whereabouts, Al had little time for digital distraction. Whilst writing and creating with friends, he has worked on electronic pet project, FAX with former Alfie guitarist, Ian Smith, and the vintage analogue house meets electro sound of his own solo EP Granada Personnel Recovery, as well as producing local band, Shaking Chainsor, and helping long-time musical colleague, Aidan Smith with his long-awaited 'The Planets' project; “I’ve been writing in dribs and drabs when I feel like it,” Al says. “I used to write all day everyday but it’s a lot harder now I’m (feeling) over 100 years old.” Never not sonically exploring or being inspired by the sounds around him, there was even a red-carpet moment when he appeared as a film premier guest after a couple of his songs were selected for the OST of director Jason Wingard’s film Eaten By Lions.

    Performing all AM Jazz’s instrumental parts himself but also, at the right moment, bringing in present and past pals along the way, sexy lounge song, ‘Hexagons’ features 'Phil Anderson' and Mark Williamson singing and playing “legendary OTT guitar solo” respectively. Meanwhile the orchestration of ‘Peppergone’ waltzes like a beautifully romantic ode to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata – a tribute to dearly departed best friend 'Batfinks' who originally wrote the chords in his song 'Peppercorn.' “I hope he doesn’t think it’s shit,” Al jests. Listen closely and you may even find a few unsuspecting celebrity guest appearances as, perhaps, it could be the very first album to feature soundbites of podcasts sneaking onto the recordings. “I will have a podcast on if I’m recording; Adam Buxton, Athletico Mince, Frank Skinner or Richard Herring… I’m sure some mics will have picked them up, like in the old Tower of Love days,” he says referring to his breakout debut.

    Culled from around 50 tunes AM Jazz moves like the time of the day, from dawn to night, stirring from the pop of ‘Good Mood’ and ‘Upside Down’s Beta Band groove. “As the album was playing, I imagined this smoky backstreet with all those neon signs outside clubs at about 4am,” Al says. Mellow ‘TOL Circle’ is like Percy Faith’s Theme From A Summer Place synthesized, capturing the style of TV library music or movie soundtrack obscurity that has always stirred Al’s curiosity, and the album plunges into a vast chasm of instrumental exploration with ‘Mystermoods,’ visiting Japan’s funky synth whiz duo Testpattern and Hakabashi Sakamoto. Darkening and deepening in intensity, ‘Eggshell’ is like an undiscovered gem from Angelo Badalamenti’s cutting room floor, the Panda Bear shimmer of ‘Lander’ is where blissful positivity and sadness meet, about another of his friends who left the world too young. “By the album’s close, its nearly time to let go and enter the ether,” he says of the album’s story. “Like one would do when they take their final sigh on this earth.”


    STAFF COMMENTS

    Andy says: It’s 14 years since Jim Noir’s debut album and the way the music scene works (chew them up spit ‘em out, next!) you could be forgiven for heaving an almighty shrug. Playful, whimsical (his stage name is derived from a Vic Reeves character!) quirky Mancunian, songs used in adverts and video games, cute, charming, retro sounds, etc etc; all kinda true, but only half the story. This guy, real name Alan Roberts, is a genius songwriter, for whom the notion of pop “relevance” should not apply. His way with melody is right up there with the very best, and these harmoniously overlapping songs actually remind me of a Paul McCartney or Brian Wilson.

    This record is quite simply beautiful. Forty one minutes of lush, blissed-out, mesmerising song craft. It starts with a Fanclub-style classic, moves through upbeat Super Furries fun then slides into three Air style velvet funk groovers, including album highlight “Hexagons” which is the best song I’ve heard all year. Then a nine minute mid record three song instrumental passage (a dream!) sets you up perfectly for Side 2 where Alan revisits that stunning opener but with added melancholy, before drifting off into second big standout “Lander” where swathes of shoegaze distortion, heavenly keys and percussive beats provide chillwave vibes as the chords shift gorgeously underneath. All that remains is for the record’s fourth instrumental and title track to play you out; high, lonely, but fuzzy and still beautiful. It’s a trip.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Good Mood
    2. Upside Down
    3. Hexagons
    4. Beatheart
    5. Tol Circle
    6. Feel O.K
    7. Wonders Amber
    8. Eggshell
    9. Lander
    10. A.M Jazz


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