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MEMORY BAND

Memory Band

After Night / Tangled Man

    Formed in 2002 by producer Stephen Cracknell, The Memory Band was always conceived as a project that would develop it’s character over time rather than arriving pre-packaged and fully formed. The intention was to allow the work to be influenced by the diverse range of musicians who came aboard and the places we travelled to together and to meander along our own path. Fifteen years since our eponymous debut album on the Hungry Hill label this single features the voice of Nancy Wallace, who made her debut on that first album and whose presence had a profound impact upon the early navigations of The Memory Band both live and on record. A fine traditional singer Nancy has forged her own highly regarded solo career and as well her contributions to The Memory Band she also played a pivotal role in the formation of The Owl Service.

    Now resident in Canada, Nancy recently reunited with The Memory Band whilst visiting Britain and recorded the title track ‘After Night’ in London. The song uses lyrics assembled and adapted from a handful of ballads with similar lyrics but differing titles collected far and wide in the English-speaking world since the eighteenth century; songs such as Madam I Have Come to Court You, Yonder Stands a Lovely Creature; Twenty-Eighteen and Ripest Apples. Accompaniment on electric piano, organ and cello comes from Fred Thomas, who has made many contributions to our recent work.

    The flipside is a cover of an Anne Briggs song entitled ‘Tangled Man’ from her classic album ‘The Time Has Come’ and features acoustic guitar from John Smith. "Folkloric magic" – MOJO. “Celebrating the drifting spirits and ancient trackways of Old England through an engaging welt of engaging historic spoken-word samples, elegiac piano, found sounds and programmed rhythms” – UNCUT. “A sense of silent majesty and buried history” The Quietus. “The Memory Band is about proving that folk music is alive and breathing, not a retro historical thing...Brilliantly sophisticated" – Mixmag.

    The Memory Band

    Further Navigations

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      The Further Navigations EP is a continuation of the themes which informed The Memory Band album On The Chalk (Our Navigation Of The Line Of The Downs) also released on Static Caravan. Featuring remixes from Belbury Poly and Grantby and a brand new Memory Band track the EP draws inspiration from the ancient "lost road" that is the Harrow Way. The choice of collaborators are two producers who have had a profound impact on The Memory Band sound in different ways, but both bring to the fore the cinematic elements of Stephen Cracknell's approach to traditional music. In the decade since The Memory Band began one of its greatest contemporary influences has been the fine collection of work released by the Ghost Box label, in particular the Belbury Poly aka label boss Jim Jupp. Spectral, haunting and yet vibrant and knowing his work has established Jupp as a truly English original, making some of the essential electronic music of the new century. For "Hobby Horse" Belbury Poly takes the blueprint from the Memory Band's version of the traditional funeral march "When I Was On Horseback" transforms it by speeding it up, flicking the swing setting and produces something that sounds like David Munrow making music for schools on analogue synthesisers. Grantby aka Dan Grigson has a mysterious history, famed for the Timber EP and tracks for labels such as Mo-Wax in the mid ‘90s, his work defined and exceeded trip-hop and garnered a loyal international underground following who spoke of him as an English version of DJ Shadow. Memory Band leader Stephen Cracknell worked alongside Grigson on a one or two of those early recordings and when Grigson withdrew from music after an ill-starred move to Creation Records, Cracknell moved to focus on his own projects which lead to The Memory Band. Recently Grigson returned to music, working on music for film and television music before returning to remixes and production. Here Grantby takes the traditional ballad "As I Walked over Salisbury Plain" leads it into the military zone and the result is "The Ballad Of Imber Down" named after the "lost village" of Imber upon Salisbury Plain, from which its inhabitants were evacuated by the Army during the Second World War only to learn that after the War that it had been decided the village would remain the property of the military and that they could never return again. Their ultimately doomed campaign to return has itself passed into legend.The Memory Band original "Walk Along It" is a hymn to majesty of walking in the open air. It borrows heavily from the anonymous and haunting version of the traditional English tune The Lincolnshire Poacher, broadcast from a shortwave numbers station and believed to be operated by the British secret services.

      Releases by Stephen Cracknell and his acclaimed project The Memory Band have always lent themselves to journeys and landscape: dream-like stumbles through stony megaliths, wintry climbs along snow-covered hills, drunken dashes through sun-splashed fields with a summer love. Their records have always been more pre-occupied with external narratives than internal emotions. But perhaps never before quite as literally as on adventurous new album On The Chalk (Our Navigation of the Line of the Downs), a beguiling musical tribute to a mythical ancient pathway crossing a Southern England shrouded in mystery and withered by time.

      Made of eleven songs spread across haunting horn noises, crackles, drones, blissed-out beats and tender piano melodies, this fourth studio album marks the tenth anniversary of one the most invigorating and much loved folk acts around, a group described by NME as “a disorientating, drugged-up soundtrack for the 21st Century… genuinely beautiful.” And speaking of monumental journeys, it’s been quite a road to this moment for Cracknell and his ever evolving cast of collaborators.“I’ve had a decade of marginal poverty, nice trips and the company of wonderful dreamers,” laughs the mercurial composer, formerly seen fronting much loved outfits The Accidental and Balearic Folk Orchestra. “The idea with this record was it to be sort of a road trip along a mythical track way, an irreverent and episodic journey across a landscape inundated with history and the marks of change and transformation, some striking and immediate, others slow and imperceptible.”

      He may as well be describing his own sounds to be found in On The Chalk… – for every jaw-dropping shimmer of harp or arresting moment of reed organ, there’s an avalanche of clever quiet detail to be unearthed, with cinematic overtones that recall his Wicker Man touring soundtrack that Cracknell has taken to fields everywhere from Glastonbury, Green Man to a castle in Jersey.Cracknell says: “There’s been a real revival of interest lately in old roads and green lanes, in literature, art and film. This has run parallel to so much of the renewed interest in folklore and folk music. One supposedly ancient trackway that I'd hear referenced again and again was the Harrow Way, which stretched from the Straits Of Dover all the way to the west country by an overland route on chalk ridgeways. I grew up in a place supposedly along its route.”What followed was a period of extensive research, digging deep into his own past and the World around him, listening to a strange combination of traditional folk-songs and seminal British landscape music such as Chill Out by acid house pranksters the KLF, tracing old roads and creating ambient recordings on site for use on the album. ”It was all a lot of fun, running round the country playing at psycho-geography,” recalls Cracknell. “Like the landscape that inspired it, it’s an album that at times is dark and imposing and at others more peaceful and serene.”Recorded in the songwriter’s home studio in East London (“an empty schoolroom overlooking a park… quite a peaceful place for London, really”), this is an album by a group who, like their subject matter, have changed and grown over time, but remain every bit as vital as ever.


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