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TREMBLING BELLS

Trembling Bells

Dungeness

    When Trembling Bells’ Alex Neilson makes music, he thinks of it in less certifiable terms than structure, key or tempo. On ‘Big Nothing’, the opening track to Trembling Bells’ seventh album Dungeness, he wanted the chords “to sound gigantic and degraded, like a building collapsing in slow motion. Or a rusted structure in the middle of the sea”. And remarkably it does.

    With its open-hearted sound and jarring self-deception ‘Big Nothing’ sets up many of the key themes on Dungeness. Named after a headland on the south coast of England, which Alex visited for the first time in 2015 along with other band members - bassist Simon Shaw, guitarists Alasdair C Mitchell and Mike Hastings, and vocalist/ organist Lavinia Blackwall - the place had a polarising affect. “They hated it for the same reasons that I was thrilled by it” says Alex.

    “We drove for a long time along the East Sussex coast road to get there. All the while the landscape seemed to be getting more parched and flat. It felt like if you looked out of the van window then the land wouldn’t actually be there anymore. Just a Void. When we arrived at Dungeness it felt like the end of the earth”.

    Many of the tracks on Dungeness feel like the end of the earth too, their folk rock sensibility acquiring a sweeping, apocalyptic grandness - both in sound and lyrics. Though it hearkens back to the ‘70s psychedelic heyday of Fairport Convention and Trees, it’s also, as comedian Stewart Lee puts it in his sleeve notes, “heroically now”. Indeed, it’s hard not to hear the lyrics of album highlight ‘I’m Coming’ - when Lavinia sings, “There’s a price to be paid for these abuses of power” - without connecting it to what’s happening in the world right now.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Big Nothing
    2. Knockin' On The Coffin
    3. My Father Was A Collapsing Star
    4. Death Knocked At My Door
    5. Christ's Entry Into Govan
    6. The Prophet
    7. Devil In Dungeness
    8. This Is How The World Will End
    9. I'm Coming
    10. Rebecca, Dressed As A Waterfall

    Trembling Bells And Bonnie "Prince" Billy

    The Bonnie Bells Of Oxford

      On 2012's The Marble Downs, Bonnie Prince Billy provided vocals for an album of songs by Trembling Bells. It was a fruitful meeting of mind and voice, but one that promised the real bounty when those songs were taken on the road.

      That was delivered in summer of that year when the Bells & Bonnie revue brought their own brand of rolling thunder to parts of the UK. This live album, The Bonnie Bells Of Oxford, captures the highlights of one of those special shows on vinyl and CD.

      The transatlantic recording of The Marble Downs is now distilled to a room on one night in Oxford town, and the force of the songs and performance concentrated similarly. It stands as a more genuinely collaborative record than its predecessor, with songs drawn from the oeuvres of both artists and reworked with a joyous spontaneity. Tensions are dissolved in this heady brew, between warring lovers, goat and ram, dark and light, heaven & hell, country and folk, this world and the next, a rhapsodic dialectic embodied by the ouborous vocals of Bonnie Billy & Lavinia Blackwall. It's a giddy whirling carnival ride over all too soon, which is the supreme advantage of having this on vinyl; when dizzy and reeling and eager for more, just wheel it up and go again.

      No live album can substitute for the precious fleetingness of music heard live but the best of them can offer something else, a document, recorded proof almost that something special was created on that stage on that night by those musicians in front of that audience. More importantly, a chance to create and hear something special yourself every time you spin this record.

      Trembling Bells

      Who Call The Law? / Made For The May

        THIS IS A RECORD STORE DAY 2016 EXCLUSIVE, LIMITED TO ONE PER PERSON.

        Trembling Bells we joined by Stevie "Reverb" Jackson (Belle and Sebastian) on this brand new recording exclusive for Record Store Day. It was recorded by "The Sovereign Self" engineer Luigi Pasquini.

        "Who Call The Law?" is an amorous crime caper written by maverick English songsmith, Dan Haywood. It examines the antagonisms that ensue when a relationship disintegrates and the big questions that we are left to face

        Trembling Bells

        Wide Majestic Aire

          Trembling Bells are back with Wide Majestic Aire; a seven-track mini-album, which acts as a companion, piece to The Sovereign Self and cements their reputation as one of Britain’s most exciting and exploratory groups.

          “‘Wide Majestic Aire’ is among my favourite songs that I’ve written,” says the band’s founder and leader Alex Neilson of the title track. This romantic ballad, sung by Lavinia Blackwall, sees the compass of the band’s music swing back in the direction of folk after the prog and acid rock of Sovereign Self. It is in some ways archetypally Trembling Bells in its evocation of the landscapes of Yorkshire and Oxford and its invocation of great artists of the past - Larkin, Blake, Lorca and Turner. Such a sweet and melodic song could function as a gateway drug to the rest of the band’s music, which is to be welcomed, as there is much to explore in their rich back catalogue.

          A major river in Yorkshire, the Aire passes through Leeds, Neilson’s hometown. “The Aire was a sanctuary for me,” he says. “I grew up on a council estate in Bramley and the river was five minutes away. As a teenager I’d listen to the Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart and Incredible String Band while walking my dogs along the banks. These were the things that moulded me and sent me on a certain path in life.”

          Trembling Bells

          The Sovereign Self

            The Sovereign Self - named after a line from Dennis Potter, the late television auteur - is the fifth album from Glasgow's Trembling Bells, their first since 2012's The Marble Downs, a collaboration with Will Oldham. It is a driving, dramatic and at times hallucinatory work, filled with a great sense of tension and release; a witches' brew, a psychedelic stew mixing up the range of the band's musical interests - everything from ramshackled ballads to ancient May Day chants, swaggering acid rock to swirling prog epics.

            "Some songs are a little challenging" says lead vocalist Lavinia Blackwall, "Bringing Alasdair C Mitchell into the band means we have the interplay of two guitar parts. Musically, this album has been a lot more collaborative and democratic and as a result a lot of our other influences have come through - psychedelia, early-70s prog and rock. It's heavier and darker. I find it physically and emotionally draining to sing these songs, because they are quite intense you have to put so much into them."

            The range of cultural and counter-cultural interest from the band is apparent on the front cover of The Sovereign Self - a series of twenty portraits painted by Lavinia Blackwall: an eclectic gallery of genius from Emily Dickinson to Aeschylus; Lou Reed to Ovid.

            Another key influence, psych-folk pioneers the Incredible String Band, has loomed large in the lives of Trembling Bells in recent years. They have toured with ISB co-founder Mike Heron, performing tracks from his songbook.

            Having released five cracking LPs in six years, in addition to a number of side-projects, Trembling Bells show no signs of slowing down. Already, work is being done on solo records from three members, and there are plans for an album of reworked traditional folk songs with vocals from comedian Stewart Lee. This is quite simply a group of people with music pouring out of them.

            Trembling Bells & Bonnie Prince Billy

            New Trip On The Old Wine

              THIS IS A RECORD STORE DAY 2014 EXCLUSIVE, LIMITED TO ONE PER PERSON.

              RSD 2014 exclusive. 500 pressing, picture bag.


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