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Society of Sound: Erland Cooper

The Bowers and Wilkins Society of Sound release for February is Solan Goose, the debut solo album by Erland Cooper.

Having grown up on the Scottish archipelago of Orkney, the project began as a gentle response to ease an anxiety and claustrophobia of working in a large city. Exploring a balance between alternative, ambient, electronic and classical music, he set out to create a sense of balance and calm for both him and the listener, while connecting identity, memory and place through music and cinematography.

"For the most part, each of the songs on the album generally started as an improvised piece," says Erland, "recording piano alone in peace or perhaps writing over an ambient layer, created out of experimenting."

Watch a live performance version of Maalie a track from the album:

Published 22nd Feb, 2:21pm »

The Gloaming reveal new video

The Gloaming have revealed a new video for the live version of The Booley House which is taken from the forthcoming album Live at the NCH/

The video features renowned artist Jacob Stack.

Of the video the band say; "We've enjoyed Jacob Stack's illustrations over the years and so took much delight in his new drawing celebrating the release of Live at the NCH."

Published 21st Feb, 3:33pm »

Spiro release The Copper Suite

Spiro have released their composition The Copper Suite, recorded live at Real World Studios in January 2018.

The Copper Suite was written for the centenary celebration of Bob Copper's life and work, at Cecil Sharp House in London on 24th January 2015. As the only instrumental group invited to take part in the event, Spiro were very honoured to join the fabulous array of performers from the world of English folk music, and to perform a specially composed instrumental suite based on tunes from the Copper family repertoire.

The Copper Suite is based on the following traditional English tunes from the repertoire of the Copper family: 'The Bold Fisherman', 'Lord Thomas' and 'Spencer the Rover'. All other composition elements in the piece are by Jon Hunt, Alex Vann, and Jane Harbour of Spiro.

'As one of my handful of favourite and most innovative instrumental bands working in English folk today, I always plotted to include Spiro in any live event I produced. How to fit them into a massive concert celebrating the centenary and (generally unaccompanied) songs of English folk giant Bob Copper held at Cecil Sharp House in 2015 provided only a slight challenge. I pointed out to them the beauty of many of the melodies in the Copper Family repertoire and wondered if they might work them into an instrumental suite. It turned out to be one of the hits of the night and I've been pestering them to record it ever since. Hurrah!' - Ian Anderson, Editor, fRoots Magazine; producer, Bob Copper Centenary Concert

The Copper Suite is available to download/stream now.

Published 16th Feb, 4:13pm »

The Gloaming announce new album Live at the NCH

The Gloaming will play seven sold-out shows at Dublin's National Concert Hall on March 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 10th, 11th, 12th, their only live appearances of 2018. To mark this occasion, Real World Records will release Live at the NCH, a live album recorded at the beautiful concert hall which has become their home from home.

The Gloaming's shows at the National Concert Hall have become an event not to be missed with each annual residency selling out quicker than the previous one, and indeed faster than new shows can be added. Their debut performance at the hall in 2011 is a gig that will always be remembered as 'the one that sold out before they had written or rehearsed any music!'

The musicians of The Gloaming came together seven years ago to explore the possibilities of Irish contemporary music, and have since gone from strength to sparkling strength. And it's too late to stop now. What began as an experiment has turned into something truly compelling, enthralling and thrilling. Something which never fails to lift the heart or lift a roof. Something which connects you to old souls and wild ways and fierce times. Something which certainly didn't exist before, but which often feels as if it has been been part and parcel of the furniture forever.

To put Live at the NCH together Thomas Bartlett, the band's producer, sifted through two years of performances and settled on six tracks: "The Booley House, "Cucanandy", "The Sailor's Bonnet", "The Pilgrim's Song", "The Rolling Wave" and "Fáinleog". 

Using the studio recordings only as points of departure, these performances stretch out and roam in unexpected new directions, incorporating new tunes and rearranging old ones, filled with the excitement and delight of five master musicians coming together as one.

The Gloaming concert experience consistently leaves audiences breathless.

This band of trailblazers take contemporary Irish music into hitherto unchartered waters, enhancing the traditional rich, melancholic tones with modern hues of jazz, contemporary classical, post rock and experimental music. Away from home, their international touring schedule has been equally impressive, including such notable nights out as the Ceiliúradh at London's Royal Albert Hall (a celebration of the Irish president's first-ever state visit to Britain), Sydney's Opera House, New York's Lincoln Center, Hamburg's Elbphilharmonie, Mexico City's Teatro de la Ciudad, and Philharmonie de Paris. 

Published 1st Feb, 12:16pm »

Bothy Culture and Beyond

Three years after Celtic Connections commissioned a full orchestral version of Martyn Bennett's GRIT album for their 2015 opening gala, Greg Lawson and the Grit Orchestra were back at Celtic Connections on Saturday night, this time to celebrate Martyn's second album Bothy Culture.

The venue for this spectacular performance entitled Bothy Culture and Beyond was the 10,000 capacity Hydro Arena (Peter Gabriel had been one of the first artists to play the venue, one month after it opened in 2013), the biggest indoor venue in the city. A vast room equally matched by the show's musical and theatrical ambition.

Greg Lawson's full scale orchestral arrangements of Martyn's music captured the propulsive energy of dance music, whilst bristling with cinematic drama, visceral intensity and emotion. Add into the mix a representation of the Cuillin mountains, the aerial display skills of Aisling ní Cheallaigh and the All or Nothing Aerial Dance Theatre as well as Danny MacAskill (broken knee and all) and Alistair Clarkson re-imagining the epic stunt cycling from their video The Ridge (that Bennett's Blackbird soundtracked) and the effect was complete.

It is testament to Martyn's enduring legacy and continuing relevance as an artist that thousands of fans cheered the roof off the Hydro throughout the night. The strength of his music lends itself to reinterpretation and reinvention years after his death. It was a wonderful opportunity for Real World Records to work with Martyn on his final album Grit. We are sure it would make him smile if he could see what joy (and ecstatic dancing) his music engendered in a huge stadium this weekend!

Published 30th Jan, 10:30am »

Society of Sound: Les Amazones d'Afrique

This month's release on Bowers & Wilkins Society of Sound is the debut album by Les Amazones d'Afrique. Originally released on Real World Records last year, the album République Amazone, features Angélique Kidjo, Kandia Kouyaté, Mamani Keita, Mariam Doumbia, Mariam Koné, Massan Coulibaly, Mouneissa Tandina, Nneka, Pamela Badjogo and Rokia Koné - an all-female collective of west African musicians, campaigning for gender equality.

Barack Obama chose a track from the album La Dame et Ses Valises as one of his favourite songs of 2017.

Running on funk and blues with dabs of dub; ancient rhythms blending seamlessly with their western appropriated cousins, Les Amazones d'Afrique sound like an aural actuation of the new melting pot cities of the African continent.

Published 18th Jan, 6:56pm »

Zena Bacar: 1949-2017

Real World Records is saddened to hear of the death of Zena Bacar, singer with the Mozambican band Eyuphuro whose album 'Mama Mosambiki' we released in 1990 and who we were first introduced to at WOMAD Harbourfront in Toronto in the late 1980s.

Often referred to as the 'golden voice of Mozambique', Zena Bacar's philosophical view of the world fed Eyuphuro's contemporary songs of love and social criticism, providing a sharply observed commentary on life in Mozambique and particularly the inequalities faced by women in that society. After a period away from music a comeback album 'Yellela' was released in 2001 and a third album '25 Anos' followed in 2006, the same year as Eyuphuro's final international show in Portugal.

Our thoughts and condolences go to Zena's family and friends.

Zena Bacar - 1949 - 2017

Published 16th Jan, 3:36pm »

Folk Roots of Britain and Ireland

From our inception the aim of Real World Records was always to release albums by artists that we loved and deserved a larger audience, wherever they came from. We've been driven by our emotional connection to the music and not by any intellectual or ethnomusicological desire to be completist or all encompassing in our output.

That said, as we enter our 29th year, the consequence of having such a long history means that fascinating connections musically, stylistically or geographically can be drawn between artists or albums that we've been lucky enough to release. Over the course of the coming year, we thought it might be fun and interesting to investigate some of those connections a little further by revisiting some well known, and some not so well known, albums from the catalogue.

To kick things off, we'll be focussing first on albums by Spiro (Repeater), Martyn Bennett (Grit), 9Bach (Anian) and The Gloaming (2) which we have gathered together under the title Folk Roots of Britain and Ireland. Four very different musical experiences by four artists bound together by the way they embrace and utilise their traditional folk roots only to reinvent or subvert them to create something totally new.

We'll be sharing some stories over the next few weeks on this theme, but why not start with this piece on the background to the 9Bach album Anian...

You also can receive a 25% discount when you buy any of the related titles in the Real World Store. Just use the discount code >> realworld25 << in the RW Store before 29 January 2018. 

9Bach Anian CD / LP
The Gloaming The Gloaming CD / LP
The Gloaming 2 CD / LP
Martyn Bennett Grit CD / LP
Spiro Repeater LP

Published 12th Jan, 4:28pm »

Revisiting the songs on 9Bach's Anian album

Over the next few weeks we're revisiting four artists and albums on Real World Records that embrace and utilise their traditional folk roots only to re-shape them to create something totally new.

9Bach make music that is an emotional hybrid of the Welsh folk tradition and of contemporary influences and working practices. They are helping redefine what Welsh music is; lyrically mixing age-old stories with the acute concerns of the modern world and musically unafraid.

Here, the group's lead songwriter Lisa Jen Brown gives an insight into the inspiration behind and meaning of the songs on the album Anian:

Anian: nature, the natural order, natural morality; nature, the (natural) world, creation.

"I found this album came from a desperate and slightly anarchic place and I found myself looking to the present with this album.
It marks where I'm at, whether it's my age, being a mother, or simply being much more exposed to social media where I'm faced with and forced to see pictures and videos, images and words that I simply can't cope with right now in my life."

1. Llyn Du
Imagine Cwm Idwal lake or Ogwen lake on a moonlit night. You might come across this deranged and damaged queen under the black shimmering ice cold water:
'I am the queen of the black lake,
take me, lead me'

It's song is based on the book 'One Moonlit Night' by Caradog Prichard, a novel that had a great affect on me when I was young and still remains my favourite ever Welsh novel.

2. Anian
It's a song about a connection to a place: A connection to someone. A laugh or a quality or characteristic that strikes you and leaves you breathless. We need to start looking, start feeling things. Feel it in your belly, feel it in your genitals… just feel for God's sake!

3. Yr Olaf
A song inspired by a photo of Sudan, the last male white rhino. It is from the perspective of a poacher:
'Bring me your soul,
I'll destroy it'

It's like the poacher talking to the animal just before he/she destroys it. Prick! Then the bridge of the song where it goes acapela is in the third person and says: 'How does it feel to look at the last, the last, ultimate and final of its kind?'
I'm questioning what kind of person are you that wants to destroy such an amazing thing? Who has pleasure in planting their dagger in leathery skin and enjoys the last glimmer in their eye. I love singing this song. It makes me angry!

4. Ifan
This is a true story. Ivan is a boy, he leaves his flat, as his step-dad shouts and his mum cries, and walks out into the snow carrying nothing but a ripped magazine picture of Svetlana. After weeks of living on the street along with other children, who aren't very nice, he slowly builds a relationship with the wild dogs.
He can reach into the bins, and share the rubbish food, and he gets their protection in return. Ivan is happy. Ivan trusts the dogs because they don't lie like humans do. Ivan is ok, he feels love… loved… by them. He is in a routine and he feels warmth amidst the freezing cold nights.
In the end the authorities capture him, after a few failed attempts because the dogs attacked the officers each time they tried, and place him in an orphanage. He is the saddest he has ever been, he didn't want rescuing.
This song is the moment when Ivan and the dogs are separated, the She dog, the head of the pack, the beautiful one… and him, are ripped apart and never to see each other again.

5. Si Hwi Hwi
This is an old Welsh folk song. It's amazing as it is from the perspective of a black woman, who is singing to her child on their last night together before the baby will be killed and her bound in chains.
It's an anti-slavery song. A man from Blaenau Ffestiniog emigrated to the States in 1850s and as a response to the injustices of slavery, he wrote this poem.
The verse was only short, and I wrote a second verse to it. The mother compares a grave to a feast and festival, as anything would be better that THIS… separating her from her child. In the end she makes a decision to kill herself and her child than give her self up to the white man.
Documented by Dr Meredydd Evans, his mother used to sing it to him as a child in Tanygrisiau where they lived (near Bleanau) it has a special meaning, as it is literally an undocumented song and simply passed from mother to boy. Luckily he sang it and that's how I know it.

6. Cyfaddefa
This is heavily influenced by Greek Rembetika songs from the Greek Underworld… The opium smoking dark underground, dirty dangerous bars, where the musicians would sing. Songs are mainly about poverty, love, social injustice, the fights of the labouring class and the freedom of Greeks from fascists of all kinds.
It's about admitting that sometimes you are wrong. We all do wrong… It's about questioning what ARE you doing to help this dying world and all its people suffering… And how long can you go on looking away, ignoring and burying things and issues.
Admit that you aren't doing anything substantial to help… anything.

7. Brain
Inspired by this story. It's from a perspective of a crow, not that you know it even if you can speak Welsh, it's cryptic and not one mention of black feathers and mean eyes! It's from a desperate and passionate point of view. It's about the act of giving, of WANTING to give and to please. It's about human relations with nature and creatures we share this world with, how beautiful they are, and how we couldn't give a flying fuck. How removed are we by now from having a relationship with other species?
This is a positive song though, celebrating a partnership and relation and love that you can share.

8. Heno
These are words by Gerallt Lloyd Owen - my favourite poet who died recently. He has an amazing gift of making you feel guilty as a Welsh person… for fucking it up, for not giving a shit about your language and his famous poem was about Llewelyn, our last prince who died in 1282. Heno is written more recently and is a lament for the dying of the Welsh nation.
We have deconstructed the dreaded Cerdd Dant. Cerdd Dant is a unique tradition of singing lyrics over a harp accompaniment. There are strict rules about rhythm and cadences. As much as it remains an important part of Welsh culture, and a major element in The National eisteddfod… It is really not cool. I have a very complicated relationship with Cerdd Dant where I absolutely hate it and yet… I'm fascinated by it. It scares me and moves me at the same time! It is such a marmite thing in Wales that Esyllt (9Bach harpist) refused to be involved in the development of the song!
Our take on it was to actually sing the harp part and harmonise the melody so that it actually has soul - I hope. I can't listen to Cerdd Dant a lot, but I am proud of what Mirain (9Bach piano/vocals) and I have done with this. We've fucked it right up! Playing with rules and coming away from the tradition!

9. Deryn
The dying human, is left in an apocalyptic world. She asks an imaginary bird to go to The World and say sorry. When do we realise it's too late? When IT IS too late I suppose.

10. Ambell Hiraeth (Trad)
A combination of three Welsh folk songs. I've mashed them into one. It's melancholic and talks about being ready for the grave… there is hiraeth for a person and hiraeth for a place.
Although there is appreciation for music and song, that is a balm to the soul; a little hope. Then there is heartache and a gesture of 'please save me' my heart will break… I can't live… I won't be alive for much longer. Very sad.

11. Breuddwyd Y Bardd (Trad)
A poets dream; his eyes are slowly closing, and as he sighs and dreams he sees himself as something he never was. In his dreams he hopes, he visualises life as beautiful and joyful. It is all a fantasy, like life, how real is all of this?
The dreamer dreams the dreams of his heart.

Published 12th Jan, 5:23pm »

Obama picks Les Amazones d'Afrique

Barack Obama has chosen La Dame et Ses Valises by Les Amazones d'Afrique as one of his favourite songs of 2017.

The former President's list of his favourite books and music from the year were posted on the Barack Obama Facebook page on 31 December 2017 with the words:

"During my presidency, I started a tradition of sharing my reading lists and playlists. It was a nice way to reflect on the works that resonated with me and lift up authors and artists from around the world. With some extra time on my hands this year to catch up, I wanted to share the books and music that I enjoyed most. From songs that got me moving to stories that inspired me, here's my 2017 list"

My favorite songs of 2017:
Mi Gente by J Balvin & Willy William
Havana by Camila Cabello (feat. Young Thug)
Blessed by Daniel Caesar
The Joke by Brandi Carlile
First World Problems by Chance The Rapper (feat. Daniel Caesar)
Rise Up by Andra Day
Wild Thoughts by DJ Khaled (feat. Rihanna and Bryson Tiller)
Family Feud by Jay-Z (feat. Beyoncé)
Humble by Kendrick Lamar
La Dame et Ses Valises by Les Amazones d'Afrique (feat. Nneka)
Unforgettable by French Montana (feat. Swae Lee)
The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness by The National
Chanel by Frank Ocean
Feel It Still by Portugal. The Man
Butterfly Effect by Travis Scott
Matter of Time by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
Little Bit by Mavis Staples
Millionaire by Chris Stapleton
Sign of the Times by Harry Styles
Broken Clocks by SZA
Ordinary Love (Extraordinary Mix) by U2
*Bonus: Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen (not out yet, but the blues version in his Broadway show is the best!)

Published 5th Jan, 10:34am »

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