Rob Dougan – The Life of the World to Come Sessions EP Pre-Order

To cut to the chase – and to pre-order the new EP now – skip to the end of the post…or click here.

This is the third in a series of EPs leading up to an album. Some of the pieces might, reworked, be featured on the album. It’s a way to share the sessions on the way and to record a lot of perhaps additional work. Each EP has a point and a feeling. So this is a little summary if it’s needed…

The 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Sessions

The 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Sessions EP was a re-introduction.

Recorded at Air Lyndhurst Studios with a 75-piece orchestral and 40-piece choir (conducted by James Shearman) with a dramatic huge feeling.

It continued on along the lines of some of the larger orchestral pieces, I’d released in the past, such as Will You Follow Me? (Link here) or Instrumental (link here).

The result was pieces such as ‘Vale’…
or Frescobaldi’s Toccata…

Find out more or purchase the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time EP + Film…

Misc. Sessions EP

 

Next came the Misc. Sessions. The idea here was to reintroduce some songs with the focus on the lyrics, and a timeless sound with not too much rhythm.

It was a tune-up on the songs front.

With songs like She’s Leaving…
Or Undone By London…

Find out more or purchase the Misc. Sessions EP + Film…

Rob Dougan – The Life of the World to Come Sessions EP
Pre-Order

Now comes perhaps the last EP before the forthcoming album, The Life of the World to Come. The title is from one of the songs on it. This sessions recording is starting to introduce cinematic soundscapes, rhythm, beats with songs. It’s denser, darker, heavier than the last two releases.

Here’s a couple of tinny and low-quality hints as to what is to come…the first, a few seconds from the studio 1 at Air Studios…

[First posted to Twitter (link) and Facebook (link) if you can see it or are curious]

and another, once again, very tinny…reviewing one of the drum tracks recorded…

[First posted to Twitter (link) and Facebook (link) if you can see it or are curious]

 Pre-Order Now

Delighted to be able to say this 3rd EP in the series (The Life of the World to Come) can be pre-ordered now.  The Pre-Order price is £7.99 [+ VAT].

The EP will be released September the 30th, 6 PM BST.

Click here, or the image below, to find out more and pre-order now.

 

Misc. Sessions EP and Film recorded at Abbey Road Studio 2

Having related the circumstances in which the previous EP (The 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Sessions) was recorded, this following EP – the Misc. Sessions – was recorded under duress to a certain degree as well.

While  I knew these were some of my favourite songs, I also knew they were not perhaps what people expected. And that the budget of recording just voice and orchestra would not be insignificant.

So in the early days of working on the arrangments with Rupert Cross at his studio in Hackney Wick from the songs, and my piano and voice sketches, I was a little apprehensive. Or at least concerned at what would be the response. Yet I knew that I wanted to avoid rhythm and record these songs in an old-fashioned way. Music like the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time was fairly old-fashioned. When Furious Angels was released, some thought it fell into a genre that it didn’t actually belong. Which affected how it was perceived. And with these two EPs, I wanted to get away from that.

The orchestral sessions were arranged and conducted by James Shearman, and the wonderful players were recorded at Abbey Road Studio 2.

Abbey Road Studio 2 has a pretty amazing history. You can look it up. The sessions were hindered a bit by the fact we filmed it too. But the recording over 7 hours (with breaks) of a 10-piece string section and a 50-piece string section went well.

Vocal, piano, bass, drum, backing vocal recording and mixing of the EP was at Air Edel Studios with Nick Taylor, assisted by Roman Turtev.

The EP has a dream-like quality. Much of that is due to the words. Here are some of my favourites to give you an idea.

“Dreams are like fireflies, floating in a sapphire sky
You try and catch them, but find when you do, their fire dies
We walked so slowly, then you said ‘I’ve finally realized enough’s enough! Enough’s enough!
I’ve been undone by London, London and a lack of love.’

from Undone by London

“A boxed-up TV in the hall
Wondering why it all went dark
An evening dress from ’92
Wonders if it’s lost its spark
The coat hanger with its steely question mark”

from She’s Leaving

“I have found my heart can get up off the ground
I taxi to the runway’s end and find when I take off, it’s not there
It won’t be long before it finally comes and dogs me down
It will come out of the moon one night and send me homeward in a ball of fire”

from Open Sore

“I met her in miscellaneous
She was biting on her lip
We decided that speech was extraneous
And embarked on a trip”

from the song Miscellaneous

The Cover

The cover is from Gustave Doré’s Satan descends upon Earth engraving for John Milton’s Paradise Lost published in 1866 and is below. In fact, with all the images in the digital booklet, Doré’s illustrations are featured. If for no other reason to remind me of some of the themes of the forthcoming album and this EP.

Overall, I learnt a few lessons from preparing, recording, mixing, and releasing the EP. One was perhaps don’t be frightened to commit to a recording (and recording budget) while the songs are at a piano and voice stage.  Another was trust that doing something that some don’t expect from you is not such a bad idea. The next EP starts to involve rhythm and more modern elements, as does the album.

Purchase Misc. Sessions £8.99

Misc. Sessions 12 track EP including orchestral and instrumental mixes, 17-minute film, and 8-page booklet.

 

Rob Dougan’s Sleeve Notes for Universal Music’s Compilation Clubbed to Death

Universal Music’s compilation, Clubbed to Death, covering the period in the UK where hip-hop converged with electronica and a multitude of other genres

Universal Music asked me to contribute a few words for the sleeve notes of their compilation of an interesting period in music, titled Clubbed to Death, when – first in the UK and then elsewhere – hip-hop music collided with punk, R&B, reggae, and more resulting in something new.

A confession: I was working in a jeans store on the King’s Road in the early 1990s. Before that I was a dishwasher (sacked), a waiter (sacked) and a bakery cashier (sacked). So I first heard a lot of these pieces not only as an admirer, but as someone who was trying to break into the music industry (and probably needed to). But most of the music at the start of the 90s left me cold. The plod of indie rock and the oppressively fast pace of rave music seemed like dead ends. Across the Atlantic, hip-hop was in its golden age. Nothing in London seemed to match that excitement. What’s worse, the city, like the country itself, was in the midst of a recession. It was hard not to succumb to a feeling that music’s centre of gravity might have moved elsewhere.

The first glimmer of hope I chanced on had its origins not in London, but in Bristol. That source was The Wild Bunch Collective, who, along with Smith & Mighty, were mixing punk, R&B, reggae and hip-hop into something new. It was like a European addition to hip-hop music. From this city came names that beguiled: Nellee Hopper, Messrs. Smith & Mighty, Tricky and 3D, and collaborators such as Neneh Cherry and Jonny Dollar (whose brilliant production work defined the seminal Massive Attack album, Blue Lines).

Later, in 1994, came Portishead, who further shaped what was called the ‘Bristol sound’. A sound that writer Pete Webb described as “possessing a darkness that is uplifting, a joyful melancholy”.

At the same time, London had come alive. Giles Peterson’s label Talkin’ Loud, Paul Bradshaw’s Straight No Chaser magazine, and Eddie Piller and the Acid Jazz label took the rare groove movement of London’s clubs in the mid-80s and made it global. The mid-90s saw the huge success of the big beat genre and acts like The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, and the Propellerheads, powered by labels such as Skint records, Wall of Sound and XL Recordings.

In fact, so much of the most creative music of the 90s came from individuals who had set up small labels with a clear ethos and direction: Coldcut’s Ninja Tune, Sheffield’s Warp Records, William Orbit’s Guerilla Records, Andy Weatherall’s Junior Boy’s Own label and Howie B’s Pussyfoot Records, to name a few. Other labels included Mute records (Moby) and One Little Indian (Sneaker Pimps, Björk).

And if any artist epitomises the creativity and genre-bending nature of the 90s, it would be Björk. Hers was a music that broke the mould. Music with a sense of adventure and experimentation. Music that harnessed everything from orchestras to machines.

By 1995, I’d moved into a sort of wood and glass shack constructed on the rooftop of 6 Hoxton Square. The whole area was empty of people on the weekend, a desert. At the time the only sign of life was on Sunday nights, when a vast and terrifying boom would resound around the square after dark. This was Goldie’s and Kemistry & Storm’s Metalheadz night at the Blue Note club. Gradually, artists such as Joshua Compston, Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Gary Hume and Alexander McQueen started working and living in the area. Suddenly it was London, and the UK, that had a boldness, a belief that you could do anything.

It was around this time I came across MoWax and James Lavelle. For me, Mowax has to be one of the greatest labels of all time, and James Lavelle the most inspiring and inspired of label bosses. He was only twenty or so, and would fire out hand-scrawled faxes, day and night, to the great and good, the obscure and the overlooked, pushing on. His office was filled with toys, artwork, clothes and records, and he ran everything creative with the same modus operandi: a mind, a marker pen, a piece of paper and a fax machine.

MoWax introduced to the world the music artists DJs Krush & Shadow, Dr Octagon and UNKLE, with inspired visuals by creators such as Futura 2000, 3D, Ian Swift and Ben Drury. Another great group first released by Mowax was Air. I remember James Lavelle asking me to remix their first single, Modulor Mix (I couldn’t). And some of the most exciting music over the period came from Paris, with groups such as Air, Daft Punk and Cassius.

For me, the final decade of the last millennium was a period when music in the UK, then elsewhere, skipped the stale and the bland, and reconnected with the great music of the past. Hip-hop dominates the world now, the most listened to music genre on the globe, but the artists and labels above changed hip-hop’s progress, and their influence can be heard in the sound of the most inspired artists of today.

A good reminder that when things seem on the slide, and opportunities feel like they’re happening on the other side of the world, then that’s the time to start something new.

Rob Dougan
Autumn 2015
http://www.robdougan.com

Universal Music’s compilation Clubbed to Death is now available.

The 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Sessions EP & Film 

These are the first orchestral recordings I’ve made in a decade.

As some might know, in 2004, I created a wine estate in Southern France, La Pèira.

With a lot of hard work, it began to do not so badly. “Easily one of the top estates in all of France,” the Wine Advocate (the wine bible for many) wrote of it. While I never left London and kept writing music, it took up a lot more time and money than I expected, leaving it difficult to find either to record.

This was a disappointing (and surprising) upshot. As was the discovery that France taxes small businesses even before they’ve made a profit.  But all character building (I suspect).

Anyone who watched the film Jean de Florette (or read Marcel Pagnol’s book) will have a good general idea of how things can work on occasion there.

Finally, in 2014, I had to throw caution aside, and make a recording regardless of the above. Or I knew I would never record again.

The sessions took place on the 31st of August, 2014 at Air Lyndhurst Studios with a 75-piece orchestra and 40-piece choir (London voices) conducted by James Shearman.

The name The 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time refers to the day it was recorded on. On the day of recording, I caught a cab from Mount Street to Air Studios in Hampstead and while reflecting it might be the last time I recorded if it went awry, I looked down at the leaflet in my hand entitled The 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. 

“If it be now, ’tis not to come,” I thought. Which is an old-fashioned: “whatever will be, will be”.

As well as James Shearman (orchestrator and conductor) and the wonderful musicians and singers,  I was very fortunate to work with Jake Jackson (who recorded and mixed the orchestra and choir and the Air team), Rupert Cross (who programmed with me additional orchestral parts), Pete Craigie (further mixing), Marc Swadel  (who directed the film), Tom Kilworth (who was the copyist), and many more. A full list of credits with the video above.

Perhaps at some point, I’ll write some more about the different pieces: Frescobaldi’s Toccata, ‘The Return’, Vale (Ave Atque Vale) and A Drawing-Down of Blinds / Valedico.