New from Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert

I hadn’t intended for it to turn into a two week holiday from the blog, but hopefully it encouraged people to read the interviews with Richard Thompson and Miles Hunt (still really, really chuffed about those). Anyway, while I was away, amongst the emails that popeed into my inbox was this wee beauty.

I’ve long talked about my love of all things Scottish and cover versions, and of course Christmas, so it’s rather cool to have AIdan Moffat and RM Hubbert collaborating on a cover version of Yazoo’s ‘Only You’ from their forthcoming Christmas album (out on Mogwai’s Rock Action label) entitled Ghost Stories For Christmas. One of the the impressive things is how this starts out sounding lo-fi, then the backing vocals come in and the strings are just gorgeous.

This is the first tasting from the album, the tracklisting for which is:

1. Fireside
2. A Ghost Story for Christmas
3. Desire Path (Baby Please Come Home)

4. Such Shall You Be
5. Lonely This Christmas
6. Weihnachtsstimmung
7. The Fir Tree
8. Only You
9. Ode to Plastic Mistletoe
10. The Recurrence of Dickens


Whilst I’m looking forward to hearing the whole album, I am intrigued (because I think it’s a great Christmas song) that the other cover version on the album is Mud’s Lonely This Christmas (in its original form, one of the greatest Elvis pastiches ever.

In fact, the whole album sounds intriguing. Take it away, press release:

These are the ghosts of love, haunting happy homes and fairy-lit bars; these are the ghosts of memory, of haunted mirrors, pagan festivities, and unforgettable friends. As with this year’s critically acclaimed debut album, Here Lies The Body, Moffat’s quiet, pensive storytelling finds a perfect partner in Hubbert’s intimately intricate, flamenco-flavoured guitar. Across eight new original compositions and two deftly executed covers, here they offer an alternative view on the Season To Be Jolly.

The album began with an idea for a song – forthcoming single A Ghost Story for Christmas. Originally intended as a one-off, seasonal release, it proved such fun to write that soon they had enough songs for an EP. “Then, on a nice, sunny, summer morning, I phoned Hubby and suggested we just do a whole album,” says Moffat. “We were really enjoying it – there’s something pleasantly perverse about recording Christmas songs in summer clothes – so we just kept going.” There followed an intense few weeks of writing and research, with Moffat taking lyrical inspiration as always from the life around him, but which also found him adapting a classic Hans Christian Andersen fairytale and an essay by the king of modern Christmas himself, Charles Dickens. The album also features their cover of Yazoo’s synth classic Only You – a favourite from their youth and one of Moffat’s oft-tweeted late-night comfort hits, and already a popular number in their live show (and, of course, a Christmas Number One for The Flying Pickets in 1983) – and the set was topped off with a sombre rendition of Mud’s 1974 hit, Lonely This Christmas. “There really wasn’t any other song it could have been,” Hubbert says of this choice. “It sums up the album well!”

The album also finds the duo expanding and experimenting with their sound, with eerie bowed guitars, dreamscape doo-wop, and a piano-led tale of a looking-glass ghost. “I had some words that I felt would suit a piano backing, so I challenged Hubby to write something for piano and he spent two weeks on YouTube learning to play it,” says Moffat. Joining them for the first time on violin and vocals is Jenny Reeve, a long-time Moffat collaborator, most recently with Arab Strap and his Where You’re Meant To Be project; ex-Delgado and longtime friend of the duo Emma Pollock on choral duties; and the band’s live drummer, David Jeans, also of Arab Strap and many more. Returning to augment the sound is John Burgess on clarinet and flute, while a young family member waits to offer a final seasonal message …

So come close and gather round! Pour a drink and take a seat! The fire is roaring, the chestnuts are roasting, the children are laughing – and it’s time to tell Ghost Stories for Christmas.”

Hell yeah.

A song for today #32: Arab Strap vs. Miaoux Miaoux

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I’m really very cheered by the news that Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton have united again as Arab Strap, and that they are gigging later this year. Not so chuffed that the Glasgow gig has sold out already, but hey.

I got the chance to interview Aidan Moffat the other day – which should be appearing soon on God Is In The TV, and their awesome 1996 debut single ‘The First Big Weekend’ has been remixed by Miaoux Miaoux, who I have also featured on the blog before. Check it out below:

…and while you wait for my Aidan Moffat interview, you can read the interview I did with Malcolm Middleton in 2007.

Update: The Aidan Moffat interview is now live on God Is In The TV

The continued evolution of Aidan Moffat

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There’s various theories about what ‘Lucky Pierre’ means (and the wiki entry doesn’t list one in particular), but for those of you not aware, L.Pierre is one of the monikers that Aidan Moffat records under. Over the years, he’s also recorded as part of The Sick Anchors (with Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai), with jazzman Bill Wells, as part of the scots indie collective The Reindeer Section, fronting his own band and of course, as one half of Arab Strap with Malcolm Middleton.

His latest release is an EP, Surface Noise, which has been described as being an affectionate tribute to the wear and tear of vinyl (I know there’s a growing trend in cassettes, fer Chrissakes, and there are American blokes who fetishise the 8-track cartridge, but I cannot see this happening with mp3s). Released on September 16, the six tracks are awesome. Don’t just take my word for it, go and buy it when it comes out.

Mr. Moffat has a way with melancholia and beauty that I can but marvel at. My first encounter with Arab Strap was hearing John Peel play ‘Here We Go’ on his show in 1998. From then on I bought as much of his stuff as I could. This included one of my most treasured 12″ singles, the Bis remix of ‘Turbulence’* and yet somehow I never managed to see them live before they split in 2006. I did, however, manage to interview Malcolm Middleton in 2007. I’d love to interview Aidan Moffat too…

* Strange story. Nearly ten years ago, I was DJing at Fopp in Edinburgh for the launch night of Sons & Daughters’ Love The Cup album. This remix was playing when Sons & Daughters arrived. For reasons I do not know, the look that Ailidh Lennon gave me when she heard me playing that could have shattered glass (maybe she was sick of my gazing at her at gigs). I never knew why. I did lend Scott Paterson my guitar strap and he later gave me a beer backstage at a gig where Sons & Daughters played with Aberfeldy and the Fire Engines.

Album review – Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat

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Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat -‘Everything’s Getting Older.’ (Chemikal Underground)

I’m starting to lose track of how many projects Aidan Moffat has done since Arab Strap cheerfully called time, nearly five years ago now. In a way, he’s rather like Darren Hayman who also appeared round about the same time fronting Hefner, relishing sticking out like sore thumbs at the time of Britpop and having a slew of prolific releases over the next fifteen years.

This collaboration is with legendary jazz man Bill Wells. Wells and Moffat first met when Wells contributed to Arab Strap’s penultimate album Monday At the Hug And Pint, in 2003. Moffat and Wells decided that they’d like to work together, and although recording sessions actually began not long after, the album has taken eight years to come into being. I think when you hear it you’ll think it has been worth the wait.

‘Cages’ is like ‘The First Big Weekend’ fifteen years on. Only instead of living it up in Glasgow and Falkirk, the protagonist is dealing with the crushing mundanity of life, signing off with the resigned ‘Freedom’s overrated anyway.’ ‘Ballad Of the bastard’ is just that – a man who knows he is forever destined to cheat on his partner, and is actually starting to despise himself for it. ‘The Copper Top’ is the drunken reflections of someone who has skipped off to the pub becuase they can’t face a wake, and ends up pondering the significance of his new suit in all this: ‘Birth, love and death; the only three reasons to get dressed up.’ The spectacularly edgy ‘Dinner Time’ tells the story of a boy who goes back to the house he used to live in, and has a nose around…what happens when he ruins into the new owner and catches her by surprise is only hinted at…

Of course, it is a collaboration album, and the album owes just as much to Bill Wells as it does to Aidan Moffat. It’s beautifully scored and just as amazing in its’ own right. And if the word ‘Jazz’ tends to freak you out…well, maybe that says more about you and your prejudices than anything else, frankly. Let’s just say, though that if you’ve enjoyed Herbie Hancock’s music (think more Blow Up than ‘Rockit’) and the scores of Bernard Hermann (Psycho, Taxi Driver etc..) then you might well enjoy this more than you think.

In all seriousness, this might well be the most accomplished album of Aidan Moffat’s career. When will he write his novel? And with both Zoey Van Goey and Found’s albums already out, this looks set to be a fantastic year for the mighty Chemikal Underground.

****

Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat -‘A Short Song To the Moon.’ mp3