Documentary Evidence 2016 Top 10 Albums: 4. Reed & Caroline ‘Buchla & Singing’ // Erasure ‘From Moscow To Mars’

I felt a little conflicted about including these two on my list, for reasons which I will attempt somewhat clumsily to explain. I then reasoned that this is my list, I’m kind of really proud of what I’ve done to support both these releases, and so on the list they shall remain. I’ve also linked them together for the purposes of convenience.

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“It might have the look and feel of a futuristic tombstone, but From Moscow To Mars, as its title from the oft-forgotten single ‘Star’ indicates, represents a thirty year journey – a journey that the duo are very firmly still on with a new album in the works and plenty more rocket fuel left in the tanks.” – This Is Not Retro

“What emerges here is a distinct sense of loyalty – from Vince Clarke and Andy Bell to one another, and to the enduring art of writing emotional pop music.” – Electronic Sound

First up, the mammoth and some would definitely argue long overdue Erasure box. This was finally released in December after production delays and I reviewed this – atypically for me – for two places: Electronic Sound and then a slightly more personal piece for This Is Not Retro. I am, and forever will be, a massive Erasure fan first and foremost, so my ability to be objective about From Moscow To Mars is one possible conflict of interest. Personally, I think I pulled it off, but you can judge for yourself. The review for This Is Not Retro can be found here. Back issues of Electronic Sound are over at www.electronicsound.co.uk

The second reason for feeling slightly conflicted came in November when I found myself in Birmingham as a guest of the Erasure fan club at the official launch party for the boxset. I was there nominally as a guest but found myself helping out in a couple of ways – blowing up some very sorry balloons (I apologise to anyone who attended and laughed at those) while listening to Vince Clarke and Andy Bell soundcheck their set (including a new song) and then helping out with three hours of meet and greets. It was a special, and slightly surreal experience.

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Second, Buchla & Singing by Reed & Caroline, a charming album of compositions for the Buchla by Reed Hays with beautiful singing by Caroline Schutz. The album was released on Vince Clarke’s Very Records back in October to universal acclaim. I didn’t get to review this one, but trust me, had I done so I would have called it out as very special indeed.

I wrote the press release for Very Records for this album and enjoyed a very pleasant Skype chat with Hays in order to prepare that. Of all the things I have done this year, getting handed that job and helping support the release of Buchla & Singing – in a way somewhat different from just scribing a review – was right up there as a major career highlight, and I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity.

One of the best tracks on the album is ‘Henry The Worm’. Reed and I spoke about that track at length but I just couldn’t find a way of fitting it into the press release, so here is that little off-cut. I thought it was a nice story. Music sometimes needs to take itself less seriously.

“Around the time my son was born, I wrote a song that’s on the record called ‘Henry The Worm’,” explained Reed. “We named Henry, my son, after a little caterpillar that was crawling around a Mexican restaurant. When we saw the first sonogram I thought he looked like a little caterpillar.”

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

John Foxx – The Complete Cathedral Oceans (Demon / Metamatic album, 2016)

John Foxx’s Metamatic imprint, in conjunction with Demon, will issue the three volumes of the Ultravox! founder’s Cathedral Oceans opus as a deluxe limited vinyl set on September 30. I wrote a short piece about The Complete Cathedral Oceans for This Is Not Retro. Read it here.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith for This Is Not Retro

They Might Be Giants – Phone Power (LOJINX album, 2016)

Brooklyn’s They Might Be Giants can probably lay claim to being the first hipsters, back when their idiosyncratic take on pop was just branded ‘kooky’. Phone Power is the third in a series of albums released in the past year, racking up over fifty tracks across those releases.

I reviewed the album for This Is Not Retro. Read the review here.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for This Is Not Retro

Vince Clarke & Paul Hartnoll – 2Square (Very Records album, 2016)


Erasure‘s Vince Clarke has set up a record label, Very Records. His inaugural release is a collaboration with Paul Hartnoll from Orbital, an eight track album called 2Square. I reviewed the album for This Is Not Retro and my review can be read here.

While in New York a couple of weeks ago I had the great privilege of getting to interview Vince in his studio, with Paul joining us from Brighton by Skype. That interview will be included in the next issue of Electronic Sound, available through all decent UK newsagents in July.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for This Is Not Retro

Various Artists – Fly : Songs Inspired By The Film ‘Eddie The Eagle’ (Universal album, 2016)

  
I reviewed the soundtrack to the film Eddie The Eagle for This Is Not Retro. Fly features a who’s who of Eighties music, including everyone from Martyn Ware‘s Heaven 17to Paul Young, most of whom have recorded exclusives for the album.

Erasure‘s Andy Bell delivers the title track, while Nik Kershaw’s ‘The Sky’s The Limit’ (from his 2012 album Ei8ht) steals the show as perhaps the best song ever written about following your dreams. Kershaw said he wrote this song to his child to show that you really can be whatever you want, and as a father to two growing little girls, I can’t listen to this song without getting emotional.

My review can be found here

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence 

Andy Bell – Torsten The Beautiful Libertine (Strike Force Entertainment / Cherry Red album, 2016)

  

Erasure‘s Andy Bell has recorded the follow-up album to Torsten The Bareback Saint, written by Barney Ashton-Bullock with music by Christopher Frost. Bell performed the first chapter in the life of the colourful polysexual Torsten at the Edinburgh Festival in 2014 and will perform this next installment during March 2016 at Above The Stag in London’s Vauxhall.

I reviewed Torsten The Beautiful Libertine for This Is Not Retro. My review can be found here. Also on This Is Not Retro is my interview with Andy from last year and a review of the Variance remix collection.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

A Conversation With Erasure’s Andy Bell

  
I recently spoke to Erasure‘s Andy Bell about his role in Barney Ashworth’s musical theatre show Torsten – The Bareback Saint. The show ran during the 2014 Edinburgh Festival and was accompanied by an album of the songs from the production, released via Strike Force / Cherry Red.

Upon the release of Variance, a collection of remixes and new versions of songs from the album, and ahead of Bell treading the boards again next year for the follow-up instalment, Torsten – The Beautiful Libertine, I interviewed Andy for This Is Not Retro. The conversation can be found here.

Anyone who knows me remotely well will know that Erasure have always been, and always will be, my favourite band. To get the opportunity to talk to someone whose work you’ve literally grown up with is always a privileged moment, and I am continually grateful for such chances.

I had always intended to write up a review of the performance of Torsten that a friend and I watched in Edinburgh last year, but never did. In its place, these are the rough notes I took at the time, along with a text message to a friend, all of which would have become a review if I’d just bothered to finish it.

Andy Bell – Torsten The Bareback Saint, Edinburgh 13 August 2014

In the introduction to the programme that accompanied Andy Bell’s first Edinburgh Festival show, he described taking on the role of Torsten in this song cycle as a challenge. As he climbed up the stairs to the small stage in full top hat and tails while singing the song ‘Teacher Teacher’ it was pretty obvious to the twenty or so people in the lecture theatre-cum-studio that this came pretty naturally to Bell.

‘It was really good. He came on in hat and tails, at one point was in heels, a vest and a sparkly pair of pants and ended up killing himself in a dressing gown. Very dramatic, quite funny, stirring and emotional. Boy can he sing! Only about twenty of us there.’ – text to a friend immediately after watching Torsten The Bareback Saint on 13 August 2014.

Suicide. Robin Williams.

Sax

Showgirl headgear.

Snarl. Disgust. Rage.

Weston-Super-Mare.

(c) 2015 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence // interview (c) 2015 This Is Not Retro