01 February 2012

RM Hubbert - Thirteen Lost & Found: Track by track

One thing that I have learned about myself since starting this blog, is that I really should avoid writing reviews, as I don't think that they're really my forte. I don't really see the point in wasting your time and mine by rambling on and trying to find five ways to say that I think something's good. If it appears on here then you can take it for granted that I like it. Which in the rambling manner that I was trying to avoid, brings me to the new RM Hubbert album, 'Thirsteen Lost & Found'. As I am sure you're already aware, it's a collaborative album that  sees Hubby team up with an array of equally talented folk, including Aidan Moffat and Emma Pollock to name just a few. The album was also recorded and produced by Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos and Chemikal Underground's Paul Savage. Man, that's some heavy name dropping, but hey when you bring so many talented folk together to create something this good, a little bragging shouldn't really go a miss. Anyway, seeing as I  feel that I don't really have the vocabulary to express just how much I have been enjoying this record,  I decided to rope Hubby in to tell you all about the album...

I've been struggling to write this track by track description of Thirteen Lost & Found for about a month now. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't enjoy talking about myself or the music I make (every musician is a narcissist, don't believe otherwise for a second). The problem lies in both the purpose and the way we went about making this particular record.

The original idea behind Thirteen Lost & Found was pretty simple. I thought that it would be both easier and more fun to reconnect with some of my old friends by writing some music with them. That's basically what the album is about; Relationships, how they change over time and what it's like to rediscover them.

We approached the writing in a very collaborative way. We didn't prepare anything in advance of our first meetings. I wanted to try and capture those moments of getting to know each other again in the music. Fuck, that sounds wanky. It's true though. Anyway, because of this, it would be true to say that I don't really know what each of the collaborative pieces mean to the others. I'll try and give my thoughts on them though.

We Radioed (with Luke Sutherland)
This song was mostly improvised whilst recording. We had some spare time after recording the piece that we had originally written for the album, Elliot. Luke is an incredibly giving person and musician. I love the way the guitars rise and fall, intertwining until you can't make out who is doing what.

Car Song (with Aidan Moffat & Alex Kapranos)
This one came about in a slightly different way as our schedules didn't allow myself and Aidan to meet up so I sent him some very rough bits of guitar and he wrote the lyrics over the course of a year or so. The first time we played it together was whilst recording! This added a certain amount of pressure to the process but it worked for us. Alex added the melodica at the end of the song just as we were mixing it. 

For Joe
This was the only solo piece I wrote last year. It's for my late, ex father in law Joe Murney. Joe was one of the kindest, most giving men I've ever known. He had a knack for being both incredibly supportive and non obtrusive at the same time. I don't know what I would have done without him and his family after my parents died.

I don't want people to get the impression that this is a sad song though. It was never meant to be. Its main purpose is to serve as an excuse for telling people about him. It's good to share those memories.

Gus Am Bris An Latha (with John Ferguson)
John and I were relatively new friends when we wrote this. I was a big fan of his previous band, Foxface. We met properly at a Will Play For Food show I was doing and hit it off. It's fair to say that this song has ties to the memories of our fathers. Not in a sad way though.

Sunbeam Melts The Hour (with Marion Kenny & Hanna Tuulikki)
As with the previous song, Marion and Hanna were relatively new friends. I met Marion at an improvised dance event we were both playing at. I was totally stunned by her playing of the Chinese harp. We got chatting afterwards and found that we had a lot of mutual friends.

Hanna and I met through Alasdair Roberts, I think. When I saw her play with her band Two Wings, I immediately though that her voice would compliment what Marion and I had been writing. It also gave me an excuse to get to know her better. Not many people I know enjoy both Fleetwood Mac and experimental noise!

I met Verena at a show of mine in Berlin during my first solo European tour. She told me to call her V because I couldn't pronounce her name properly! I had a couple of more shows to do in the city over the next couple of days so she kindly showed me around the city. Although nothing happened romantically during those three days, it was the first time I had felt that something might since my ex wife and I had separated.

Sandwalks (with Stevie Jones & Paul Savage)
Stevie is the only collaborator apart from Alex that I had written with previously. We were in a band called El Hombre Trajeado together for a long time. Stevie joined Arab Strap after El Hombre split up so between that and my illness at the time, we didn't see much of each other for a long time. I had always loved Stevie's piano playing so thought it would be interesting to try a piano / guitar duet. Writing together was as much fun as I remembered.

Paul was mixing the album so Alex and I bullied him into adding the slightly abstract percussion parts. Worked great.

Half Light (with Emma Pollock & Rafe Fitzpatrick)
I've known Emma since the early days of The Delgados and Chemikal Underground. They were always incredibly supportive of El Hombre; Taking us out on tour, putting us on at Chenikal events. I don't think she realised how nervous I was about writing with her. She's been one of my favourite female singers for a long time and I really didn't want to be the one that made her sound shite! 

Rafe and I met through his brilliant band, Tattie Toes. He's an incredibly inventive musician and one of the most genuine people I know. We all really gelled in the studio. I'll remember recording that song for a long time.

Hungarian Notation (with Shane Connolly, Alex Kapranos & Michael John McCarthy)
Shane and I first met in the early nineties when our respective bands used to play shows together. We lost touch for a long time and when I next saw him play, I couldn't believe it. He was always a great drummer but he had developed this beautifully organic, loose style in the intervening years that astounded me. We went out to his cottage in central Scotland to start writing. I remember that time so fondly, freezing cold but every minute of it brought a new playing experience for me.

Alex added the vibraphone part after Shane and I had initially recorded our parts. I love watching Alex play about on instruments like this. He's always had an incredible talent for understanding new instruments insanely quickly. It drove me crazy when we were younger!

MJ added his part just prior to mixing. It's a beautifully understated performance were the air flowing through the accordion is as important as the notes themselves.

Switches Part 2
I wrote this piece when my ex wife Maria and I were trying to figure out how to maintain some kind of relationship after splitting up. It incorporates a similar rhythm as Hey There Mr Bone from First & Last. I used this as at that point, our dog D Bone was pretty much the only thing that kept us in regular communication. It's horrible when a marriage ends but it was inconceivable to me that I would lose my best friend too. 

The False Bride (with Alasdair Roberts)
Alasdair and I were on nodding acquaintance for a long time but became good friends just before both of our long term relationships ended. I actually ended up staying at his house for a few months after Maria and I split up. He looked after me well. Tried to teach me more than I could ever remember about folk music as a way to take my mind off things. 

I remember hearing him sing this song around the house. He had recently found the hand written lyrics that his late father had left him for it so it seemed feted in some way that we should record it.

Thirteen Lost & Found is out now on Chemikal Underground Records, on CD, MP3 or very sexy vinyl (guess who just bought himself a new record player this week). If you're looking to treat yourself to something new this month then I can thoroughly recommend you check it out.  

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