Billy Mather – Art in the Brighton Music Scene

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We’ve all been there… You become conscious of your surroundings for the first time in god knows how many hours and realize you’ve definitely taken advantage of one too many drink offers in a bar somewhere in Brighton. Dimly self-aware and currently micturating, you glance up and realise that dancing around you are lines and colours, grins and eyes and shapes that hint at what demons might occupy and enjoy the gradually ubiquitous blurring and slurring of your senses. A vague thought bubbles up about the artist behind it, but you’re too drunk and too determined to waste what’s left of your work-fried brain to think about it too much. So I’ve decided to write you this.

Instruments from Sofar Sounds Brighton

Billy Mather is an illustrator who lives in Brighton. Influenced primarily by the darker side of our music scene here, he seems to have a gift for channeling his thoughts into darkly comic expressions, scattering themselves across the seaside of sin from gig posters to toilet doors and pianos. He’s got plenty of other work too so check it all out on his site, link’s at the bottom.

Billy told me that he’s never forgotten a piece of advice given to him by one of his illustration tutors on the BA in Southampton. In art, there is a difference between being accurate and being believable. What comes out of this guy’s mind motivated by that phrase is some of the most distinctive art in the city, somehow managing to retain an incredibly strong sense of the artist’s character; even as the lines and colours begin to intertwine in your head and become part of your thought process. Just like editorial illustration accompanies words on a page, so his work complements and influences your internal monologue as you’re exposed to it.

Click to enlarge

For a Brighton local, the sense of familiarity that emanates from even the most twisted smile and reptilian eye in the center of his most contorted face feels commonplace and natural without ever needing to veer toward a convention. The faces in Billy’s work dance at the edge of recognition, demonically dancing on the ledge between chaotic artistic interpretation and comfortable verisimilitude, which is a long way of saying you really need to check this guy out and give him more work.

Unlike those last two paragraphs, the artwork never smacks of too much thought or trying too hard. It stands out in its naked honesty; it’s inclination to bend further towards expression than conformity. His work across the toilets of the Blind Tiger Club stretch out, allowed a luxurious amount of space yet still reaching further, expanding and moving as you look. Other pieces to watch out for around Brighton decorate Sticky Mike’s Frog bar and Northern Lights.

Please forgive the following phrase, (I promise I’m not just being lazy) but you really can’t sum his work up in words. That’s why this art exists. It expresses the feeling of standing in that space, the artist’s thoughts as he listens. Somehow, he translates the committee of voices that characterise an active mind and regiments them with ink and paint, producing expressions of the space or the event that simply couldn’t exist any other way.

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Links:

Billy’s Website

Facebook

Sofar #291: Brighton – 26th Febuary 2013

Originally posted on the Sofar Sounds blog on the 4th March 2013.

Words/Editor: Adam Wilson (Website)

Photographers: Tony Jupp (Website) & Chris Poots (Flickr)

Sorry to tell you this, but you missed it. That’s it; the best Sofar Sounds gig to date and you (probably) weren’t there. I bet you’re glad I’ve written as much as I can to convey something of what you missed. (Unless you were there; if so, ignore the first bit and start reading from here).

As I walked in, a rectangular room packed wall to wall with bodies was there to meet me. All super sexy Sofar Sounds bodies of course, but even Sofar people have arms and legs that need to be carefully folded and tessellated to accommodate everyone. It’s funny though, how marking out your territory for the evening seems so important for those first five minutes… Then the music starts.

 

 


Marika Hackman opened up the night with a track called “Retina Television”, from her album “That Iron Taste” (released 25th Feb) stripped of everything save her voice accompanied by her guitar. Appearing before everyone as a loan figure in a packed room, dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans she was at once disarmingly honest and absolutely magnetic.

 

 

As her set progressed, the eerie imagery and lonely delivery of her lyrics began to have an effect on us, catalysed by the Sofar atmosphere. Her music always slightly dodges your expectations, as you listen out for the phrase to end and the section to change, it lasts one more bar, or one less. Using what sound like simple, honest comments on elements of her life, Marika’s almost supernatural aura can completely fill the audience’s collective mind, using words to paint her peculiarly magical portraits across our perception.

 

Anna Phoebe, up next, is already well known for a career including collaborations with Jon Lord (Deep Purple), Roxy music, and being as a member of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This violinist is a bit different to the rest. No one seems to have told her that they traditionally do as they’re told, suppressing their personality in the name of perfecting the execution of a composer’s manuscript.

 

 

Instead, her music blends her personality with the full range of her band’s influences, utilising the underlying mechanics that first supported the music of Duke Ellington as the rhythm section sets up a smooth bed of warm sonic layers, on top of which the incredibly skilled Anna weaves complicated but beautiful melodic lines, occasionally textured with palm muted guitar. The interspersing and complimentary themes on guitar and violin echo the playing of two other jazz greats, Coltrane and Davis. Despite these comparisons, the music is definitely not jazz. Anna brings her signature blend of the concert hall and the stadium, swapping the heavier, rockier side of what she does for a chance to play something more intimate and intricate.

More than a bit Po-Mo, retaining an ambiguity only occasionally punctured using leitmotifs that anchor your attention. The range of influences and their arrangement in the live set made it feel like a live artistic answer to Sgt. Peppers, perhaps helped by the addition of the distinctive tabla, piercing the musical mix with flurries of triplets that fill out the sound and introduce more ambivalence to any sense of cultural place brought about the traditional line up of guitar, electric bass and drums that make up the rest of her band.

This lady, who narrowly escaped the possibility of becoming a politician early in her career, succinctly demonstrated to us the results of a life’s complete dedication to perfection in all aspects of her chosen artistic craft.

Coming up next and snapping us out of a trance, blowing away all mental cobwebs, were CC Smugglers.

 

 

At Sofar, we can’t help but love bands that break the rules.  Continue reading “Sofar #291: Brighton – 26th Febuary 2013”

Cody ChesnuTT – Landing On A Hundred

From Cody ChesnuTT:

“My hands were tingling because I got to sing on the actual microphone that Al Green recorded with. Nothing has changed. The down-home acoustic treatments are still in place.”

 

Except, outside of the studio, things have changed since Al Green recorded there. The world has turned round several times since the ’70’s.  That quote gives you some idea of what this album must mean to the man with his name on the cover, but it doesn’t tell you anything about just how much he must have going on in his mind. Cody ChesnuTT is very much living with and reflecting on the society of today throughout the most authentically soulful piece of recorded music of 2012. Landing on a Hundred‘s genius lies in modernising the message whilst preserving the medium.

Here’s the video for his latest single, ‘Til I Met Thee’, out the 18th March:

 

 

Buy the album (links at the bottom of the page), get hold of some headphones and allow yourself to wallow in the aching sense of hurt and wisdom in the voice, the strings, the shuffle grooves and horn melodies. Written and arranged in a traditional style, the songs use the natural volume and brightness of brass to boost the song’s volume, playing stirring snatches of melody brought to life by the instruments’ raw beauty. Even so, the album sounds fresh and to keep it sounding like something made in 2013, it’s been given all the modern love on the production side. Seriously, anybody having a bad day just needs to spend a bit of time with this.

 

 

There are tracks that capture the sound and passion that lies within great soul as a music of sex, protest, hedonism and hurt. The lyrical themes seamlessly interlock with the music they are accompanying, as the brass and strings squeal exasperated platitudes under the vocal line in ‘That’s Still Mama’. ‘What Kind of Cool Will We Think Of Next’ is typical of the classy and intelligent approach to an entire song, the refreshing freedom that has been given to the band members means that every phrase is full of interpretations and intensity. I swear you can almost follow each session musician individually as they all lend the kind of expression that sometimes feels confined to recordings originating in America’s South.

Also, did I mention the shuffles?

 

Is it just me who wants to see this guy play with Robert Glasper?

 

This album is almost like an origin of the species, or Hawking’s A Brief History of time, in that it’s a statement to the world of everything it’s creator has accomplished to date. It’s a historic assertion of everything the man is right now, a snapshot into his mind and thoughts – carefully mediated through music to bring themselves to you in their best possible light and with great care taken to the clarity and presentation of the message. This is one album that has significantly benefitted from the hours of thought and meditation poured into its sonic presentation.

Do you like Stax, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown or Stevie Wonder? If you do and you don’t yet own this record, you’re missing the only album available today that truly understands you. I’ve been playing it for a few weeks now, and its made for an incredible travel companion. This is the soundtrack for today, written in the key of life and it contains more than enough soul, heartache and comment for humanity to reflect on as we move through 2013.

Cody ChesnuTT is performing at the Concorde 2 on Tuesday 19th March 2013 – get tickets here.

Still one of my favourite songs by The Roots:

Buy Landing on a Hundred:

iTunes

One Little Indian Records (UK)