Reviews for NEW THIRD LANARK
"After working with a diverse range of musical projects including dEUS, The Frames, The Summer of Mars and, more recently, A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen, as well as a wonderful acoustic-folk collaboration with Mark Mulholland, the seemingly restless soul that is Craig Ward pops up on the creative radar again with a solo album under the moniker ‘New Third Lanark’. This time the music emitting from Craig Ward is purely instrumental, with five ambient compositions that barely rise above a few decibels in sound. Having recorded this largely improvised effort with use of electric guitar and an assortment of electronic devices, the atmospheric pieces of sound shimmer and glide through a number of spaces, beginning with the flickering of light ‘Tropic of Bennett’ and ending with the warped and ethereal sounding ‘Lemo’. The beauty of ‘New Third Lanark’ is that if this makes it to a live setting, then the room for further exploration is boundless and one that causes much intrigue when considering the darker veil of noise covering ‘Blazes As In Dixon’ and the previously mentioned ‘Lemo’ that is already nagging to be explored further such is its lengthy duration. It would seem Craig Ward has unlocked yet another creative component in his mind as ‘New Third Lanark’ reveals an artist not willing to remain still in the moment as the shifting tone of these ambient sounds clearly indicates." Famous Last Words
"I have to confess that as I dropped the CD into the player I thought, “anything could happen in the next half hour.” Then again I tend to think something similar with every Jezus Factory release I receive, they is not a label to be approached with preconceptions or already informed opinion. And if that is the case for the label, it is certainly the case for the artist in question, Craig Ward. Everything about the presentation of the album, from song titles to album art to tag line “solo guitar improvisations” is enough to make you question what the hell you are getting involved in here. Add to that a back catalogue of work that runs from the dance infused dEUS, improvisational jazz rock with the wonderfully named A Clean Kitchen is a Happy Kitchen, more conventional if brooding and weather beaten folk alongside Mark Mulholland and even production credits (alongside Steve Albini) for The Frames. Life may be like a box for chocolates (thank you Forrest) but how palatable are they actually going to be. There’s only one way to find out.
Ignoring the intriguing track titles such as Blazes as in Dixons and Tropic of Bennett) which probably mean little outside Craig’s own world what you get is pretty much what it says on the tin. These guitar improvisations take the form of electric guitar meanderings run through an array of effects and technical gadgetry, the overall affect been warped and wandering, often invoking what music might sound like if guitars were able to take Ketamine.
Don’t look for any obvious hooks or conventional structures; this is the sound of decay and windswept beauty, dark, foreboding and non-corporeal. Sustained lines tumble down and fade away like mist or merge into the next bank of sound. It is spiteful, industrial, directionless and sinister. For all that it is strangely wonderful as long as you don’t pre-judge it, examine it or look for reasons. Maybe some music just is and contented to be so." Dave Franklin, Dancing About Architecture
"Ah, ambience. A lovely thing to listen to, but a sod to write about as instead of filling the room with sound, a good ambient record’ll gently colour in the fringes while the brain quietly soaks it all in without telling anyone. And while something labelled “Guitar Improvisations” on an album named after a community-resurrected Scottish Football Club may have people wondering what on Earth is about to happen, the fact that it’s Craig Ward behind it all has this scribe rather looking forward to whatever might occur, as he’s graced more than one favourite of this site during its lifetime.
So, yup. It’s ambient. And like all the finer ambient works out there, it sounds utterly effortless and graceful in spite of the probability that setting it all up probably took ages. The erstwhile dEUS guitarist Craig continues his musical journey of doing whatever appeals to him at any given time by setting up what seems to be a vast array of effects pedals in an attic in Rotterdam and recording whatever happened to come out of the other end of them. The resulting sounds are a pleasing selection of pieces that ebb and flow rather nicely, the original instrument being almost unrecognisable in its treated form, more like electronically-stretched wineglasses being played.
There are occasional flashes where the guitar actually sounds like a guitar (the briefest glimpse at the end of The Tenant for example), but these bits do more to serve the idea that something else is at work here other than your usual improvised shenanigans. The patience that Ward puts into each deliberately slow, lengthy (the shortest track here is just over 6 minutes, the longest is nudging 13) element here is almost palpable, and it’s this sense of forbearance that New Third Lanark carries as its personality.
It’s not a wholly passive listening experience, either. The album’s title track (with its footballing connotations in the title leading me to initially think of Half Man Half Biscuit’s lower-league observations) holds, rather than soothes the listener’s attention with pitch-shifted tones, ear-piercing upper frequencies and a gently metallic middle section. Anyone who finds that certain musical tones trigger responses in other senses will find much to occupy themselves with this one.
I guess the main thing that these sort of records do so well is to mess about with the audience’s perception of time. While you might sit there wondering just exactly what it is you’re listening to, the minutes are being bent around each stretched note and sound so that it’s hard to tell without looking at the times just how long or short these things run to; sometime feeling over in a heartbeat, sometimes flowing over an age. It’s all good stuff, and anyone looking for something a little bit different should check this out (and indeed anything else that Mr Ward has put his name to over the years, as “something a little bit different” is something he excels at)." 6dft
"New from the much admired Jezus Factory imprint is a collection of guitar based improvisations from Craig Ward. Entitled ’new third Lanark’ the set comprises of five suites recorded way back in November 2011 in a bedroom and brought to life by being run through a series of processing devices. For those not quite up to speed on these things – me included – a truncated view of Mr Ward’s resume would read one time memberships of Deus, Ih8 Camera, the summer of Mars, the love substitutes and the excellently named though quite possibly politically incorrect Elton Genocide. ’new third Lanark’ finds Mr Ward voyaging into territories more commonly associated with the likes of Wil Bolton, Yellow6 et al. ambient dream sequences hollowed out and sculptured into stilled glacial montages. Like passing visions in the night, Ward for the best part crafts a crystalline and mesmeric star twinkled lullaby suite drawn together by a waltzing courtship of bowed instruments and flotillas of spacey, celestial opines rippled in minimalist fanfares (as on the seafaring on lunar tides like title track ‘new third Lanark‘). Here you’ll encounter the bitter sweet ache of the forlorn drone swathes of ’the Tenant’ and the crystal tipped opaque splendour of the murmured ’tropic of bennett’. these cavernous leviathans sumptuously coalesce to manifest into all manner of lunar lilted tripping woozy montages on ’blazes as in Dixon’ wherein things take on a glorious spectral sci-fi route very much traversing a glacial axis as that found on the end credits for Barry Gray’s ’UFO’ score after that is having been flashed through the BBC Radiophonic sonic spectrum and tweaked, one imagines, by Louis and Bebe Barron. Darker still, the parting ‘Lemo’ spirit walks beyond the veil, or so it would seem, ghostly apertures, dislocated and fracturing chorals drifting momentarily through the ether, there’s a stilled elegant reverence present throughout though even that fact can’t help you dislodge the feeling that once submerged your adrift and floating in the minds sub-consciousness. Comes housed in a dinky looking digi pack sleeve replete with, as the press release points out, a portrait of a little boy on the front." Mark Barton, The Sunday Experience
"We’re reliably informed that the bearded middle aged, erstwhile dEUS guitarist, Craig Ward is as content as he’s ever been, residing in his Argyll home. The Scottish musician may have returned back to his native land and named an album after a long ago liquidated/dissolved, once proud, Glasgow football club, the Third Lanark A.C. (a meteoric climb to third place in the Scottish top league during the 60s, behind the winners Rangers and Kilmarnock, couldn’t prevent their finical demise in 1967), but Ward has travelled far and wide both in the literal sense and musically.
At one time or another, Ward has served time in a trans-European cabal of edgy, unruly underground bands, including Kiss My Jazz, The Frames, The Summer Of Mars, The Love Substitutes, Elton Genocide, iH8 Camera, True Bypass, A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen (featured here on the Monolith Cocktail) and collaborated with another Monolith favourite, Mark Mulholland.
Most of these projects have manifested in Belgium, and been released by the Antwerp label, Jezus Factory. Ward was originally invited to holiday in the Belgium cultural hub of Antwerp by Stef Kamil Carlens – of dEUS and Zita Swoon notoriety. This getaway soon turned into a long stay, as he first joined the first of many groups, beginning with Kiss My Jazz and as a replacement for Rudy Trouvé in dEUS (during the In A Bar Under The Sea and The Ideal Crashalbum recordings and tours). Leaving the band in 2004, Ward then moved through a litany of projects, which included a production credit alongside Steve Albani on The Frames’ album, For The Birds.
Though recorded in a Rotterdam attic during the winter of 2011, the maverick guitarist is only just releasing his solo debut. Possibly due to the scheduling problems and commitments faced by an artist working feverishly on so many albums at once, this stripped and sparse five-track instrumental suite would have found it difficult to compete amongst the rabble.
A strange mysterious conjecture of Popol Vuh’s Affenstunde and Guru Guru’s UFO, New Third Lanark is a suggestive ambient soundtrack into space. Though the song titles may allude to personal earthly themes and Scottish landscape, each moody low humming sound piece evokes both expansive surveys of inner meditative thought and alien worlds. Using only extemporized layers of obscured and shape shifting guitar notes and sustained effects, Ward tentatively builds his new horizons with the most delicate and purposefully poised of touches, drifting subtly between thoughtful lingering mystique and ominous trepidation.
From hovering over the, at first, becalmed ‘Tropic Of Bennett’, to the entrance of a sonorous, discordant looming presence of an object flying into our air space, to the telekinesis shifting movements and eerie atmosphere of ‘The Tenant’, it’s difficult to know exactly which emotive string is being pulled.
The titular track itself uses a real tangible reference to the fabled football team – set up by the Third Larnarkshire Rifle Volunteers in the 19th century –, yet again the textured callings of Ward’s cerebral guitar ascend toward an Ash Ra Tempel like higher plain of tubular hollowed monuments and trace the last communications of a dying message from deepest space. Or it could be a personalized empirical passage on the memory and loss of a football club.
Cryptic would be a good word to use as a summary; the narratives of electric guitar waned storytelling abstract but made meaningful enough to describe something at least partially concrete.
Once again Craig Ward manages to expand those ‘horizons’, with another interesting deviation from his more growled, industrial and fusion style renderings. Stripped bare and withdrawn, it won’t however suit everyone, even those familiar with Ward’s work, yet it’s a great record to indulge oneself in, a backdrop for the inquisitive." Dominic Valvona, Monolith Cocktail
Reviews for THE DRIVE TO TAXONOMY
“Freedom over expression is definitely the way forward and something Jezus Factory continue to provide with the latest project from Craig Ward & Radboud Mens’ ‘The Drive To Taxonomy’. Seemingly unable to switch off the creative thoughts accumulating in his mind, Craig Ward, who is known for his work with a diverse bunch of musical outfits including dEUS, Kiss My Jazz, The Frames, A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen and, more recently, a collaboration with Mark Mulholland, wheels out his latest release on a previously thought extinct format (i.e. cassette) as a limited edition, and with no real press release other than a discussion involving what constitutes as a ‘real’ record label these days. Driven by practicalities regarding the decision involving a cassette release, as well as moving away from the standard CD format for this particular occasion, ‘The Drive To Taxonomy’ consists of two sides of experimental, ambient, electronic music. The pulse is barely audible once the first side of ‘Parts 1, 2 & 3′ gets underway, with shards of light becoming visible gradually, and then made more prominent by bouts of droning and stabs of electronica that eventually breaks off into smaller pockets of sounds that bleep and whirr incessantly before finding their way to the surface. Side two is a coarser terrain, with electronic sounds jarring and fizzing, but most notable is the fullness given to the overall sound where segments are plumper in their expressions and the volume is given a boost, yet ever so sparingly. As with most instrumental efforts, individual interpretations will vary greatly such are its qualities to drum up different feelings with each and every listen. Therefore, ‘The Drive To Taxonomy’ is no different from such interpretations because its qualities are endless due to the many different levels this album inhabits.” Nathan Olsen-Haines , Famous Last Words
"I knew it wasn’t going to be an ordinary day. Not only did I manage to pick up some Philip K Dick anthologies in Oxfam and Karda Estra sent me their latest release inspired equally by 14th Century writer Giovanni Boccaccio and Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, but I also find the latest Jezus Factory offering at the top of my “to do” pile. Maybe today just exists in some sort of parallel existence, which would be very fitting indeed for what issues from my speakers.
Although not familiar with Radboud Mens, a quick search reveals his work is as much based in the area of audio-instillation-as-art, as much as it is in conventional recordings. Craig Ward, however, I am familiar with and associate his name with such a wide genre of music that you have to go into any album he is part of with a totally open mind.
The Drive To Taxonomy is a five chapter sound painting, the concept of conventional song structure is abandoned in any shape or form and what remains is an ever evolving sonic shape, dynamics that rise and fall at a glacial pace built round a central droning core sound. You could try to label the music but even terms such as ambient and mood music fall far short of what is being explored, here. This is sound manipulation rather than conventional composition, though there are more structured moments that could easily provide an alternative soundtrack to the ahead of its time Vangelis Blade Runner soundtrack.
This is really music with no middle ground. To one set of music consumers it will act as the perfect background sound, music to chill out to and consume through osmosis. At the other extreme the techno-geek will sit listening intensely, stroking his beard as he tries to figure out a way to emulate such otherworldly machine music. Either way it is like little you have heard before (other Jezus Factory releases excepted) sitting somewhere equidistant between the background hum of the universe, alien signals, the soundtrack to an acid trip and music as art." Dave Franklin, Dancing About Architecture
"You might know Craig from his work with an insanely diverse collection of groups that includes deus, Kiss My jazz, The Frames, The Summer Of mars, The Love Substitues, Elton Genocide, iH8 Camera, True Bypass, Mark Mulholland & Craig Ward and A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen", the press blurb tells me, and part of this text is also a mail conversation between Ward, Mens and the label, in which it is said 'you are the famous guitar player', and I am sure it's not Radboud Mens that is the famous guitar slinger. Him I do know, but I never heard of Craig Ward or any of his bands (and yes, I heard the name Deus before, not any of their music), which proofs once again: the more famous one is, the less likely I heard of it. Vital Weekly is, quite proudly, in a different galaxy, surrounded by it's own stars. Stars like Radboud Mens - once writing for these pages - who worked as Hyware and Technoise, and collaborated with a whole bunch of people like Roel Meelkop and Mark Poysden (both also writing for VW, so we create our stars indeed) but also Michel Banabila and Jaap Blonk. I had no idea what to expect here. I know Mens as someone who can create a fine piece of minimal techno as well as someone who takes apart any incoming sound source on his laptop and spread it out over the course of a fine ambient meal. That is what it is going here. Not unlike Mens' work with Dan Armstrong as Fitness Landscape (see Vital Weekly 804), Ward's guitar sounds are taken apart and fed through a whole bunch of computer plug-ins and what have you and cooked up in long pieces of repeating fields, clusters and isolated tones, slowly coming together in dense masses of sound. It's glitch-like of the ambient variety, which we perhaps don't hear enough anymore. Warm, most of the time, although the fifth and final (and longest) part is quite dark and atmospheric and doesn't have the similar light feel as the other pieces, which is nice; like another side of the coin. Beautiful, quiet music with a slight unsettling nature; that's the way we like things here on our own little planet." Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly
Reviews for THE HISTORY OF MUSIC: A MOSAIC
"Ever since that time when early bluesman Robert Johnson invited us all to come on in his, the kitchen has made regular appearances in the pantheon of contemporary music. It has variously been full of fire, rats, chickens and soul; a place of distinction, occasionally different and even somewhere to seek refuge at parties. And Craig Ward, Bootsie Butsenzeller and Paul Lamonthave drawn upon it not once, but twice to describe their musical collaboration. A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen is a name, deliberately chosen you would surmise, to give you absolutely no indication as to what you are about to hear.
A greater clue can be found in The History Of Music: A Mosaic, the title of their second full length album, for the eight tracks contained therein are an assemblage of sound they have plundered from a lineage largely dating from the free jazz movement of the early sixties to the proto-prog rock pyromania of the first part of the following decade.
Holed up in some Belgian bunker, the trio must have been force-fed a staple diet of John Coltraneand Ornette Coleman for extended periods of time because the influence of those two jazz greats courses through the veins of The History Of Music: A Mosaic. The title track is a dense, rapid slab of improvisation that for all of its apparently untethered chaos still remains firmly hinged to the concepts of harmony and movement.
Where ‘The History Of Music: A Mosaic Part 6’ does seek structure and a heightened sense of refinement in its avant-garde abandon, ‘Yellow’ dispenses with any such formalities choosing instead to head straight into that familiar Trout Mask Replica territory of squalling racket and untutored jazz. But just like Captain Beefheart’s masterpiece it does contain moments of fractured beauty when, and not for the first time, Ward’s guitar apes that of Robert Fripp. The blistering fury of Ward’s fretwork in the middle passage, right before the track melds into a clattering whirlpool of noise, must surely be a long lost relative of Islands’ frenetic ‘Sailor’s Tale’.
Yet long before ‘Yellow’ is upon us the bloodline to King Crimson has already become clearly apparent. As Crimson splintered into what was to become their last truly great line-up, A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen must have been on hand to rescue ‘Innocence Fading’ from the flames of a burning Starless and Bible Black. Whilst ‘Brown’ would not require any DNA testing to prove the paternity of the title track from Red, given that they both share the same family characteristics of a heavy guitar riff building up a relentless momentum into a truly glorious crescendo.
For all that The History Of Music: A Mosaic has been lovingly prepared and slowly brought to the boil in a melting pot of startling influence and clear derivation it still has enough individual capacity and downright chutzpah to hold its head high in the more modern world of avant noise-rock." Simon Godley, God is in the TV
"A Clean Kitchen is a Happy Kitchen are an art-noise rock trio from the countries Belgium, The Netherlands & Scotland, and this is their second full length release following the split 10” that they did with Silent Front in 2012. This is eight tracks of disjointed riffs, sometimes inaudible vocals and schizophrenic style mixes thrown in for good measure. An album with no intention to impress, but does so for that very reason.
‘Innocence is Lost’ kicks things off with glorious feedback that turns into one of the best sounding distorted guitar sounds to have ever graced my ears! It’s a good 40 seconds before the stomping bass and drums join the party for an outright jamfest, with effect-soaked vocals ranting away. Get ready for more madness along the way, as this is some head-fuckery that will leave you wanting more. And then some.
Trying to hear the drums in next track ‘My Sinister trousers’ is like trying to make out the shadows in a dark room that you’re looking at through a very small keyhole. They’re covered in layers of strings, guitars and synths like a blanket of fog in a dimly lit street, but soon make their way through - and as it all clears away, the last third transforms into a jazz-fuelled film noir soundtrack. Love it!
There’s a great mix of styles and genres here. ‘The History of Music: A Mosaic (Part 6)’ could easily fit onto Mr BunglesDisco Volante album as if it were an item of clothing passed on from one identical twin to another. 10 minutes of free-form prog that leads you through the unknown with no idea of where you’re going. And you’ll be thankful for it.
“Before you take a dump, check the quantity of paper left” is repeated on ‘Floyd Is Warped’ and is a great tip (that we should already know to be honest) for all. What starts with a sample of what could be someone’s Scottish granny chatting away is overlapped by guitars and drums that soon turns into a Shellac sounding groove fest that Steve Albini would definitely approve of.
Finishing things off , ‘Bed Bugs’ is the sound of a lounge act playing away in a sleazy underground bar full of criminals, hookers and dodgy cops. As cigarette smoke fills the air, all instruments slide down the walls and melt away into your conscience before slowly fading away into nothing.
This is an album that could very well be the cool kid at school that never gave a shit about being popular, and who did things his way – by his rules and his rules alone. A rewarding listen that you should definitely wrap your ears around as soon as you can!" Stephen Clarke, Echoes and Dust
"Even for a label that prides itself in releasing some of the most left of field records, the Jezus Factory excel themselves this time around with their latest twisted avant-metal-industrial-post-punk offering from A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen.
Unearthing psychedelic and electric kool-aid drunken malcontents from the underground Antwerp scene, the JF label goes beyond the Monsterism Island of Angels Die Hard (reviewed a couple of weeks back) and sweetened progressive folk of The Strumpets to beat the listener into submission with an anvil bashing, mangled maelstrom.
Formed by a rabble of Belgians, Danes and Scots, the group features Craig Ward (previous roles in The Love Substitutes, True Bypass, iH8 Camera and most famously, dEUS, and a production credit on The Frames ‘For The Birds’ with Steve Albini), a bloke – or typo on the part of the PR – called Butsenzeller (DAAU, Kapitein Winokio, Dóttir Slonza) and Paul Lamont (Hitch). They produce hardliner, gnarled, even painful, experimental rock.
Influenced by a wealth of awkward, far out and noisy doyens, from Beefheart to King Crimson(notably their later Red period), the trio embarks on an unnerving meander through a series of eerie empty industrial spaces and damp cellars (suggested by the dank, spooky atmosphere created on the album’s finale, ‘Bedbugs’). Essentially shaped and informed by growling, grizzled wailing guitar riffs and sustained lingering notes, and galloping jazz fusion drums, the album is often lumbering towards the edge but never quite threatening or serious (‘My Sinister Trousers’ as its names suggests, is a lark; a shapeless dEUS inspired mess of squealing rodents and whining).
What begins as a surreal esoteric, séance induced introduction to some old Scottish dear, either talking in tongues or acting as a vessel to the Venusians, grows into a proper space rock anthem. Launching off into a more stratospheric direction, ‘Floyd Is Warped’ (apparently!) could be the Stone Roses jamming with the Throbbing Gristle, and is the most rhythmic, melodic track on the whole album. The rest is…well, what you might call difficult. There are plenty of incantations and demonic muffled vocals, twisted through a megaphone effect, and plenty of strangulated horn sounds abstract noodling and repetitive incessant prods.
Sulky with a wry sense of its own miasma laden silliness, The History of Music: A Mosaicscratches out a fine line between the unnerving and heavy mental; transducing progressive jazz to their own bewildered ends – that’s a compliment by the way." Sean Parker, Monolith Cocktail
Reviews for WAITING FOR THE STORM
"But it is not the actual technicalities that give this album it’s greatest qualities, it is the less tangible factors that shape it, the ones that are hardest to pin down and rightly so. The mystique and medievalism, the late night jazz chill and the ephemeral and delicate nature of the sounds, the shadows that lie in the corners of the songs and the dark paths they sometimes weave are all as important, if not more so, than the musical structures and outer clothing being offered up." Green Man's Top 12 albums of 2012
"There is a bit of a theme running through the last few records on this list, although I promise that if it was intentional on my part, it was wholly subconscious. For sitting happily at the end of Waiting For The Storm is yet another childhood treat in the form of Chigley’s Biscuit Factory Beer-o-Clock signal The Six O’Clock Whistle, which leads me to hope that this record is the first part of a trilogy. That of course isn’t the only reason why I play this record constantly, the main reason being that this is an incredible baroque collection that fans of Nick Drake should be snapping up by the handful. Taking influences from all over the place and crafting them all into their own incredibly moving sound. At its heart though is a musical travelogue from these two Glaswegian guitarists who have bonded once more after growing up together and then spending their careers moving on their own separate roads, taking on different cultural influences along the way and then meeting up again to create their own musical definition of Home. It’s certainly Scottish in feel, but uniquely distilled into something rather special indeed thanks to the protagonists’ own travels and travails." Number 21 in 6 Days From Tomorrow's Top 50 albums of 2012
"Glaswegian singer-songwriter, and Haiti résident Mark Mulholland teams up with former deus man Craig Ward for an album of gentle exquisite beauty. The acoustic interplay inevitably recalls John Renbourn, and the duo describes this record as « their own take on the British folk tradition », but at times its jazzy undertones recall some of the gréât Windham hill guitar samplers, and, in the délicate vocal harmonies, a grumpier Simon and Garfunkel.
Recorded in Berlin, Antwerp, Rotterdam and Port-au-Prince, the duo is supported in marvellously unintrusive fashion byBelgian double bass player Hannes d’Hoine, and there’s a guest appearance by the Haitian poet, painter, playwright and actor Frankétienne for a vocal on « Les Belles Promesses ».
Seven of the ten tracks are Mulholland originals, with highlights including opener « Something on the Breeze » and the insistent guitar motif of « Icy Shivers » - two sides of a hugely impressive coin. Equally soi s Ward’s « A Strange Place », which carries an atmospheric, twisted blues-guitar figure reminiscent of Ry Cooder at his best.
A late night masterpiece to salve bruised souls, Waiting for The Storm will have you returning time and again, one of the best albums of the year" John Atkin, R2 (5/5)
"There is a remarkable and bold collaboration on an album by Scottish-born musicians Mark Mullholland and Craig Ward called Waiting For The Storm. The folk singers and guitarists are joined by 75-year-old Haiti poet and artist Frankétienne on the song Les Belles Promesses. Although not well known in the English-speaking world, artist and poet Frankétienne has star status in French and Creole-speaking countries and was rumoured to be on the short list for a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2009. Of the more traditionally folk songs, Secret Places and Watching You Sleep are dreamily strong, and there a sweet instrumental called The Six O'Clock Whistle." Martin Chilton, The Telegraph
"Scottish musicians channelling Bert Jansch and John Renbourn are thinner on the ground than they use to be, but Mark Mulholland and Craig Ward wax folk-lyrical with style on Waiting for the Storm. Mulholland, who now lives in Haiti, draws deep from the well of his adoptive homeland.
His invitation to Haitian poet Frankétienne to collaborate on the elegaic Les Belles Promesses lures his album onto another wistful, otherworldly plain. Elsewhere, Mulholland’s genteel vocals recall Sonny Condell in his Tír na nÓg days, with infinite guitar lines echoing the lyric long past nightfall.
At a time when songs must sell themselves on a handful of hearings, Waiting for the Storm wears its allegiances lightly, tipping its hat towards slide guitar blues on A Strange Place, with louche confidence the music will speak for itself – and yield hidden riches over countless return visits." Siobhan Long, Irish Times
"Waiting for the Storm reunites two boyhood friends whose musical paths have taken them on very different journeys. If the songs here seem like the natural, if chilled out, product of Mark Mulholland, a resident of scrunge-grass band Two Dollar Bash, Craig Wards appearance is less expected. More usually associated with experimentation and boundary pushing via bands such as dEUS, Kiss My Jazz and a whole host of Antwerp’s core alternative bands, maybe it is that curveball attitude that finds him here in the first place. Also in the mix is Hannes D’Hoine, one of the people behind This Immortal Coil’s Dark Age of Love, a wonderful tribute to This Mortal Coil, on double bass.
Obvious comparisons are to the likes of Drake, Jansch and Pentangle, dreamy baroque folk that is both timeless and otherworldly, a wonderfully subdued collection of songs built mainly on the interplay between two acoustic guitars, vocal harmonies and bass. And if it seems to come off on first hearing as a mood album, something to sit in the background in a fairly unobtrusive manner, the more you play it the more ambitious and atmospheric you will find it.
But it is not the actual technicalities that give this album it’s greatest qualities, it is the less tangible factors that shape it, the ones that are hardest to pin down and rightly so. The mystique and medievalism, the late night jazz chill and the ephemeral and delicate nature of the sounds, the shadows that lie in the corners of the songs and the dark paths they sometimes weave are all as important, if not more so, than the musical structures and outer clothing being offered up.
Case in point is Les Belles Promesses were the vocals are taken by Haitian writer Franketienne, delivered in presumably some Haitian dialect and by virtue of the language barrier to most listeners render the voice as an instrument that solos and riffs over lilting and hypnotic acoustic guitars but no less listenable for it’s lack of direct communication.
As they say on the penultimate track, it’s a “strange place to which we have come” but strange isn’t a bad thing, it’s just different, creative, challenging, intriguing, unique and in this case very satisfying." Green Man
Roving troubadours Mulholland and Ward started out as youthful friends in their native Glasgow but they’ve both wandered over many miles and through several musical adventures before getting together again to record this set of songs, their mature response to the British folk of the 60s and 70s that influenced them in their youth. It’s perhaps not surprising that the recordings for this album were made in Berlin, Antwerp, Rotterdam and Port-au-Prince, reflecting as it does the footloose life that these guys – Mark Mulholland in particular – lead.
The sound of this album is defined by the interplay of acoustic guitars from the main men, with Hannes d’Hoine’s marvellous double bass playing underpinning every track. There’s a jazz style to his playing, with a warm, sinuous expressiveness that adds depth and complexity to the relatively simple structures from which many of these tracks are built. I mentioned the twin acoustic guitars leading proceedings because that is the overall impression you’re left with, but I think that’s a mandolin picking out the main theme to The Six O’Clock Whistle (an instrumental), and that sounds like an electric guitar embellishing the hypnotic Strange Place. Other instruments are available, and are used. This latter track is Craig Ward’s song, and an amazing atmosphere is built around a repeated phrase (from Hannes d’Hoine, I presume) on the double bass. It’s the beautiful meshing of the three guys playing that is captivating as warm, liquid notes somehow convey comfort but also the dark hint of something threatening, almost simultaneously. In this way, the dark beauty of Nick Drake’s music springs to mind as a reference point.
Mark Mulholland contributes the bulk of the material and, if you’ve heard his work before, you’ll probably recognise his themes. His manifesto is right there in the opening song, Something on the Breeze: “I’m looking forward to looking back on the things I’ve left behind/From somewhere a little further down the line”. Living for the moment and ever restless for new experiences, his recent adventures have landed him in Port-au-Prince and the more febrile atmosphere in the tropical heat seems to haunt more than one of these songs. Paradoxically, this seems most apparent on Icy Shivers; “things that crawl and things that bite” he sings over a dark, slow-pulsing arrangement, “It’s a long, long time till the dawn”. I’ve found it difficult to enjoy Mark Mulholland’s singing in the past (he’s not the most tuneful, really) but on this album he’s found a way to make his singing fit the arrangements that works rather well. The lyrics come over as quiet musing, a response to the dark threads of the music. And that fits the vibe of the album. One song is a setting for a text by Franketienne, a Haitian writer, and I would guess the language is Haitian Creole – no translation offered though so you just have to go with the pleasing exoticism of the experience.
Mostly, though, it’s the music that really impresses, and the more I listen, the more ambitious the whole thing sounds. Each track has been built with such care and attention to detail that it takes greater familiarity to reveal all that’s there. You get taken to some dark places along the way on this album, which makes the understated joy of The Six O’Clock Whistle a rather special and memorable way of closing the whole thing. These three guys are just embarking on a long tour with this music, and I can imagine that it’s in the nature of the beast that they’ll find new things in it every night." John Davy, No Depression
"This has come as a bit of a turn-up for the books, and no mistake. Again, I was just browsing around – can’t even cite boredom as an excuse at the moment either as I have a stack of good and great recent records & reissues to plough through – and this did one of those inexplicable “standing out without really having a reason to do so” things that end up being far more intriguing than something that leaps off the page with bells and whistles. I suppose it’s my nature to find more fun in being inquisitive about the enigmatic rather than be excited about the obvious, so with that in mind I happily forked out for this one. And, as is the way with these things, I find myself once more pleasantly surprised by what arrived.
There’s a strange pathway that can be carved through people’s record collections sometimes where some of the more obscure artifacts can be linked through most of their shelfbound neighbours through reasons both obvious and spurious: I know of Craig Ward from True Bypass, who I know from Sleepingdog, who I know from A Winged Victory For The Sullen (with a swift diversion via Nu Nog Even Niet), and even that Matroyshka stacking doesn’t really scratch the surface given the myriad other bands and styles he’s dabbled in over the years. I must admit to this being the first time that I had come across Mark Mulholland, but a quick read of his site proved to be an interesting read and maybe a suggestion of how this record came about and also how it sounds.
Both musicians are Scottish, but their wings have spread – Craig spent many a year in Belgium (during which time he spent nine years in the company of dEUS) before returning to Glasgow, Mark is currently based in Haiti. Friends since their teens, their paths crossed more than a couple of times during their travelling years, although these many geographical shenanigans would go some way to explaining why Waiting For The Storm has taken a while to come to fruition: mooted in 2007, recorded in 2010 and 2011, and now released in 2012.
This time spent is evident throughout the record, as it’s an incredibly intricate and patient work. It’s also very Scottish in nature but containing hints and flavours of other countries and cities, suggesting a pooling of reminiscence for the two protagonists. Opening with the delicate Something On The Breeze, there is an unmistakable far-Northern folk feel to the gentle guitar playing, while the vocal melody and harmonies bring to mind the New York of Lou Reed and Simon & Garfunkel. Elsewhere, vocal melodies in All The Doors Are Open and Secret Places strike me as being somewhat Belgian in mood, reminding me of serene versions of passages from Creature With The Atom Brain’s first full album. There’s even room for some late-night deep Southern Blues, A Strange Place evoking everything that its title suggests.
There is a third element to proceedings here, and one that evokes the strongest musical memory: the double bass of Hannes d’Honne has a definite spirit of Danny Thompson about his playing, the spooky Icy Shivers in particular having something of Three Hours surrounding and breathing through it, and in general adding a level of gravity and thoughtfulness to the songs and intricate acoustic guitar playing of Mark and Craig, with the instrumental Black Sail especially benefiting. And finally, Haitian polymath Frankétienne contributes Les Belles Promesses (an excerpt from his 1998 book Voix Marassa), the septuagenarian artist adding his voice to his words to help create a strange and beautiful Creole/Celtic drama.
All in all, this is one of those unique records that feel as if you’re being taken on a journey – a feeling made all the more magical by not expecting that to happen. By the time The Six O’Clock Whistle (and I really do hope that’s a deliberate Chigley reference!) has ended, there’s certainly a feeling of distance travelled that sits well with the listener. Mark Mulholland and Craig Ward have made something rather unique thanks to their separate journeys, linked by a desire to share their origins. I’m looking forward to more musical postcards from them in the future." 6 Days From Tomorrow
"Mark Mulholland and Craig Ward go way back. In the 1980s, both were ungrizzled Scottish freshmen; teenaged guitarists coming up through roots music gigs in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Their paths have intersected many a time since then, while both clocked up the years and the experience – Mark with a brace of projects including the Berlin Americana band Two Dollar Bash, Craig most famously with dEUS (and spinoffs like The Love Substitutes), While this fuller collaboration was mooted in 2007, it wasn’t recorded until 2010 and 2011, and then went unreleased for a further year. In the meantime the intent hasn’t gone stale. If anything, it’s aged like a good whisky. This album might have been a while in coming, but it’s happily unstuck from the demands of time – just like any long friendship of the kind where a phone call and a kept date in a bar wipes away the years of separation.
Mark and Craig are upfront about their intentions. They’re reviving that strand of British “folk baroque” as played solo in the ’60s by Davy Graham and Bert Jansch, developed by John Renbourn and Danny Thompson in Pentangle, and performed in a shroud of mystique and withdrawal by Nick Drake. ‘Waiting For The Storm’ utterly recaptures that Witchseason glimmer – timeless, intimate and immediate, with the air listening in and the feeling that the songs are at the forefront of a push of story and message.
As guitarists and as singers, Craig and Mark are perfectly matched. Acoustic fingerpicking styles knit together in a generous skein of give-and-take, with each man providing varied electric textures as and where needed. Their quiet, rough-finished voices blur and separate in sighed harmonies, tinged with weariness, a little foreboding and some scarred-knuckle gentleness. Between them, Hannes d’Hoine plays double bass as if it were a straining mast, conjuring up deep thrums, solid gutsy plucking and ghostly bowed atmospherics. It’s very much a three-cornered exchange – almost telepathic in the players’ instinct to play just what is needed and no more.
As for the roots of the record, they drift – and no wonder. Though Mark and Craig are Scottish by origin, they’re wanderers by nature. The stoic discomfort blues of A Strange Place traces lightly over the angst of this lifestyle; the menacing weightlessness of its temporary, torn-up settlings. “Anyone entering this place they might say, / a strange place in which we belong…/ It’s a strange place we do run to, / a strange place to which we do run.” The slithering folk riffs and Simon & Garfunkel harmonies of Something On The Breeze raise up something more of home, via a Lowlands song of roaming and departure. (“Blowing through the open door that I have just walked through, / blowing me along to something new… / Looking forward to looking back on the things I’ve left behind, / somewhere a little further down the line.”)
Under even the dreamier-sounding songs, there’s a Scottish feel of hard lines: an undercurrent of poverty and menace dealt with stoically (“I see the cops on every corner, / people waiting ready to run. / Blue lights flashing out a warning – / someone’ll get hurt before the morning comes.”) Yet most of the underpinnings of the record come from one particular location: Mark’s current home of Port-au-Prince, in Haiti. Throughout ‘Waiting For The Storm’, Haiti breathes itself steamily into the mood and the music – mountains and stagnant creeks; tin roofs, heat and restlessness. There’s an occult foreboding here too, perhaps brought in by the business of living under the threat of capricious flooding, of drumming rain, or of violent passions swelling out of control. The answers flicker through the songs, half-seen, or viewed full in the face for an uneasy moment. Some of it’s more relaxed; simply sketches and shadings of place and time. The winding sea currents of All The Doors Are Open (with Hannes’ grasping bass anchoring the surges of meter) invoke summer-struck stupor and an urge for motion. “All the doors are open, cars go past outside. / Won’t you take me with you, take me for a ride?… / I gulp down the icy water, drowning in the heat. / Hills lean over the hazy sea, wheels turning to the beat.” The instrumental Black Sail travels in a wave-roll and a dark minor key, telling a wordless story: moods shift weather-wise like bands of sunset and lowering clouds, the accelerations and slowings of the guitars tracked point-by-point by Hanne’s bowed bass.
With the title track, however, more threatening moods gather. “See the vinyl spinning its strange pattern in my head / and I can’t help thinking about something somebody said…” Like a brooding canvas, Waiting For The Storm uses the old expressionist motif of threatening weather to illustrate roils in the spirit, but leaves us hanging and expectant. “The sky is getting darker and the glass begins to fall. / The flicker of the candle’s throwing shadows on the wall… / Siren in the distance, the evening air is cool. / The bottle’s almost empty and the ashtray’s nearly full. / Waiting for a moment when it all begins to spin – / voices in the darkness, waiting for the storm to begin.”
Although the Haitian setting offers ravaged scenery and wild elements aplenty, Mark and Craig are ultimately too subtle just to use it as an exotic stage. In their lean words, they imply that most of the trouble a nomad might find in places like these might actually have been brought along in his own baggage. Secret Places, certainly, is caught up in its own space – one of obsessive passion, affirming “there’s no after, no before, /each time we pass through this door. / Nothing matters anymore – / each moment burns more fiercely than the last.”
Haiti gets to speak for itself as well. Amid arco bass rumbles and a stew of electric guitar atmospherics and acoustic webbing, Les Belles Promesses sees Mark, Craig and Hanne take a step back so that Haitian laureate Frankétienne can take centre stage. Working in smouldering wreathes of text from his own ‘Voix Marassa’, the old man recites and declaims in an impassioned, mesmeric French Creole like a voudoun Baudelaire, calling out razors and toadstones, sickness and fire, rocks and struck matches. “L’acidite de l’ombre… l’obsession des long voyage impermanences au bout du sexe, la passion du danger dans le sang, la fascination de riske… au-dessus du desastre.” Even at its height it remains honest, clear about the swings of raw fraught instinct.
So it is that the remaining two songs are left to their own devices. Icy Shivers comes from the armpit of a bad night – a circling lick; scribbling, edgy double bass harmonics; and moonlight-drop electric guitar, both ominous and omen-ous. “Things that crawl and things that bite / my thoughts as black as the sky tonight – / oh, it’s a long, long time until the dawn… / Dead of night the city sleeps – / waters still, a bargain deep.” Elsewhere, in Watching You Sleep, the devils are scratching away at a hard-won peace. Mark sings, as soft as anything, the pillow talk of a devoted lover – “you, your head lying on my shoulder, hear you breathing soft and clear. / I don’t care about tomorrow just as long as you are here,” – but hints at darker things abandoned in order to find and keep this haven. Even if they’re not stalking after him, there’s still a haunting. “I put the key in my pocket / and walked away from what came before. / A tune was running through my head / a song I can’t remember anymore. / I heard the sounds that go round the valley / hints of something far behind. / Something I wasn’t aware of losing / now I keep on trying to find.”
As other people’s violence stirs in the street, Mark’s narrator feels the pull of it and with a quiet, heartbreaking determination he asserts his love over rage. “I don’t want to go and get in a fight / I just want to stay with you tonight… / Don’t want to make nobody cry, / I just want to watch you where you lie.” The words are simple or even banal on the surface. The sentiments behind them, as sung, are subtly devastating. A reedy fuzz of electric guitar solo, one of the only ones on the record, seals the deal with hulking, sweating fingers.
There is an eventual respite from this darkness. Full of chuckling mandolins, The Six O’Clock Whistle is a jaunty folk instrumental with a hint of a reel (plus a nod and a wink to the childhood innocence of ‘Chigley‘). Sitting at the end of the record, it lifts the pressing atmosphere of the rest of the songs, drawing you away from the mesmeric night of memories, fancies, booze and shadows. Still, it’s the latter that remains with you: a baroque spell of sketchy lines, disquiet and stirred emotions, with some lines flapping free and others coiled too tight. A magical listen." Dann Chinn, Misfit City
"There seems to be a bit of a folk revival on at the minute. That British kind of folk that was massively popular in the late 60’s and early 70’s, Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention et all. Fleet Foxes and Midlake seem to have taken up the mantle and Mulholland and Ward seem to have followed suit.
Album opener, ‘Something on the breeze’, well written and nicely played, sets the tone for the rest of the album. Sparse, dreamlike, intricate musical arrangements, played with skill and lots of feel, so much so that the vocals sound layered to support the music, rather than the other way round. This isn’t particularly a criticism, just different. ‘All the doors are open’ follows suit and then the haunting instrumental ‘Black sail’. Most of the album has duel vocals, quite a difficult thing to achieve when the two voices are both male, and of a similar texture. But the two manage to pull it off quite well. The excellent ‘Secret place’, ‘Icy shivers’ and the unusual ‘Les belles promesses’, complete with French dialogue, and then, title track, ‘Waiting for the storm’. It’s not until track 9, ‘A strange place’, that we hear a solo voice, and although not the strongest, it is distinctive and so draws the listener in. Final track, ‘The six o’clock whistle’ a gorgeous, uplifting instrumental piece that dances, joyously out of the speakers, as if freed from the toils of a hard days graft. It may have been a conscious decision to put the two, more unusual tracks, at the end of the album but I can’t help feeling they could have been used to better effect elsewhere, to show more of the diversity that this duo possess. All in all, a good album that grows with each listen, and for those who like their folk dark and tense, this one is for you." Les Glover, Mudkiss
"Friends since their youth when both were playing in bands in and around Edinburgh and Glasgow during the tail end of the 1980′s Mark Mulholland and Craig Ward musical journeys have seen them brought together at various points including working together on Mulholland’s band Two Dollar Bash third album Lost River which Ward produced, Ward then toured with band in North America in 2007, during this time they planted the seeds of a an idea to record an album together, drawing inspiration from their shared love of influential British folks icons Pentangle and Nick Drake. Over a series of recording sessions in Berlin, Antwerp and Rotterdam Waiting for the Storm took shape, featuring ten orignal tracks, including a pair of instrumentals the album has been released by Berlin label Cannery Row Records and London-based Jezus Factory Records, Mulholland is currently residing in Haiti where is working on a number of projects that include a collaboration with Frankétienne a renowned poet, dramatist, painter and actor, who makes a guest appearance on the album on a spoken word piece." Beat Surrender
"Walt Whitman once wrote 'There was never any more inception than there is now'. Waiting for the storm is a collaboration of two artists, each bringing together their deepest values and purist confessions.
Mark Mulholland and Craig Ward have known each other since adolescent and since beginning personal careers in the music industry, have crosses paths at various points within the past few decades. Personally, this in itself is poetic and the basis for a long lasting friendship and potential partnership.
There is something beautiful about hearing a musician fret slide across the neck of a guitar. Second to appear on the delightful album; 'All the doors are open', offers beauty at its purist with peaceful riffs and the sense of complete contentment.
The introduction of 'Secret Places' has nothing more than a soothing and beautiful guitar instrumental piece while lyricism is taken back to basics with rhyming couplets, Mulholland takes lead with his rough and vigorous vocals.
Mulholland and Ward have put everything they have into this beautiful compilation, proving that albums like this should be given the recognition they deserve; it is very common for artists like this to slip between the cracks.
This fine album was mastered in city of Berlin, perfectly crafted, though still has the air of a old recording, as though recorded on a reel to reel, few songs have such depth that background influences are placed accordingly, whether a mistake or not; it makes the album astounding." Louise Draper, Fatea
"Mark Mulholland and Craig Ward have a number of bands and many years of making music between them, and can trace their friendship back over twenty years. Both have a great affection for the late sixties folk sound of groups like Pentangle, and are admirers of that great wave of British folk guitarists - Graham, Renbourn, Jansch et al - and it this mutual interest that "Waiting for the Storm" celebrates.
With the addition of Hannes d'Hoine on double base they make a more than credible bid to fit right into that folk-jazz milieu: you could easily be fooled into thinking this was some long lost minor release from the heyday of Transatlantic or Island The playing is uniformly good, and on several songs there are licks which mirror or reference well known songs by Pentangle or Davey Graham - on "All the Doors are Open" they even echo Crosby's "Guinevere". The playing style is very much a blend of the aforementioned guitarists, so it moves elegantly and is easy on the ear - particularly good are the two instrumentals "The Black Sail" and "The Six o'clock Whistle". There is some tentativeness round the vocals on some of the songs and though they aren't anything stunning there's nothing wrong with them, as is revealed when they bite the bullet and let their singing voices shine a little more such as on "Secret Places". It is the guitar playing that will linger in the mind though. It's curious though - this slightly jazzy sound once would have been the cutting edge of folk, and now it appears as a solid set of mature songs. Is that such a bad thing for a mature set of musicians to produce? I don't think so, and it's refreshing to hear someone playing this style straight without shovelling on musical gewgaws for adornment. " Jonathan Aird, Americana UK
"Both Mulholland and Ward have long and varied careers which encompass playing with and in variety of musical projects. They got together over a mutual love for the music of Pentangle and Nick Drake and others of the English folk club scene.
The duo are joined here by double bassist Hannes d'Hoine to create a tapestry of guitars underscored by the sonorous, dexterous bass. They mix skilled instrumentals with subtle and gently-voiced songs written largely by Mulholland with a couple of contributions from Ward. This is the sort of music ideally suited to a live listening room or to a quiet sitting
room, where its ambience can fill the room and even allow reading or another quiet pastime whilst absorbing the playing skills of the participants.
The music made by the duo is subtle, and as such, is not going to make too many waves in the music world. Rather, it exists in its own space, one that will be of interest to those who appreciate music on a different level to that which requires hype or decibels to make its point. Whilst awaiting the storm you can enjoy that which comes before in the company of some fine players and their collective music." Lonesome Highway