sometimes you come across a book that is so absorbing 'nothing' can pull you away from it, or so i thought as i sat in a cafe at terrible beach, my head buried into the pages of the history of prussian blue, the colour.
i mean it probably sounds very boring to the average reader but far from it. the book itself starts with reportage of the amphetamine's used by the german high ranking officials in the nazi party, through to the suicide of hundreds of officers and citizens, with cyanide based drugs which leave a tinge of blue traces on the skin, into the ancient production of paints using insects as a base, right into the advent of prussian blue in painting. it's fascinating and every paragraph held so much information i could feel my mind devouring the journey through history and science , especially when it came to the story of conrad dippel whom swedenborg describes as, 'the wickedest of demons,' and indeed dippel sounds like one of the forgotten interesting personalities in a history you feel quite grateful didn't exist at the same time you do.
then i get an unexpected message from a friend i have not seen in ages, and an invite to pop in and say hello and suddenly putting down my book becomes the easiest thing in the world.
as far as recording studio's go 'damien gerard sound studio' is the perfect place to record if you enjoy an unassuming comfortable environment and space where you could literally pack an orchestra into the recording room.
the whole place has excellent energy, part industrial and part embedded in nature despite me feeling like i was in newark nj on the drive through the towns sprawl.
i met steve outside, it's wet and cold, perfect conditions to record under seeing as though the beaches would be closed as wild weather interrupts what has been a typical sydney spring.
the insides are huge, in fact compared to most control rooms i have been in, this is a perfect space with a great view into the large studio space below. i meet ash whom is a recent church member and the producer (andrew?) who seems to be multitasking a number of roles in front of a mixing desk.
i'm also introduced to the glorious rachel whom instantly makes me feel comfortable and relaxed.
as i am being introduced a song is on playback, and my selective hearing overrides the other sensory sources because what i am in fact hearing is... the church.
you will be pleased to know the sound is classic church, obviously that's going to be an ambiguous statement but the music and lyrics encapsulate everything i love about the band. the quality of the sound is excellent as i distinguish between the various guitars and tim's unique drumming and percussion, that little roll i hear is perfect. a very underrated drummer in my humble opinion, plus there's piano which i find always adds a layer of interest to the band. i think it's why i love 'after everything' so much, piano on some church songs really give songs an extra dimension for the listener. the guitars move along, in classic church mode, bleeding into one another, layering, creating ambient sounds, drones and textures, forming new tones and there's steve's base which exudes a style of his own and therefore a unique sound. not being technical i have no idea how he gets that particular tone but it's got that pumping rhythm and groove that makes the music move forwards and defy gravity. throbbing, is a word that springs to mind, like the subtle pulse of a spaceships drive. lyrically, obtuse as ever, and just when you think you may understand what steve is singing about it becomes something else.
ash, is recording a guitar part, and adding something to the outro, steve offers a few parameters and ash delivers, he nails the parts completely and they sound quite brilliant as we listen back.
i don't know quite how musicians do this but this is what makes a band a band. it's not like a painter who is singularity adding to a canvass. in a band there's a blend of influences and inspirations and steve has picked the best complementary musicians for this new incarnation of the church. don't be alarmed readers, the magick is not just still there, it's now radiating out on a wave of cosmic energy.
two years of lockdown hell, two years of disruption and chaos, two years of global weirdness, pandemics, politics, police brutality, health discrimination and tensions, control and restriction. and now we have a new church record. its sudden liberation baby. the light at the end of the tunnel as far as i can see. a new church record is like the rite of spring. time for rebirth, rejoice and celebration. if you are anything like me, i've been hanging out for this.
creativity, beauty and expression is the antidote for modern times. the church encapsulate the very essence of intelligence in music. this is not rock and roll, but it's not genocide, it's expansion.
this album was written two years ago and is concluding now.
steve told me he writes the words in the studio, well after the music is complete. imagine that, i always thought it was the other way around!
we chat about the evolution of the church band and he simply suggests the church are just an idea he had a long time ago, then he shared the idea with others who believed in it and they came and went, but the idea is still alive in the present members and steve, the original member who carries the flame. i'm reminded of those candles where the middle one lights the ones around it. at the centre of it all is a great creative force, seriously, you think steve kilbey is prolific, wait till you see what he has in the pipeline. lots to look forwards to and music is just a fraction of his output.
i hear the amazing song ash has just added the final guitar parts to, it's beautiful, one of those church songs you do not want to end.
then as steve plays me the opening song to the new album, and i listen to it in silence, it's epic, we all agree, very hawkwind inspired but with that edge that steve sometimes sings with, a commanding voice and beckett like lyrics, 'ascension' ascends ever onwards and upwards in the spirit of space rock.
then the closing tune, 'second bridge' and this one is a total surprise, the opening bars are completely unexpected and immediately captivating, all expectation shattered. this is different and new, exciting and very rich.
what am i listening to here?
it's all to big, overwhelming, like the sonic version of the big bang and i'm thinking what words describe this to the reader, it's thoroughly original. Very ambitious. i can hear some frames of references but i don't know if they are real or just my mind looking for an anchor to use as a reference point. it's got a bit of the beatles, mostly george harrison, but it's bigger, denser with a slow build up to a crescendo of sounds. i wonder what holds all this together, and it's again that combination of individuals whose sum is greater than their parts. that's the ingredient that makes certain bands so amazing.
one thing about the church music is steve never insults his audience with banal, formulaic songwriting, the music is interesting enough to challenge good musicians and alert listeners. the band assume their listener has some intelligence and enjoys being challenged via songs, not just played on the radio once and forgotten because each play is it's own reward and there's always something new to discover.
so, what else can i share. i'm very excited to hear the completed work, i know all church fans will fall in love with it. there is no doubt in my mind this will gain a lot of respect. it's certainly rich enough to maintain mystique and there's a linear feel to the production that's coherent and elegant, which is kinda what you want on a record. i think this may be the big one. i feel it's potential in the three tunes i heard. the church have always been incredibly generous to their followers. long concerts packed with songs spilling over, amazing extra discs, steve kilbey always gives 100% and this new album is equally as generous. a lot of thought has been put into making it, and i would go out on a limb and say, this album, is going to be very special. i can feel it in my bones and based upon what i heard.
so a big thank you to rachel, ash (a very lovely soul) and producer extrodinare for letting me sit in. it really was lovely to meet you all. and finally steve, whom has always been an inspiration to me.