Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Paul Roland - Grimm

Following on from his two most recent albums, Re-Animator and Nevermore, which, respectively, took the works of H. P. Lovecraft and Jules Verne as their literary starting points, Paul Roland's latest album is a collection of songs that rework stories by the Brothers Grimm in an appropriately dark folk manner. I've mentioned before here that, since being sent a copy of Re-Animator by Black Widow Records a few years back, I've become a huge fan of Paul's work and, aside from the latest releases, I've enjoyed the Demos collection that was released a year or so back and the excellent sequence of reissues that Syborg Music have been putting together. To tell you a little story about that, I had to drive from Cornwall to Cheltenham for a business meeting last month – a journey I've made several times recently and know like the back of my hand. This time, it might have been that I was driving more slowly than normal and got into a rhythm that took my concentration away, or it might have just that I'd been mulling things over in my mind, but likely it was that I was sharing the journey with Syborg's twofer CD of A Cabinet of Curiosities / Happy Families and enjoying again the company of 'Walter the Occultist' and the eccentricities of 'Wyndham Hill', not to mention the old school humour of 'Best Years of our Lives' that caused me not only to fail to spot the two Gloucester exits on the M5 that I watch out for in anticipation of the Cheltenham exit, but also the Cheltenham exit itself... finally picking up the thread of the journey with Cheltenham behind me and Tewkesbury on the exit sign. Absorbing are the music and words of our Mr. Roland.

Grimm seems to be part of a period of prolonged creativity in the music field (Roland is also a successful author), I talked to him a while back for an article that's unfortunately yet to see publication and he was at that point enthusing about projects that he felt where the most prominent on his radar... this one, of course, but also "one that's going to be very British, but 40s, 50s Britain: seedy, boarding house, end-of-the-pier Britain. Then there's a revisionist history of the Wild West, the true story of Wyatt Earp, or Doc Holliday's deathbed confession. I've got to be careful, an Englishman can't sing about the Civil War! It wouldn't be authentic and part of my modus operandi is to always be authentic." I love the sound of both of those and very much hope that they'll be in the pipeline.

But I also had the chance to ask Paul about both Grimm, while it was still in its formative period, and his other interests. "It's based on the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, but the original versions not a fluffy, Disney, version. I don't write for other people, I write for myself but it's the writer part of me, like a film director... I'm making all these little movies for people to listen to, a writer, even one who is associated with a particular genre, like M. R. James and ghost stories or H. G. Wells with science fiction, they always did other things. I have my centre that I gravitate towards, this Victorian or Edwardian thing, but I know I've done it a lot and I have to say something new to say if I do another like that. I recorded one track in the space rock vein, 'Journey to the Centre of the Mind', and I was going to put it on the Demos album but it sounded too finished so I held it off."

This is one is definite step away from what Paul's been doing with his recent work, a very stripped-down affair that's nonetheless rich in atmosphere and textures and which, as Roland notes, captures what I understand and at points recall the tone and style of the Brothers Grimm to have been. He's working almost on his own here, where other releases have been full band recordings with a guest appearance on backing vocals by Rosie Eade and some spoken word interludes from closer to home, Michael and Joshua Roland. I enjoy the way that this creates an intimacy to the songs, so that they become very much the cautionary folklore being repeated to an intimate audience on a cold winter's eve. The words are ones that have resonance with that sense of traditional story, on the delightful 'Rapunzel' evoking that 'over the hills and far away' idea... "if you wait you wait in vain and here you must remain." It's the folklore of the "malformed man and wife" whose "limbs were as curved as their black cat's spine." It's the King and his firstborn son, 'The Devil's Bride', wearisome companions and forest paths, it's the Grimm stories that you'll be familiar with and those that perhaps you'll know less well, or want to uncover, as part of listening and absorbing this collection.

"I can hardly believe it myself after the long delays which saw the trolls toiling deep in the dark forests of Germany hewing out the pits in each individual compact disc with their tiny chisels one track at a time," Paul noted on his latest newsletter. "But it's true. And as I live and wheeze it's a mighty fine piece of work, if I may say so, having played every instrument on it myself and even engineered the recording in my own studio at World's End. But I can put my hand on both my hearts and say it's exactly the way I wanted it to sound, so I hope you will agree it is a welcome addition to the Roland discography." This one can be purchased direct from the Paul Roland Appreciation Society, PRAS, at the price including postage of £ 12 GBP (or €15 euros) and payment can be made via PayPal to the PRAS email address: rolandtowers [@] hotmail.de (remove brackets of course when using this address).

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1 comment:

JephraimToe said...

Thanks, good to have a new one from Paul Roland. I first heard him years ago with his hit 'Wyndham Hill', and then got swept away by all his musical story-telling. As a Hawkwind fan I also found him to be a similar kind of artist as Robert Calvert, although with different obsessions. Looking forward to hearing this one..