Published on 1st September 2019
Charlie Cawood – Blurring Into Motion
This is Charlie Cawood’s second solo album. Unlike The Divine Abstract, his first solo album, which took several years to write and record, this one came about more quickly.
Not only is Charlie the bassist with Knifeworld and Lost Crowns, guitarist with Tonochrome, multi-instrumentalist and co-arranger for quirky classical choir Mediæval Bæbes, and a member of “Psychedelic-Gamelan-Trip-Hop-Dub” band My Tricksy Spirit, he is a practitioner of “World Music”, a journalist and part-time guitar teacher in workshops and at the London Centre of Contemporary Music. I have to say, so that you know where we stand from the off, I have immense admiration for Charlie even though he’s such a bloody slacker.
When he’s performing with Knifeworld or Lost Crowns, Charlie Cawood is most definitely part of the rock world. In his own work, he reveals his contemplative, sensitive self. In conversation, if you speak quietly and softly, then the listener must concentrate on what you have to say. This is a softly spoken album. It takes time to get to know the devil in the detail. Beautifully recorded, subtly mixed, what comes out of the speakers sounds to me like a faithful representation of what the instruments would sound like if you were in the room with them. There’s nowt shouty about Blurring Into Motion. It is an intimate presentation. It should be listened to with your eyes shut, no distractions. Probably through headphones.
The music flows softly from simple beginnings, but there’s complexity. At first, I struggled to find hooks and tunes. It all sounded beautiful, so it didn’t matter. Later I thought I detected multiple overlapping tunes in the same song. There’s a gentleness in the choice of instrumentation and arrangements yet there’s still subtle tension and resolution. One look at the album credits gives a clue that you are not in for songs played by some hard-rocking amigos. Percussion is subtle, almost implied, as rhythm predominately comes from the layering and interweaving of the instruments and the choice of tempos and time signatures. I started to look to add information about each of the players, but this review would certainly step into ‘Too Long Didn’t Read’ territory.
Charlie makes the most of this wonderful collection of musicians, many of whom are regular members of symphony orchestras. All but two songs are instrumental. Falling Into Blue makes wonderful use of Iamthemorning’s Marjana Semkina’s vocal talents. Her harmonies mixed in with flute are quite simply, lush.
Charlie’s music has been brought to life by experts in their field. The beauty of this album, however, goes beyond the technical marvel of the performances. Good music makes you think, sets a mood, sparks your imagination, fills you with wonder. We search to express what is going on inside us. That’s where the Clichés creep in when we describe music: “from the heart”, “from the soul”, because, well, I for one don’t have sufficient vocabulary to describe music. Inevitably, good composers do so from the heart and mind – where we really exist. The point is, their music comes from within.
But this music, jolly on the surface, clandestinely visits darker places. Charlie, quite rightly, sees no stigma in depression and says that this album reflects his moods: “I’m quite open about my mental health”, he told me, “and it very much informed this album”.
The song titles hint at, if not reflect Charlie’s mental health over the period during the album’s making. Despite the overall gentleness, there is a patina of melancholy throughout the album. The titles suggest that he explores certain grand themes; Space, time… existence. There’s a certain unsettling negativity in his deliberate choice of words that contrasts with the overall uplifting feel of most of the album. “The Dark Within” (sporting a jazzy, 7/8, double-bassy vibe), “time”, “abyss”, “blue”, “Between Two Worlds”.
For example, Flicker Out Of Being. Marjana Semkina returns, her voice weaves in and out of the instruments and I am struck by how positive this feels, despite my darker inference of the song’s title. The song that most sparked my imagination is Voice of Space. As we all know, the ‘Voice Of Space’ is the Cosmic background radiation – the static we hear on a badly tuned radio – the left-over echoes of the big bang, the beginning of creation – this fills me with wonder. If, as certain religious texts suggest, the stars are hosts to Heaven, then if space, being cold and mostly empty, has a voice then I imagine that heaven’s voice can only tell a tale of beauty and melancholy and emptiness.
Charlie Cawood builds a picture with notes and keys and modes and moods. There is enormous catharsis in making or listening to music when we can attribute our own feelings and emotions to what we hear. Do we need to know exactly what it means to him? Elucidation takes away some of the mystery, and we need some mystery in our music, for example, Jon Anderson’s whimsical words are the catalyst of imagination. Does it help to know that in writing: with “Sister bluebird flying high above, though you’ve seen me, just look after my soul”, he was alluding to an ever-present guardian angel? I don’t think so. Charlie has used Blurring Into Motion to paint a mental picture – but it’s for you. It’s your mental picture.
Evidently Blurring Into Motion makes me think, sets my mood, sparks my imagination, makes me wonder!
How will it make you feel?
01. Dance of Time (5:03)
02. The Stars Turn (3:59)
03. Falling Into Blue (2:36)
04. Abyss of Memory (3:05)
05. The Dark Within (3:30)
06. Blurring Into Motion (3:30)
07. From Pure Air (4:50)
08. A Severed Circle (4:36)
09. The False Mirror (3:29)
10. Flicker Out Of Being (4:27)
11. Between Two Worlds (4:49)
12. Voice of Space (6:36)
Total Time – 50:30
Charlie Cawood – Guitars, Basses, Handclaps
Marjana Semkina – Vocals (tracks 3 & 10)
Alice Barron – Violin
Georgia Hannat – Violin
Maddie Cutter – Cello
Robyn Hemmings – Double Bass
Julie Groves – Flute, Piccolo
Emily Susanne Shapiro – Clarinet
Ben Marshall – Cor Anglais
Robyn Hemmings – Contrabassoon
Lucy Brown – French Horn
Nathaniel Dye – Trombone
Maria Moraru – Piano
Elen Evans – Harp
Beibei Wong – Vibraphone
Catherine Ring – Glockenspiel
Evan Carson – Bodhran, Percussion
Steve Holmes – Minimoog, Bass Synth
Composed and orchestrated by Charlie Cawood, except Falling Into Blue and Flicker Out Of Being
Music by Charlie Cawood & Marjana Semkina; lyrics by Marjana Semkina
Produced by Charlie Cawood and Amir Shoat
Engineered and mixed by Amir Shoat
Original cover art by Mark Buckingham
Record Label: Bad Elephant Music
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 6th September 2019