You can tell that an unusual mindset is at the heart of this new album. Holes opens with a stream of consciousness sparked off by a hole in a solar panel that was deeply troubling Graham Browning at the time, and as he leaps from one issue to another throughout the song. Hugh Nankivell creates a rolling piano soundscape that develops into an achingly beautiful song featuring elegant trumpets and French horns for an extensive journey taking in religion, duck feeding and online dating.
It’s a perfect introduction into a collection of songs that are going to cover a fantastic array of sadly underused subject matter including tongue & groove floorboarding, Twixes, buttocks, rhubarb, Travelodges and the manifesto of the Ouvroirde Literature Potentielle. All this is, ideally, absorbed in the old fashioned manner of listening through an album (which is available in a limited vinyl edition).
This is a lockdown album that includes commentary on living in the strangest of circumstances and how it affects the human condition. The Canterbury sound is noticeably present in much of the album and it would be no surprise at all if a track or two ended up being covered by Robert Wyatt in the future. Fowl is a collaboration of Graham Browning, of Huddersfield’s Graham Browning Trio, and Hugh Nankivell in Torquay, Devon who is an associate artist of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. They have been working by sending ideas of words and music back and forth, creating the basis to invite fellow musicians such as drummer Ben McCabe, Chris Dowding on Trumpet and Andy Williamson (who has played his saxophone with Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, Suggs and Tom Robinson, amongst others) who, emulating bindweed for a song of the same name with his three saxes, winds into ever increasing knots around the words. Even Hugh’s son Laurie (from post punk band Squid) contributes some cornet playing for Nailed, an exploration of being locked in.
Fowl came about from an earlier collaboration between Hugh and Graham, for a Radio 3 programme back in 2002, and they have used the lockdown to musically reacquaint themselves, and as they explain; “the spirit of composition was: Here’s some words, here’s some music, let’s see how they go together.”
And it’s a fascinating collection of songs. At times truly beautiful, at others challenging and full of bonkers humour whilst poetically wrestling with existential musings on life today. It’s entertaining throughout. A highly recommended listen.
01. Holes (5:57)
02. Mountain (3:57)
03. Nailed (6:04)
04. Humankind (5:46)
05. Bindweed (3:46)
06. Directors (3:31)
07. Knotweed (4:16)
08. Rules (3:51)
09. Geese (7:06)
10. Daffodils (2:48)
Total Time – 47:02
Graham Browning – Vocals, SA-46, Acoustic Guitar
Hugh Nankivell – Vocals, Piano, Celeste, Harpsichord, Viola, Op-1, Electric Guitar, Recorders, Glockenspiel
Richard Evans – Bass, Mixing & More (tracks 1,2,3 & 4)
Ben McCabe – Drums, Backing Vocals, French Horn (tracks 1,2,3 & 4)
Chris Dowding – Trumpet (track 1)
Laurie Nankivell – Cornet (track 3)
Pat Allison – Guitar, Backing Vocals (tracks 1 & 2)
Andy Williamson – Baritone, Tenor & Alto Saxophones (track 5)
Wildebeest & Geese as Themselves
Record Label: Baby Black Rhino Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 26th February 2021