Posts Tagged ‘Fabian Prynn’

Elena Tonra of Daughter resumes her Ex:Re moniker to present a reinterpretation of her debut solo album. “Ex:Re with 12 Ensemble”, released today, is a collaboration between Tonra, classical composer Josephine Stephenson and one of the UK’s leading string orchestras, 12 Ensemble.  Originally released in 2018, Ex:Re (pronounced “Ex Ray” and meaning “regarding Ex”) laid bare Tonra’s unfiltered internal monologue after the end of a relationship.  Containing her most personal lyrics to date and brought into being with the help of Stephenson and producer/drummer Fabian Prynn, Ex:Re struck a chord with the broken-hearted and brought closure to a chapter in Tonra’s life.

Ex:Re with 12 Ensemble reimagines and complements its predecessor.  It was recorded by Fabian Prynn during performances at Kings Place (the multi-arts venue in London’s King’s Cross neighbourhood) on the 30th November 2019, where Tonra was joined onstage by Stephenson on piano and the 12-piece string orchestra, 12 Ensemble.  

Josephine Stephenson, a celebrated composer, arranger and performer, was approached by Kings Place to curate an event for their “Venus Unwrapped” 2019 season.  Stephenson saw space in the programming for a live performance that bridged the gap between the classical and non-classical worlds, and having recently been involved with Ex:Re, collaborating once more with Tonra made perfect sense.

Stephenson’s new arrangements of the original Ex:Re album into classical form strip back the songs, heightening the emotion and vulnerability of the lyrics.  “Working with acoustic instruments was an opportunity to add subtle, yet tangible dynamic details to highlight Elena’s words.  As the Ex:Re songs are often built from loops, I enjoyed exploring the multitude of possible variations and reinventions within these, adding counter-melodies and making small changes in harmony or voicing.  After touring with the Ex:Re band for a year, I knew the songs inside out, and had already started expanding and orchestrating them in my head. I  also felt fearless knowing I was writing for the 12 Ensemble, who are all exceptionally talented musicians and comfortable in all sorts of genres.“

Tonra and Stephenson found respite in the recordings months after the Kings Place performance.  “We were mixing the record while concerts and events around the world were being cancelled and postponed, so it was really moving to listen to the audio over and over during that time.  The sound of a room filled with people was, and is, something we were all greatly missing” says Tonra.  Ex:Re with 12 Ensemble, mixed by Jonathan Lefèvre-Reich, warps the space between audience and performer.  It places the listener in the centre of the music, surrounded by a semi-circular wall of string sounds, to recreate the experience of the performance from up close.  “There is also some magic in there” says Tonra, “Jonathan added some beautiful moments of story-telling in the mix.  On ‘New York’, for example, the strings suddenly feel as though they are dripping down the sides of your head.”

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Douglas Dare is a pianist and singer who has worked with percussionist and producer Fabian Prynn to create, on his debut album “Whelm”, a series of mournful ballads, some of them wholly unadorned, others set in a rather more glitchy and electronic context  He can sound deeply old-fashioned and utterly contemporary, like Elton John one minute and James Blake the next. Some of the songs could be latterday versions of John compositions with Bernie Taupin, others are in more of an Antony and the Johnsons vein. Occasionally, alarm bells ring when Dare starts to sound like an only slightly superior Tom Odell. Other times, his trad impulses and more extreme, experimental tendencies come together, as on a track like Lungful, and the results are quite distinctive and strikingly new.

Dare’s album, Whelm, was recorded in Mark “Flood” Ellis’ studio Assault & Battery in West London, not by the New Order and Nine Inch Nails producer, but by Prynn, who engineered, produced and mixed the whole thing. Something about the studio must have seeped into the recording because Whelm has the dark majesty and grandiosity – even when the music is quiet – of many of the bands Flood has worked with such as Depeche Mode, Sigur Ros and a-Ha; some of their windswept ambience and desolate beauty. Lyrically, Whelm is often written from other people’s perspectives, with some of the songs based on historical events. London’s Rose, for example, came from a poem Dare wrote about the use of underground stations as bomb shelters during WWII. Whitewash concerns the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland while Clockwork was inspired by the Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient analog computer found in the ocean.

But these events and the imagery they evoke are really just prisms through which Dare filters his own personal feelings, which, funnily enough (because we were talking about Flood), have a lot to be with the paradoxical dread and desire to be engulfed. “I wanted to make a record that would allow the listener to escape, something lush and immersive but when looked at closely, the grit and depth could be found,” he has said, referring to “the restless nature of humans and the erratic emotions I’d written about [that] could be linked to water and more specifically the sea.” Dare grew up on the Dorset coast: “The sea was this constant thing in my life,” he explained. “And although I felt an affinity with it, I couldn’t swim until I was a teenager. This equal measure of joy and uncertainty I found in both people and water brought me to Whelm; it feels like a fitting title. To be engulfed. To be buried. To be whelmed.” Dare’s music, at its best, is immersive and allows you to share his mixed emotions. Dare dares you to dive in.