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In a muddy windbreak atop the Pennines, three fields over from Hadrian’s Wall, stands a 19th-century stone farmhouse where Michael Chapman has lived with his partner, Andru, “happily unmarried”, for the past 45 years. It is a dark winter night, and in their crimson-walled parlour, faces lit by the roaring fire, stories are being told. Chapman has just related the tale of the weathered Martin D-18 guitar in the corner of the room, played by Jimi Hendrix in Soho’s Les Cousins club, while Chapman slept, mid-set, in the car outside. Now the couple are recalling the night in Hull in 1969 when Nick Drake came to stay.

“He’d played the Haworth Arms [in Hull],” says Chapman, “and they’d hated him. He never never lifted his head between songs. I felt sick watching him, but what he played was incredible.” The Haworth Arms, for what it’s worth, now has Drakes Bar, “named after the famous folk musician who played here in the 60s”.

After the gig, Andru saw Drake standing alone under a street lamp. “I asked where he was staying,” she says. “He had nowhere. I said: ‘Come with us.’”

This is how an evening with Chapman goes: reminiscences and memories, told with a dry-stone Yorkshire poetry, and red wine top-ups, the host assuming a quiet supporting role in the three-act dramas of the more famous.

In theory, we’re here to discuss Chapman’s new studio album. Named 50, after his years on the road, and produced by the US guitarist Steve Gunn at Black Dirt Studio in Westtown, New York, it’s a rich, haunting, collection of forlorn love songs, apocalyptic picaresques and bewitching instrumentals that marks the latest stage in a remarkable career renaissance, fuelled by experimental solo guitar LPs, an impressive reissue campaign, and collaborations with Hiss Golden Messenger and the No-Neck Blues Band, that has seen this granite-faced 76-year-old Yorkshireman hailed by the likes of Meg Baird, William Tyler and Ryley Walker as the godfather of new cosmic Americana.

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When odd, skull-shaped grave items were found by archaeologists decades ago at an Aztec temple in Mexico, they were assumed to be mere toys or ornaments, and were catalogued and stored in warehouses. However, years later, experts discovered they were creepy ‘death whistles’ that made piercing noises resembling a human scream, which the ancient Aztecs may have used during ceremonies, sacrifices, or during battles to strike fear into their enemies. 

The Aztec Death Whistles were Not Common Instruments 

Two skull-shaped, hollow whistles were found 20 years ago at the temple of the wind god Ehecatl, in the hands of a sacrificed male skeleton. When the whistles were finally blown, the sounds created were described as terrifying. The whistles make the sounds of “humans howling in pain, spooky gusts of whistling wind or the ‘scream of a thousand corpses” writes MailOnline.

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If you want to build a Cristal Baschet of your very own, you have arrived in the right place. This post describes the process of building a cristal baschet, with links to materials and tools so that you can build your own exciting instrument made mostly from things you can pick up from your local hardware store, or if online purchasing is more your thing, I have you covered.

Before we delve into the fine details of putting the instrument together, allow me to provide you with some back story on how my own cristal baschets came about. Late in 2019, shortly before we found ourselves in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gabriella Smart (concert pianist) approached me to write a piece of piano music for her that she could tour nationally and internationally with. I was on board, but I wanted to avoid writing music in 12-TET, so the solution I devised was to build her an instrument that she could travel with. I came across the Cristal Baschet in a book called Musical Instrument Design by Bart Hopkin and decided to build an adapted version that could fit into a suitcase.

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“Searching without worrying about finding”

How do you remember the recording of ‘Simorgh’?

João Lobo: We had a residency for a week at Les Ateliers Claus in Brussels thanks to an invitation by its artistic director, Tommy Denys. Christophe Albertijn, who recorded, mixed and mastered the album, was with us all the time and that was a great luxury because he is such a great engineer and person to work with. We all felt comfortable with the sound. There were no recording booths, panels or headphones involved so the whole environment was perfect for making a record.

We recorded all the songs pretty quickly, in a few takes. In the last couple of days we made some overdubs. The record was pretty much done that week. After that, Christophe had some time to mix but all the music and the order of the songs were pretty much chosen and decided in that week.

In my head I had been preparing this record for a year, so I think that helped.

What kind of album did you want to make with ‘Simorgh’?

I wanted to record my music with these two exceptional musicians. In a way I also wanted to make a sequel to my first album ‘Nowruz’, which is an acoustic drums solo, released in 2017 by the Swiss label three:four records.

What does “Simorgh” mean?

Simorgh is the name of a mythical bird in the Persian language.

Why did you ask Norberto Lobo and Soet Kempeneer?

Soet was my first choice for the bass and Norberto was the obvious choice as the third element. Soet is an amazing double bass player, but he also plays electric bass and keyboards and is very much into electronic music, so he’s also a searcher, like me and Norberto, who is not only a brilliant guitar player but also a prolific composer who makes beautiful drawings.

What do you have in common with them?

We like to search and are not too worried about the finding part.

And what are the differences?

We are all different musicians obviously and if you listen to each of our solo projects you will hear that. I just found another thing we have in common: we all have solo projects.

Why did you choose the traditional guitar/bass/drum line-up?

I didn’t choose the instruments. I choose the musicians. Initially I thought of doing the trio with Soet and a wind instrument because I basically wrote basslines with melodies on top. Very modal stuff. So I made some sessions with other musicians but after a while I realized that Norberto was the perfect third element. He loves modal!

“I basically made the frame and the three of us painted the picture together.”

How would you define what you do on this album? Free jazz meets avant-rock?

I’m too much involved in it to be able to define it. I leave that to you. It’s my music, which will probably always be difficult to define since my baggage as a musician and listener is very diverse. And it’s also my music played by two very creative and unique musicians who are also difficult to label.

You made this album as a trio but the album carries your name.

I wrote the music and thought a lot about where I wanted the music to go but the written material is very little. I wanted Soet and Norberto to feel free to have their own input. That was the idea all along because they are really excellent and creative musicians. I basically made the frame and the three of us painted the picture together. Then I choose the pictures that would go on the album.

João Lobo | Les Ateliers Claus – Brussels, Belgium | Photo by Laurent Orseau

Do you think you compose with a “drummer’s state of mind”?

I’m not sure I know what you mean by a “drummer’s state of mind”. None of the music written for this record came from drums though. Actually one of the hardest things for me was to figure out what I should play on the songs. Most of it I figured out on the spot.

Joeri Bruyninckx

from the upcoming album by SENYAWA - Alkisah Alkisah will be released on 21 February 2021 by les albums claus x kiosk radio. Senyawa`s new album Alkisah is co-released by multitude of independent record labels from all over the globe.
Each with different packaging and design, with multiple version of remixes/reinterpretations by various artists.

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