Wintersongs

by Plinth

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about

Formerly a limited edition vinyl from Kit Records, sold out March 2014.

Liner notes for Rusted Rail edition:

"glockenspiel, trumpet, clarinet, guitar, clocks, fireplace, ring modulator, birds, teapot, train, voices, piano, garden, sleigh bells, cymbals, melodica.

played by michael tanner and steven dacosta, with nicholas palmer (piano), julian poidevin (melodica).

released as cassette ep in 1999 and CDr in 2002/6

wintersongs has been around now in one form or another since 1998. the idea came about after a chance re-reading of lucy boston's yuletide classic 'children of green knowe' - steven and myself set out to soundtrack the book, but only made it as far as ' anniversary waltz', before deciding to embrace the winter theme as a whole.

we had only a very rudimentary knowledge of instruments, the evidence of which can be heard on the first skeletal recordings. this inexperience forced us on a different path to add meat to the bones...the instruments were downed and we focused more on sound manipulation, particularly those that were metallic or sonorous...before long the callouses on our fingers had eased and we were at home among flashing lights.

these were our first attempts at making a record. and although i say it through squinted eyes, the naivety which used to make me run for cover is now kind of endearing."

Released initially as a handmade cassette in 1999, two sold out CDrs on Dorset Paeans in 2001 and an expanded CDr on rusted rail in 2006 (also sold out).

Reviews:

"Last heard from via the fantastic solo project 'Victorian Machine Music' is here as a four-piece from another life: 'Wintersongs' is a reissue of an earlier CDr by the label - in fact it is a reissued reissue, the original being a 1999 cassette. This handsome disc is founded on familiar compositional devices used in the most unfamiliar (or at least unexpected) ways; the disc opens with a chorus of glockenspiel, misleading my lazy ear toward a Godspeed!esque incline - but instead pulling it back in exchange for a small medley of feminine "hallelujahs", the piece never rising above the opening simmer. "Bracken" appears the official overture, with a deep, resonant guitar plucking a simple three-note melody which is joined and finished by piano, then glockenspiel briefly again; on another plane, the highest notes of trumpet have risen from behind this melody like sunshine, reminiscent the pre-jazz majesty of Debussy's 'Sunken Cathedral'. While not entirely dissimilar, the following track "Hearth pt. 1" has a pre-classical sensibility, with the folksy sound of acoustic strings played over textures of sleighbells and melodica; skillfully assembled and presented, the song could have been extracted from the choicest of guitar-centered classics (Gary Higgins, etc.). Streaks of Debussy reappear in subsequent tracks through the atmospheric glockenspiel and guitar song "Frey & Gulliburstin", a seeming variation on the melody of "Bracken", visited in a final form with closer "Tom Bowcock's Eve": trumpet calls out the melody over warm, oscillating swells and bird's song; a miniature soundscape passes through; a guitar song exits behind a curtain of chimes - in summation of the album, the track recollects the disc's varied musicality and melds them in a single, grand gesture. 'Wintersongs' is a tremendous reissue reissue, deserving to be reissued again.
- Animal Psi"

"Rusted Rail enter the realm of the full-length CD-R release with a welcome reissue of Plinth's 'Wintersongs', originally issued in 1999 on cassette and then again in 2002 on CD-R. These 1998 recordings find prime-mover Michael Tanner collaborating with Steven DaCosta, Nicholas Palmer and Julian Poidevin, and largely pre-date Tanner's sound-works for antique music machines, most startlingly realised on the brilliant 'Victorian Machine Music' solo project. Here, more conventional instruments (glockenspiel, trumpet, clarinet, guitar, piano and melodica) co-exist with clocks, teapots, toy trains as well as electronic devices like ring modulators. The idea for 'Wintersongs' came about when Tanner re-read Lucy Boston's yuletide classic 'Children of Green Knowe', and then set about, with Steve DaCosta, to create a soundtrack to the book. After getting part way through this process, they decided to generalise it, making the work thematic of winter as a whole. All that Plinth would become is signposted in the first track 'For C.S' with its opening sample of birdsong, followed by multi-dimensional glockenspiel, then a distinctly odd chorus of "hallelujahs" comprised seemingly of androgynous voice and equipment rumble. It's a primitive sound compared to what Plinth would create later, but has enormous charm and potential. 'Bracken' is a glory of a piece, tinkling piano and dripping guitar sounds accompanied by a genuinely memorable trumpet melody. 'Hearth Pt 1' is devastatingly effective parlour folk: guitar and piano counterpoints over a substrate of barely heard bells and swelling drones. The Iditarod comes to mind, albeit brought in from the cold, thawed and comforted with mead and robust rural fare. On 'Lucia's Day Parts 1 to 3' Plinth expand their ambitions by having a crack at a near ten minute mini-suite, wielding favoured modes of metallic clatter and sonorous drone with mostly successful results. 'Frey and Gulliburstin' combines electronic crackle with contemplative percussion and guitar before dissolving into garden sounds then returning with more glockenspiel and music box ruminations. The lengthy closing suite 'Tom Bowcock's Eve' builds from subtly orchestrated drones (somewhat over-extended) through a transcendent segment for guitar, piano and melodica to a sequence of concluding chimes possibly played on icicles, possibly not. Tanner considers these early recordings naive to the point of embarrassment, and it's true that they are not as fully formed as his later work, but there is real beauty here, and an instinctive facility with composition and tonality, and there seems little to apologise for.
- Ptolemaic Terrascope"

"Plinth come from the Dorset Paeans Collective and make a half remembered music of your dreams. The music is build from sound sources such as music boxes, music cylinder players, automated pianos and the like. Their precise yet haunting melodies overlapping in beautiful reveries. Plinth's first release has been reissued recently as 'Wintersongs' and shows brilliant music can be made by artists in the first stages of their creativity. Their rudimentary skill on early skeletal recordings becomes an asset. Minimal, childlike melodies overlap and cascade gently. Music boxes given way to children singing. This evolves into simple acoustic guitar plucks, distant pianos and trumpet. It's absolutely stunning, a music of stillness and contemplation linking Eno to Satie. Inobtrustive but moving, it connects with the listener at an instinctive level, taking us back to half remembered childhoods. There is a charm to the music, with birds, train and tea pot all quoted as instruments on the sleeve. Heard this makes sense, the music existing within a sound environment, merging with the atmosphere to become almost imperceptible. Although winter themed, this is not bleak music, instead it evokes hibernation and the sleep before renewal.
- Harvest Home"

credits

released December 1, 1999

Michael Tanner and Steve Dacosta with Julian Poidevin (melodica) and Nicholas Palmer (piano)

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Michael Tanner/Plinth Lewes, UK

Eschewing teeth, skin and expensive electrical equipment since 1977 - Plinth, The A.Lords, The Cloisters, Thalassing, Bible Student and other silly names.

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