Ben Watt (pictured above)
Before I get too much into the artist Ben Watt and the subject at hand; I should preface this to say that a month or two ago, I purchased Tracey Thorn's (Everything But The Girl, Massive Attack) book entitled, "Tracey Thorn: Bedsit Disco Queen" and it kind of spinned me out of my head a bit. It worked on so many levels for me: as a musician, as a feminist, as a person in a relationship, as a human. It's a really wonderful book that I cannot, I absolutely cannot recommend enough (and have come into the habit of recommending it to positively everyone I know). It centers on Tracey's life and relationship, her start as a musician with The Marine Girls all the way to EBTG, her work with Massive Attack, and of course near the beginning while she was still in The Marine Girls - meeting Ben Watt; her literal partner in music and life, and eventually - becoming a mum, and going solo (musically).
Within the universe of Ben and Tracey, EBTG transported listeners through moments of cool blue, and soulful pop and avante-jazz (through the mid to late '80s) and all the way to the duo's groundbreaking electronic beats of the '90s and, well.... we should just mention: the whole of "Amplified Heart" and its hit track "Missing". Case in point, 'natch.
It was only after the release of "Amplified Heart" that Ben released his first book with the title "Patient," in 1996. The book would deal with his own illness (in 1992) and bring Watt tremendous accolades for writing about his ordeal. Long out of print, the book has since been rereleased by Bloomsbury (as of February of 2014). Since 1999 and the release of the album "Tempermental" the duo of EBTG have concentrated on working through solo material; effectively only releasing remixes, remasters, and reissues from the EBTG back catalogue.
Both Tracey and Ben have put out some tremendous releases on their own, as well as working with collaborators and other artists, and Ben has also spent time as a club and record label owner, a DJ, musician and artist, and now once again; a new book is on the horizon. Romany and Tom, the new book by Ben Watt - focusing this time on Watt's parents and family life - was released earlier this month (June 10th) via Bloomsbury. Watt has recently been spending time in New York and surrounding in order to promote the new book, attending its readings and signings, and to perform live.
Although we only found out about a recent performance with Ben and friend, musician, and famed producer Bernard Butler (see: Suede, McAlmont & Butler, The Tears, to production and work with Duffy, The Libertines, Tim Booth, Edwyn Collins, and Ben Watt as well as many others) at Joe's Pub in New York, we immediately bought tickets to see the duo at their performance slated for Philadelphia's Tin Angel on June 15th, 2014.
As an aside: this is big for me personally as well...! The last time that I saw Bernard Butler was in 1998 in Pontiac, Michigan at The 7th House when he was on tour for his first solo album "People Move On", an intimate and admittedly, really wonderful show partially because we saw him perform solo on a tiny stage surrounded by lit candles, and partially because I was able to interview him for my fanzine that same night (truth be told) while being complimented and surrounded by fawning teenage girls in love with him. We were all just in love with him. I honestly have not seen EBTG or related (probably since "Walking Wounded" was released), so this was also a double whammy of brilliant proportions to even be able to buy tickets for such an intimate and exciting upcoming show and tour that will feature both. *Pop* *pop* Is this thing on?!?
And, ah now, Ben Watt. In his first-ever solo tour of the US, Watt will be playing songs in support of his brand new album "Hendra". Hendra is Watt's first album in thirty-one years since the lighthearted folk and jazz-pop of his first and only solo album "North Marine Drive," which was released in 1983. The new album is a return to his solo work, and released on Watt's own sub-label Unmade Road LTD. As well as running Buzzin' Fly since 2003, and it's subsidiary Strange Feelings Records, Watt's remains hardworking as ever.
Hendra is most-definitely a departure from '97's North Marine Drive (especially given all the years of time between the two) with an admittedly darker tone on a few tracks (especially present on album opener and title track "Hendra," and of course "Matthew Arnold's Field" and the heartbreak of "The Levels"). We can also still find the smatters of jazz as in EBTG's Eden, but Watt's sound has become even more contemplative, eclectic, and personal with a light power-pop, and '70s tact; from the echo on the vocals ("Spring") to the light psychedelia, electronic piano, and soft-rock ("Young Man's Game"), all the way down to each song's very purposefulness ("The Gun")--bridging Watt's ideas and feelings together seamlessly, thoughtfully, and to a quiet satisfaction. You can feel the seperation of the floorboards as he shuffles through each number; the inspiration in ideas flow softly within the shift in moods--it all works together, really, wonderfully well.
Watt's recording took place in both London and Berlin with album production by Ewan Pearson, who is also based in Berlin. Collaborators included Butler and a very special cameo featuring the famed David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) on the emotionally wrought track "The Levels". Honestly, has Sofia Coppola heard the album yet? Something tells me that this album, these tracks, would fit so much into her mind and world as well as somewhere well at home among the Buckley, Nilsson, McCartney, and Chilton fans of our time.
4. Golden Ratio
5. Matthew Arnold's Field
6. The Gun
8. The Levels
9. Young Man's Game
10. The Heart Is A Mirror
Go here to see the deluxe tracklisting (includes demos from the album and a live track).
More on Ben Watt with Bernard Butler:
"Watt will play solo on guitar and electric piano, accompanied by friend, album-collaborator and perhaps the finest lead guitarist of his generation, Bernard Butler (formerly of Suede). The audience can expect new songs and vintage gems from the two indie legends."
US Tour Dates: