The London Book Of The Dead
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The London Book Of The Dead
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The Real Tuesday Weld, a.k.a. British singer-songwriter and audio provocateur Stephen Coates has charmed critics and audiences alike by wedding the suggestive hiss of vintage vinyl and ancient radio transmissions to the latest samples, loops and glitchy beats creating a signature sound he calls "antique beat".
"Coates peruses various styles and eras, taking choice elements from each and blending them into palatable morsels that fit right into today's progressives styles. The London Book of the Dead gives yesterday's music its due, and in the process brings an elegance and refinement to the sound of today." -- Miami New Times
"His albums create a scene (usually London), set a mood (perhaps a rainy night in London), and sketch a story (what, you need everything spelled out?). In this lyrical, gently whimsical gem, his songs sound like Noel Coward and Cole Porter wandering out of the London fog into a studio full of laptops. Old-fashioned acoustic instruments and clever arrangements mask some very modern, almost trippy production. The actual story is somewhat elusive, and yes, it's all very English, despite the jazzy touches. But it also rocks." -- eMusic
"It's a complex voice, bitter and ardent and maybe longing, too, and, like his music, bears a certain timelessness." -- XLR8R
"Stephen Coates (aka the Real Tuesday Weld), a man obsessed with using styles from the past to create something quite new. He's not just sampling sonic bits from the dustbin. He's employing modern technology, and a stable of guest musicians, to cast music history in a decidedly avant light. His love of sonic antiques is genuine, and it's balanced with a gorgeous flair for the surreal. Ultimately, Coates has hit on a marvelous mean between the neo-jazz of Leon Redbone and the crinkly modernity of Coco Rosie, in the process blurring past and present into a time warp all his own." -- New York Daily News
"The Real Tuesday Weld's ambitious, anachronistic whimsy is an all too rare commodity in pop, particularly because Coates never deigns to remove the yawning distance between singer and narrator...the strikingly old-fashioned arrangements and the production and songwriting updating them make for some unusual and rewarding juxtapositions. There's a fine album here." -- Pitchfork Media
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A church bell. A gentle guitar melody tinged with bells. "I was born." More guity. "And not very much was said about it." With that opening, Coates slips into a melancholy little ballad that sounds like Sufjan Stevens underwater: "Life is good/when you're fearing love/life is good/when you're filled with blood" through bubbles and ripples.
Things get more uptempo with "The Decline and Fall of the Clerkenwell Kid," a sprightly pop tune full of banjo, sax and piano. And they continue along those lines with some serious fusion music, blending the new and old -- we get experimental and electronica, woven into the edges of vintage pop'n'jazz with a Tin Pan Alley sound. It sounds like it was hijacked from an antique radio.
And there are some songs that don't really fit into the Real Tuesday Weld's usual sound -- pale, ethereal ambient ballads, bittersweet violin melodies, and the gloriously tight "Ruth, Roses and Revolvers," which sounds like a quirky noir theme.
If "The Return of the Clerkenwell Kid" was a a bright, sunnier return from devil jazz, then "The London Book of the Dead" matches its melancholy title. Wickedly sharp lyrics ("... the cheapest thrills/they mean more to me now/than you do"), and a feeling of wistful beauty fill the songs, but Coates never quite loses his whimsical edge.
The music is a beautiful cacophony shaped into sprightly jazz-pop -- saxophone, harmonica, tambourine, guitar, flute, plinky and/or rippling piano, aching violin and jazzy drums all make the core of the songs come alive, heavily wrapped in electronic swooshes and squiggles. And then there are stretches of pure, exquisite ambient electronica, flavoured with a female vocalist murmuring something unintelligible.
The last detail would be some pretty samples sprinkled on the edges -- church bells, birds, water bubbling. And Coates filters certain songs so that they sound like they're being piped from an ancient radio, giving you the feeling that you've accidentally tripped over some ancient, forgotten record.
With music that rich, it almost seems superfluous to mention that there's actual singing here. But Coates' voice is worth noting -- smooth, mellow and meditative, singing songs of unsure love, disease, drugs, death "wonderful lies" and some film mockery ("Let's make a film/it'll be such fun/all you need's a girl and gun, apparently...").
"The London Book of The Dead" is less macabre than it sounds, but that whimsical music is pricelessly melancholy. Like sipping champagne in a beautifully ruined city.
Then I found "Bathtime in Clerkenwell" on their MySpace page, and was completely enraptured, even though there were no lyrics at all.
This is some really great stuff, and it's like nothing else I'd ever heard before. It's unique, catchy, engaging, funny and definitely worthwhile.