To a degree, all musicians are a product of their environment, the places they record and the venues they play. For proof, check out the alumni of the n-wave era CBGBs venue in New York, Cabaret Voltaire’s Western Works studio in Sheffield or more recently London’s Total Refreshment Centre.
We can now add to that list the Constellations Workshop in Colwick, Nottingham, a project that provides employment through making studio furniture, for out-of-work musicians. It was here, after-hours, that the music on Brown Fang’s impressive and ear-catching debut album took shape.
Both members of Brown Fang, bassist John Thompson and guitarist Henry Scott AKA Henry Claude, have a long association with the Constellations Workshop. Though their musical projects are manifold – Thompson having toured with the likes of The Nectarine No9 and The Selecter, with Scott being both a mainstay of Nottingham jazz circuit and recording ambient music as Fang Jr – the work provided by the community-minded project has kept their heads above water and allowed them a space to record in when the shutters go down and the bandsaws get switched off.
Yet the music showcased on Sherwood Pines is more morning-fresh and sun-kissed than industrial and sawdust-sprinkled. Combining the pair’s brilliant musicianship – think languid bass guitars and Pat Martino-esque jazz guitar licks – with saucer-eyed electronics, occasional downtempo drum machine rhythms and plenty of glistening special effects, the set’s eight tracks are as blissful and becalmed as an early morning saunter through Sherwood Forest on a misty autumn morning.
For proof, check epic opener ‘Tracing Paper’, a slow-build ambient soundscape in which bubbly electronic lead lines and colourful chords sashay around Scott’s sparkling, laidback guitars, and the beguiling ‘That’s All You Can Think’, a subtle tribute to Steve Reich masterpiece ‘Electric Counterpoint’ in which slow-burn, stretched out synthesizer sounds wave in and out of a gradually evolving cycle of delay-laden electric guitar motifs.
The band’s love of classic American minimalism – as well as a shared love of the Duratti Column and Robert Fripp – comes to the fore on ‘HDMI I Love You’, which boasts a deliciously dubby bassline, Tangerine Dream style synths and the deepest of ambient chords, while ‘I Nearly Married a Human’ and ‘Fridgewords’ balance bespoke electronics – languid, dewy eyed and comforting – with Scott’s gorgeously laidback, slow-release guitars.
Every great album needs a triumphant conclusion, and Sherwood Pines is no different. You can hear everything that makes Brown Fang great on ‘Goodbye Donkey Jacket’, from the pin sharp, effects laden jazziness of Scott’s guitars and the fluid dexterity of Thompson’s bass, to the pleasingly spacey pulse of the synths and the gentle rhythms of the soft-focus machine drums. It’s a confident, ear-catching conclusion to a debut album that’s been years in the making.
Chris Todd (Crazy P, Hot Toddy) – A beautiful LP, full of lush rich textures and melodies, from 2 of Nottingham’s finest musicians
DJ Pippi (Pacha, Ibiza DJ) – Interesting stuff!!!
Nick Warren (Bristol-based DJ, producer, and record label curator. The Sound Garden) – Another essential NuNorthern Soul release, blissful music.
Andy Pye (Balearic Social, Leeds and Music For Dreams Radio) – Wonderful Stuff support from me on my forthcoming radio shows.
Bill Brewster – Nice. HDMI I Love You is excellent.
Marshall Watson, USA (Too Slow to Disco, Italians Do It Better, NuNorthern Soul, Loöq Records, Seven Villas, and Highpoint Lowlife.) – Really nice work! Perfect for this snowy morning. Thank you!
Steve KIW (BAOL, 1BTN Radio, Brighton, UK) – These are all winners. A beautiful record. i can’t wait for the vinyl release to land on the doorstep.
Barnaby Bruce (Palms and Charms Label.) – This is wonderful. Such an evocative mood and the arrangements are great.
Max Essa, Japan – What a an amazing collection. Can’t wait to fully immerse myself!
Andrea Castellan (http://www.theitalojob.com), Italy – Love this mellow and dreamy atmosphere! “HDMI Love You” is my favourite
Mike Bee (Vinyl Dreams, San Fransisco, USA) – Fantastic release – loving the dubby basslines! Will be supporting in the shop and in my Dj sets. Thanks!
Chris Coco (Melodica, The Chill Out Tent) UK – Lovely, floaty, dreamy.
Pete Herbert (Music For Swimming Pools), UK – Superb! brightening up my Monday! Fav HDMI Love You.
Jaye Ward, London, UK – Gods this i super lush!! 23 parts durrutti column, 36 parts windham hill, 28 parts kluster and 13 parts deeeper than deep ambient lushness.. ace!!!
Leo Mas, Italy – That’s All You Can Think my fav, nice LP
Huw Costin, Torn Sail, Nottingham, UK – One of my all time favourite albums. Every track is a diamond, a rainbow, a star in the sky. It makes life better. Sherwood Pines is up there with Music for Airports by Brian Eno, Hats by The Blue Nile, Phaedra by Tangerine Dream. A singular work of art.
Robert Harris, BanBanTonTon, Japan – These are peaceful, pretty, melodic arrangements for the duo’s respective instruments, augmented by subtle electronics. Henry’s slow-hand picking is set against dissolves of sustain and drone. Sampled bucolic birdsong is broken by controlled modular explosions. Synthetic orchestration swoons amidst showers of trippy gated sequences, blinking blips and bleeps, and a bionic bass rumble. The carefully crafted electric counterpoint that they create is largely devoid of drums, but in places driven by the odd heartbeat-like thump. Overall, musically, it is like a magical meeting between the patient late `90s post-rock of David Pajo and plugged in, turned on, `70s kosmische.
Full review https://banbantonton.com/2022/04/01/brown-fang-sherwood-pines-nunorthern-soul/
Andy Wilson, Ibiza Sonica Radio, Spain – some beautiful tunes on here, perfect for sunset sessions . Love the Durutti Column vibes on some of these tracks.
Macca, One Glove Show NTS Radio, UK – Lovely start to 2022 for NuNorthern Soul. Bit of everything with this release, Tracing Paper is a real beauty (great track names too)!
Dave Howell, Music for Beaches Radio, Sydney, Australia – A wonderful record that’s rich, varied and thoughtful. I love That’s All You Can Think and played it on my show a month or two ago. It’s still my favourite but Tracing Paper is really growing on me now as well. Top stuff!
Bruce Tantum, Various press and radio, NYC, USA – Lovely from start to finish – like awakening in a dewy meadow as the sun rises over the nearby stand of sycamore trees.
Jason Boardman, Manchester, UK – Lovely release with shades of Durrutti Column, Penguin Cafe Orchestra and Tindersticks, high praise indeed!More Like Sherwood Pines - Brown Fang