Al-Pha-X Releases His Eighth Studio Album ENVELOPE On iLabel

Yes, folks the moment we’ve all been waiting to celebrate is here – Al-Pha-X releases his fantastic new album Envelope today! Available here now. He is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, producer and DJ and even if you think you haven’t heard of him, you actually have. He has been featured on far too many compilations to politely mention and his music has been used in Smallville, Orange Is The Only Black and the motion picture  Paris Manhattan. TCF founder Eugenie Arrowsmith checked in with Al-Pha-X to see how he was feeling about releasing an album of beautifully crafted covers.

Eugenie:  So why is the album called Envelope?

Al-Pha-X:  It’s based on the idea of taking something that already exists and pushing it little bit further, as in pushing the envelope. There’s also the double meaning of the word cover, as in  a cover of some kind and a cover version. In addition there are envelopes on synthesisers which control sounds (I’m a producer so I like control). So its a trinity of meanings. I like things in threes.

Al-Pha-X contemplating his new covers album Envelope (pic credit E. Arrowsmith)

E:   Whats your favourite envelope on a synth?

A:  There are  envelopes on all synthesisers and they effect sound over time. It’s a similar analogy, so like a cover you are tweaking its envelope, dynamics, pitch, colour and timbre.  All synths have envelopes so I can’t pick a favourite, although I do have two favourite synths :- my Novation Super Nova II and my Moog  Sub Phatty.

E:  Why a covers album and why now?

A:  I wanted to pay homage to all the songs that have been the soundtrack of my life thus far.  Here Comes The Sun˛ came out the year  I was born and I listened to that and many other Beatles songs throughout my childhood.

I felt it would be an interesting thing to take the songs that I love and put a different slant on them. It was something that evolved as I got older,  I was  often asked to play  something familiar at live shows, as a way of bringing the audience in  and I enjoyed doing it differently and this was a key part of the albums evolution.

E:  Are any of the songs part of your musical coming of age?

A:  Yes, Simple Minds (Don’t You Forget About Me) and Tears For Fears (Head Over Heels).  I discovered Bowie in my teens  too, as all the bands I loved were heavily influenced by him hence the cover of (The Man Who Sold The World).  I went to see Tears For Fears at The Hammersmith Odeon when I was 14 (complete with insane hair) and they were fabulous and really inspired me to make music my career. I loved The Hurting album, the lyrics were really interesting, particularly tracks like Pale Shelter and they were angst ridden teenagers which I related to. Then Songs From The Big Chair came out and I started to have an awakening in terms of my understanding of music production I began listening to the way that records were made and that album sounded like nothing else I had ever heard. The detailed instrumentation and sonic layering, it was almost orchestrated, they made very intelligent pop, which was a light bulb moment for me.

E:   What made you decide to work with all the different singers on the album?

A:  With exception of Sebastien who is my nephew (and the son of chill out guitarist Christoph Goze) everyone else I had worked with before on other Al-Pha-X projects.  I went to see Sebastien sing in North London and was so impressed I asked him if he would like to be involved and he was a joy to work with. When putting the songs together I had all the other vocalists in my mind and knew whom I wanted for each track.

Eva Abraham I met through the Big Chill, when I remixed one of her songs and she appeared on Slowdown. My wife Doral sings a few tracks and we regularly work together and obviously I know her voice well, she sung on a track that was used in the US TV series Smallville.  I met you (Eugenie Arrowsmith) through the Kundalini Dub Lounge, Buddha Bar and Big Chill, you also appeared  on Slowdown.

I was introduced to Shabnam Khan via the One Nation record label and we  worked on An Indian Summer (which went on to be licensed by Buddha Bar),  A Plea For Sanity and Sahara.  We are currently compiling an EP of our work together to support and fundraise for her ongoing breast cancer treatment.  Shabnam is one of my longest standing vocal collaborators, who I really want to support at this difficult time.

My sister Michelle had sang on my first album Gravity˛ and when I was producing Dylan’s Tambourine Man˛ I could hear her voice working really well with the trippy synth textures.  I also sang a few of my favourite songs, Nick Drake’s Riverman and Here Comes The Sun.

E: Have you abandoned instrumental music forever?

A:  No, there is an instrumental on the album just to keep my public happy!  Actually its a very moving one for me, Children by Robert Miles.  I had made an arrangement of it quite a long time ago and people had suggested I record it. As I am known as a pianist, it was an obvious choice, made all the more poignant by Robert’s untimely passing.  DJ Pathaan has been in touch to say how much he loves this track so although there is only one instrumental on this album its a really special one, which I am glad is being  so well received.

E:  You are working with iLabel again tell us why you like working with them?

A: iLabel is run by Chet and Gravity my debut was released on Bar De Lune in the early naughties. I feel we’ve both come full circle with the industry. We’ve both grown and tried to circumvent and understand all the changes and there are many. We are in a very strange place as we don’t even have an agreed physical format. CDs are in decline less people have CD players and yes there is vinyl , but that’s a very specialist niche market.  So a lot of people have music in no specific physical format and although this is convenient it can arguably  diminish a sense of ownership. The way that people consume and view music has all changed dramatically.  It is what it is and our relationship has endured all the changes and we both try to move with the times.

E.: This is your eighth album, what is the most valuable lesson being a recording artist has taught you?

A: Probably the most important lesson is to keep learning and keep listening, keep seeking – be an eternal student. Always enjoy what you are doing too.

E: What do you hope to achieve by releasing this record?

A:  The most powerful thing that I’ve ever heard about my music was from a homeless fan who told me that the album Slowdown kept him going when he was at an all time low. That was humbling.  On a lighter note a french lady  told me that my music “transported her to a dream like fantasy island”  which can’t be bad either. I guess what you always hope that what you are doing will be appreciated and reach people on some level.

On this evidence, I don’t think you will have any problem reaching people. Envelope is a glorious selection of beautifully curated covers, bringing to the fore Al-Pha-X’s talents as a producer and performer (notably as a pianist and singer). It’s an album that grows with every listen and unfolds poetically, it’s a masterpiece to get lost in.

ENVELOPE by Al-PHA-X: Track Facts

  1. Message In A Bottle (Mellow mix)-(The Police)–(Vox: Eva Abraham) – “the metaphor for loneliness in this song has always really moved me”
  2. Dreams- (electronic fantasy mix)-(Fleetwood Mac)-(Vox: Doral Hayes) “How to make something great out of what must have been a very awkward moment in the studio. Pure genius from Stevie Nicks”
  3. Don’t Look Back In Anger (Laid Back Mix)-(Oasis)-(Vox: Sebastien Flynn-Goze) “Epitomises the 90s for me, love The Beatles influence, it’s also a stunning melody”
  4. Riders In The Storm (Spaced Mix)-(The Doors)-(Vox: Eugenie Arrowsmith) “The last song Morrison ever recorded – ironically a track about an existential traveller.”
  5. Across The Universe (Dream Pop Mix)-(The Beatles)-(Vox: Shabnam Khan “Legend has it Lennon preferred other peoples covers of this song to his own version”
  6. Riverman- (Acoustic Electro Mix)-(Nick Drake)-(Vox: Declan Flynn)“This came out the year I was born and is in 5/4 but still flows well, like a river and is so natural to play”
  7. Don’t You Forget About Me – (Forthright Chill Mix)-(Simple Minds)-(Vox: Eva Abraham)- “ The only cover version Simple Minds ever recorded. Expertly written by Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff”
  8. Run (Retro Electro Rubic Mix)-(Snow Patrol)-(Vox: Doral Hayes) “One of the best pop odes to hope ever written”
  9. Head Over Heels (Sci Fi Fantasy Mix)(Tears For Fears)-(Vox: Eva Abraham)“ A classic heart break pop song. Tears For Fears massively influenced my layered approach to production”
  10. Yellow (Slow Motion Mix)-(Coldplay)-(Vox: Declan Flynn)“ A lovely song derived from the stars”
  11. Children (Tranquillity Mix)-(Robert Miles)-(Piano: Declan Flynn)“ This is the only instrumental on the album. The piano part is so haunting and emotional.
  12. Here Comes The Sun (Relaxed & Chilled mix)-(The Beatles)-(Vox: Declan Flynn) “ My first exposure to interesting time signatures, Asian influences and Moog synthesizers. Genius”
  13. Hey Mr Tambourine Man (Kaleidoscope Mix)-(Bob Dylan)-(Vox: Michelle Flynn) “You can write lyrics about ‘jingle jangle mornings’ when you are Bob Dylan and that stoned”
  14. Make You Feel My Love (Floaty Mix)-(Bob Dylan)-(Vox: Doral Hayes) “Another great Dylan song that is romantic in the truest and deepest sense”

 

 

The Juke of York – Promoted his Fat Boy Slim DJ support slot with a host of daft YouTube Stings!

Okay so technically its poor form to laugh at an ‘in house’ joke but ahead of his O2 DJ support slot with Fat Boy Slim, Pete York aka The Juke of York was swanning around TCF towers making some rather amusing (still, yes I know I should get over it) video stings with the Pepsta (otherwise known as TCF Director Lee Pepper). Below is his Tibetan inspired plug for the show…this is what happens when grown men who should have been finishing a mix are left alone….you have been warned.

Here is their rather marvellous handy work…I don’t think this phenomena is going anywhere.

Jo Harman – An exceptional talent singing in the changes

Starting the year as she means to go on Jo Harman hits the National Press ahead of the release of her vinyl album and single (Sweet Man Moses/ Heartstring at The Jazz Cafe on February 26th from 7pm

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Jo Harman not only has a brilliant voice that touches people she also has the songwriting ability to do both justice (a rare gift). Jo also has a degree of focus and self awareness relating to her work that is deeply inspiring. That is why we all feel so honoured to be working with her and that is why the great and the good across the world are lending their ears to her universally acclaimed debut album Dirt On My Tongue . The album was released initially by Jo’s management Big I Am and was then licensed to V2 in Benelux, The Big Chill Label in the UK and TCF for the rest of the World.

Jo is one of those artists with absolutely everything going for them, the voice, the songs and most importantly the personal vision to see it through. You can work with the greatest talent on the musical planet who has ‘it’ in spades but for whatever reason does not get ‘it’ in terms of the way the industry is now ( tough, particularly for independent artists). If only it were possible to transfer the ‘it’ factor! Just in terms of talent and getting ‘it’ in terms of the industry. Unfortunately those qualities are not transferable and in my mind you either ‘have it and get it’ or you don’t and Jo does. Her commitment to the quality of her music and an incredible work ethic has seen her career going from strength to strength, based on the power of the work itself (no mass media hype). In my view she is one of the most important upcoming female singer songwriters because she is bringing a whole new audience to the Blues and melding it with her own take on Soul, Gospel, Country and a lyrical and melodic sensibility all of her own

Pre-order her debut single here:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/heartstring-sweetman-moses/id792863398

 

 

 

Mezzowave – A Christmas Gift – DEC Benefit on The Big Chill Label

MEZZOWAVE releases double A side single (out now) – A CHRISTMAS GIFT (feat. REV Martin Luther King Jnr, Angie Brown & Alison David) in aid of The Philippines Typhoon Appeal www.dec.org.uk on THE BIG CHILL LABEL (all artist & label profits are going to DEC) followed by A SUPERNATURAL SOULSTICE – concert curated by the Rev Peter Owen Jones (Around The World in 80 Faiths) 21/12/13 St Peters Church, Firle, East Sussex, BN8 6NP

The Christmas Gift has evolved somewhat since Max J Mezzowave decided to release this double A side single. It was slated for December 1st release http://www.dec.org.uk/node/3641 and was intended to be about looking at Christmas from a more unifying and less commercial perspective, as a return to a more, for want of a better word ‘spiritual’ and connected perspective for the human family. Then Typhoon Haiyan happened in the Philippines and all those concerned felt the only way forward was to donate all label and artist royalties from the sale of ‘The Christmas Gift’ to the DEC Philippines Typhoon appeal. There are no costs to deduct and even the distributor (Proper Distribution) has slashed their distribution fee. So hopefully this is an opportunity to enjoy some great music while benefitting those who have lost their homes, livelihoods and loved ones in The Philippines.

“Let freedom ring and when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to feed up that day, when all of Gods children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands… ” Rev Martin Luther King Jnr – Extract from the ‘I have a dream’ speech August 1963.

Fifty years on from the moment the Reverend Martin Luther King Jnr made his momentous speech quoted above, his soul advice is still so powerful not just to African Americans, but to all those communities across the World who currently struggle to be acknowledged and who are fighting for even the most basic freedoms, like shelter, food and medical care. His wise words remind us all that we need to reach out even in small ways to change the things, particularly for those whose freedom is deeply compromised. The vocals on this track and the lyrical response to the speech is sung and written by the legendary Brit Soul Diva Angie Brown (Bizarre Inc), who was invited by Mezzowave to sing on a track he had built around the speech (this is her vocal response). At the time it was a personal celebration of the speech and Max had no idea if it would be possible to clear the use of the speech. However after tracing the ownership of the track to EMI Music Publishing, the sample, much to everyone’s delight was cleared and the release was given the official seal of approval. Angie Brown’s heart felt call for a return to truth via the words ‘I am coming home’ reflect the huge importance of this speech to so many people across the world.

At Christmas ideally we all come together, we all ‘go home’ in some way, which is why this track is so perfect for this reflective time of year. The coupling of ‘Home’ with the serene recording of ‘Silent Night’ featuring Red Snapper’s Alison David is a perfect partnership. Alison gives an incredible raw and soulful performance of the traditional hymn, which brings, soul, jazz and gospel together in the contemporary reinterpretation of a classic. The track is a single live take, recorded at Bedingham Church in Sussex and features Max J Mezzowave on Fender Rhodes and Jose Albella on acoustic guitar.

At the request of the maverick and visionary priest the Rev Peter Owen Jones, Mezzowave will be playing a Supernatural Soulstice Christmas Concert at St Peters Church in Firle on December 21st from 8pm. The evening will feature Mezzowave, Alison David and Siggi Mwasote (who leads the Gospel Choir Spring Into Soul). Chris Difford (Squeeze) will open the evening and there will also be a special guest DJ. Tickets are £10.00 from The Union Music Store, 1 Landsdown Place, Lewes, BN7 2JT). There will also be a limited number of guest tickets for the ladies and gentlemen of the press who would like to attend on a first come first served basis.

The Christmas Gift single is about returning to the core values of peace and love that first came to public prominence in the 1960s and are central to Christianity in it’s purest form (Christianity was in its own time a vital and revolutionary movement). The two songs have a thematic relationship, which is why neither track is a B-side. The 1960s was a time of expansion and a time where the masses connected with ideas of personal power through peace. As the Rev Martin Luther King Jnr said ‘I have a dream’ and most importantly that dream is still alive in the hearts and minds of all those who heard and all those who celebrated his words which the track home sets out to do, in celebrating a great leader and Christian visionary.

LISTEN LINK https://soundcloud.com/bigchilllabel-tcf/home-pt2-feat-dr-martin-luther BUY LINK https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/home-feat.-angie-brown-rev/id737462471?i=737462544 LISTEN LINK https://soundcloud.com/bigchilllabel-tcf/silent-night-feat-alison-david BUY LINK https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/silent-night-feat.-alison/id737462471?i=737462541

DEC information and joint statement with Bill Chill Label for press releases and download sites:
The Disasters Emergency Committee will receive 100% of all label and artist income generated from sales of this single to go towards the Philippines Typhoon Appeal (88% after distribution fees)

Notes to editors
• The DEC brings 14 leading UK aid charities together in times of crisis: ActionAid UK, Age International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, Care International, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Oxfam, Plan UK, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision; all collectively raising money to reach those in need quickly.

• To make a donation to the DEC Philippines Typhoon Appeal visit http://www.dec.org.uk, text the word SUPPORT to 70000 to donate £5, call the 24 hour hotline on 0370 60 60 900, donate over the counter at any high street bank or post office, or send a cheque.

Stay up to date with developments in the Philippines, the emergency response and the DEC’s fundraising efforts on twitter: http://twitter.com/decappeal or on Facebook via http://www.facebook.com/DisastersEmergencyCommittee