mat martin | Music

  • Sketches, ideas, field recordings, demos and other such nonsenses are collected here, and can be filtered or searched below. Field recordings are often made while someone else takes a picture, and in those cases end with the shutter click.

    Readers are reminded that this is an intermittent service and despite all good intentions is often neglected in favour of proper work.

  • 13 November, 2016 | Blog · Music · Playing · Recording

    Bass player on Chris Cundy’s new album ‘Gustav Lost’ – Dominic Lash – had the foresight to put together this little ‘Looking for Gustav’ film from the sessions at Wincraft Studios in Bourton-on-the-Water last year. Chris’s album comes out in December 2016, and can be ordered via his Bandcamp page. He’s written a nice accompanying piece to the release over at his site:

    Rather than blurring lines I want to see how a coexistence between composition and improvisation can bring out eccentricities in the music, where they interrupt each other, and how this throws things into high relief. For a number of years I have worked with songwriters, in popular music, and theatre. Rather than keeping my interests separate I wanted to combine some of these elements. To some extent this project follows on from Gannets – the tea dance gone wrong band, which also features Fyfe Dangerfield and Dominic Lash as well as myself. The aim with Gustav Lost was to keep the spontaneity we had enjoyed in that group but to combine it with some rather different energies and structures. The joy of doing this is that I can create segments of music which sustain cyclical moods but also enter sudden changes of direction. It was important that compositions work as fully formed ideas that can exist in their own right. I’m not interested in composing music that attempts to mimic the complexities at the heart of improvisation. In many ways I want to respect the improvisations that we as musicians have made together and are still in the process of making. This music should be given its own space in which it can breath, surprise, express a madness of its own, or whatever it is that liberates that part of our psyche. I wanted an aspect of music-in-the-making, a playfulness of it being toppled, and of it being picked up again in these recordings.

    Each musicians’ contribution enhances the writing and arranging I put into place in ways I wouldn’t have imagined at the outset. Hannah Marshall is an experienced improviser with a flare for the cello that goes far beyond its wood panelled historicity. Mat Martin is a multi-instrumental string player and although we have worked together previously, this is the first time we have explored anything using partly improvised elements. Mat had a lot to offer the group in terms of temperament and lyrical expression. I have worked with Fyfe Dangerfield in many different guises, initially in a hip hop outfit we called The Executive Caveman and later as an additional member of his indie-pop group Guillemots. I have garnered a great deal from working with Fyfe over the years, leading to my own desire in striking a balance between popular and experimental music. Dominic Lash is a multi-faceted bass player with an ability to absorb a wide range of traditions and techniques yet his own playing remains vibrant and entirely his own. My first exposure to Mark Sanders was seeing him with the saxophonist Evan Parker, and this sparked a desire to discover the ecstatic possibilities of free improvisation on my own terms. Mark’s drumming on these recordings remains brilliantly relaxed yet he offers a sharp ability to corner the compositional lines exactly where and when it matters. Stuart Wilding offers some additional textures using a rarified assortment of junk yard instruments and percussion.

    12 November, 2016 | Blog · Music · Playing · Recording

    James Brute - Here She Comes

    ‘Here She Comes’, from the recent recordings made with James Brute and the band we have built around his songs over the last few years. The sound is really coming together now.

    James Brute: Vocals & Guitar
    Mat Martin: Guitar & Vocals
    Dave Ferrett: Bass & Vocals
    Johnny Manning: Keyboard & Percussion
    Fin Brown: Drums & Vocals

    Well I feel like Don Quixote on mezcal and peyote
    Taking on the windmills of my mind
    With a bottle of chianti and my trusty Rocinante
    Sancho Panza rides along behind
    Sancho Panza, he rides along behind
    Then swimming through my vision like some holy apparition
    To the sound, the sound of distant drums
    My eyes they won’t believe me but my ears they don’t deceive me
    Here she comes, here she comes, here she comes

    As the fog it clears, I wake up in Ikea
    With a bag and a bucket and a basket and a buggy and a bin
    And they rifle my possessions and start to ask me questions
    Like who am I and where have I been?
    Who am I and where have I been?
    I traded beads for deeds of honour, she kept a bracelet on her
    And there’s rings on all her fingers and her thumbs
    Like the ghost of Pocahontas I swear she walks among us
    Here she comes, here she comes, here she comes

    I have been a thousand places, I have seen a thousand faces
    But there’s only one, one that I hold dear
    She has brought me to my senses, bust down walls, broke down fences
    Now I see so brightly, now I see so clear
    Now I see so brightly, now I see so clear
    She speaks with the Orishas, she swims among the fishes
    She feeds me figs and dates and oranges and plums
    I’ve smoked her chillum, drunk her gourd
    I’ve held her plastic sword
    Here she comes, here she comes, here she comes

    4 November, 2016 | Blog · Music · Playing · Recording

    The Gustav Lost album from my dear friend and wonderful musician Chris Cundy is finally being released in a limited run of physical copies via FMR Recordings and is already available for pre-order at Chris’ Bandcamp page. As well as being a superb composer and improviser, Chris has had the pleasure of recording and performing with (among others) the likes of Timber Timbre, Guillemots, Gannets, Devon Sproule, Little Annie and Cold Specks.

    As always, a real pleasure to play with not only Chris but a host of great players and improvisers. We had a lot of fun making this record last year and I’m very happy to see it come out.

    Chris Cundy: Bass Clarinet
    Mat Martin: Guitar
    Fyfe Dangerfield: Piano
    Hannah Marshall: Cello
    Dominic Lash: Double Bass
    Mark Sanders: Drums
    Stuart Wilding: Percussion

    The album saw a lovely early review from Downtown Music Galery, NYC recently, too:

    Featuring Chris Cundy on bass clarinet & compositions, Fyfe Dangerfield on piano, Mat Martin on guitar, Hannah Marshall on cello, Dominic Lash on double bass and Mark Sanders on drums. This is a most impressive debut disc by UK bass clarinettist Chris Cundy, of whom I hadn’t heard previously, as well as not knowing of his frontline bandmates, Mr. Dangerfield and Mr. Martin. I’ve seen cellist Hannah Marshall’s name on several disc over the past few years with Veryan Weston, Alexander Hawkins and a trio called Shoreditch. Bassist Dominic Lash also has been getting around and working with the Convergence Quartet, Alex Ward and for lower-case projects on the Wanderweiser and Another Timbre labels. I can’t say enough good things about drummer Mark Sanders who remains one of the most in-demand players on the UK scene (for Paul Dunmall, Evan Parker & Jah Wobble).

    I played this disc three times in a row last Sunday (10/30/16) while working alone and marveling at how great it is. The first thing that stands about this sextet is the combination of instruments: bass clarinet, cello, piano and guitar, warm, wooden-toned and most enchanting. Often the bass clarinet and cello either shadow or complement each other, playing thoughtful, rich harmonies together, gracefully at times, creating lush autumnal colors. There is one piece dedicated to the late British saxist Lol Coxhill, who always had an odd sense of humor. The piece is called, “Hello Pigeon” and it captures Coxhill’s quaint spirit just right. This song had me whistling along and even snapping my fingers, smiling throughout. I like that Mr. Cundy combines a blend of playfulness with more unpredictable arrangements. Thus making this disc most charming and uplifting. A pleasant departure from the more complex or darker side of music we usually review.

    – Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG

    27 July, 2016, 17:00 | Blog · Music · Writing

    I Like Jazz

    I’ve come up against the idea that Jazz is a thing not to like more often that I would have guessed I would.

    It had never really occurred to me as an option to rule it out before people started telling me “yeah, I really have a problem with Jazz”. I grew up listening to a few bits in my folks’ record collection, which wasn’t extensive given how much my dad loved music. There was some early Jazz in there though: Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, a few choice cuts from an early New Orleans form. There was a Billie Holiday record too. I guess I didn’t think of them as a certain type of record. Significantly, I definitely didn’t think of them as the same type of record.

    I’ve always listened to music people would call Jazz, which includes a great deal of different music to my ear. My tastes have evolved (a bit, but probably not as much as they might have) over the years, but never to the point at which something I’m spinning wouldn’t fall into that bracket according to a decent number of people, which I guess is the point: Saying I didn’t like Jazz would feel to me as meaningless and self-defeating as saying I didn’t like food. To dismiss it would wipe out the possibility of engaging with a huge swathe of something, so as an entrenched position it seems to represent a significant impoverishment for little gain in return. And I’d be hungry.

    I don’t think I have fully understood what that gain is yet. Trying to talk about the idea with people once they have expressed a dislike is hard to do without appearing to challenge the opinion they are entitled to, and that can understandably make folk defensive. I guess if I’m honest though, I do want to challenge it a little bit. I’m worried they are throwing a lot out at once. Perhaps one of the pay-offs is precisely that ability to make such a bold statement. To stand in a clearly defined camp and say “that’s not for me” can feel good, especially when it feels like a decent, tried and tested fallback position, like sneering at Bono or eschewing a high street coffee chain (both of which I have been guilty of). It helps us feel like we know something.

    So here’s my bold statement: I like Jazz. Apparently it’s not hip (not unlike using the word hip) and people seem to be challenged by it, but I do.

    Jazz runs deep through almost all the Western music we now know and which continues to shape our lives and ideas on a daily basis. Evolving alongside Blues music from the African culture which became increasingly present in the USA as a result of trading in slaves in the 18th and 19th centuries – and being suppressed as a result – it could be argued to be a genre more political than stylistic in origin. Certainly its angular rhythms and unfamiliar cultural roots made it a dangerous and challenging form even in its rawest state, and it’s possible that as a form it will always be regarded with suspicion by its adoptive cultures. But the musical culture of Jazz has always seemed to me one of vernacular learning and instinctive performance driven by a conscience which extends beyond music: it has at its core a spontaneity which is rarely matched in other forms of Western music, and it could be argued that this defines it more than instrumentation or style.

    Its political culture is strong in voice, too. Long the music of the oppressed, the various forms which fall into the category of the genre have been often been about breaking things, be they new ground or old rules. Much of the significant evolution of Western music as a whole in the 20th century can be traced to Jazz over classical forms, a significant change from previous centuries of music history. Composers and performers of contemporary classical music (which blurs lines so much with the free improvisational forms so present in modern Jazz) lean towards the unknown through formal procedures such as aleatoric generation of values or open scoring to create a music which has some of the vitality of the late Jazz forms pioneered by the likes of Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane or Eric Dolphy. The voice and energy of the underdog and of the searcher are strong in so many of the great Jazz musicians that the political and social element of the form remains so deeply embedded in the music as to be inextricable from it, a phenomenon which has perhaps only been recently equalled in Hip Hop culture.

    But this is where it is possible to imagine a fork in the road, not so much in the evolution of a musical culture but in the perception of what that culture represents. My sense of the political, vernacular and instinctive core of Jazz is far from universal: For me, if your noises dig deep from a rich and varied cultural history and you push them out with a consciousness of their significance for people like you, you’re probably playing music which could be described as Jazz. It’s dangerous to speak for others but I suspect that for some you’re only really jazzing if you’re playing long solos in complex time signatures to people who for some reason can’t leave their chins alone. In the latter case, you’ve most likely undergone intense musical training and are theoretically and technically so accomplished that to play less, or less challenging, material is simply boring to you. Of course, if that’s the Jazz people don’t like, then they can usually colour me on board.

    The difference I see in the ways in which Jazz can be defined or understood lie somewhere in this complex notion of whether it is a question of what something is or rather a question surrounding why it is. I have certainly had similar conversations about musical genres which are far less broad – Punk being an excellent example of that. Put another way, it may be possible to define Jazz in terms of either attitude or style and come up with some quite different results.

    Even when dismissing Jazz only in terms of style we are dealing with a very broad spectrum, although I suspect many people when thinking of Jazz as an enjoyable thing to dislike are imagining a saxophone- or trumpet-led frenetic and intellectual type of impenetrable chamber music. To pretend that the stereotype doesn’t exist would be naive. This music is certainly extant, and I probably like some of it, although I would be the first to admit that the more music relies on technique and intellect at its core the more intimidating it can be to the untrained ear, and a certain amount of defensiveness must arise from any resultant feeling that one is supposed to understand something about it and has somehow failed if not. But who gets to confirm whether any reading of a piece of music is ‘correct’ or not, and does it make sense to consider that the purpose of music is to be ‘understood’ anyway? To me it mostly doesn’t, unless we assume artists are interested in creating an exclusive club which inflates its tiny memberships’ sense of superiority by giving it a sense of intellect which can at best only be based on subjective measures. That seems like an arduous and thankless task given how hard it is for artists to reach an audience in any case.

    My own feeling on this – that great art works on several levels most of the time – is hardly groundbreaking. It may be possible to analyse and understand what is being done in a piece of music, and of course there is an enormous amount to be gained from doing so when one chooses to, but fundamentally if the music in question relies on this then it usually isn’t for me: Surely, the subjectivity of any art form is vital to its artistry. I also have very little time for music which exists to please or validate its executor rather than its listener, although I should add that I make no case for the dumbing down of technique or intellect in art on principle. The sheer abstract qualities of any piece of art must surely at the very least be satisfying or intriguing enough to invite further investigation from a third party regardless of the intellectual arguments which can or cannot be made for its existence. One must want to move towards something even if one doesn’t already understand its vocabulary. Look at our perpetual fascination with birdsong.

    That said, when the spectrum also comfortably encompasses Armstrong and Fitzgerald or Django Reinhardt it’s hard to argue that the style is by definition either difficult and alienating or homogenous enough to make a single judgement about. This without considering the blurred lines between Jazz and almost all modern forms of music including Hip Hop, Reggae, Soul, R&B, Rock n Roll, Swing and a multitude of other elements which form the DNA of a very modern listening experience. To dismiss Jazz as a whole must be to draw a line in the sand beyond which taste will not venture, and to condemn Joni Mitchell to spend eternity tightrope-walking its length like an introspective Canadian Sisyphus (a fate from which the breadth and artistry of her output should surely save her).

    But this is the point – the sheer variety of artistic visions, sounds and approaches, and the number of “non-Jazz” artists who have taken the form on in their work – be they classical musicians like Stravinsky or Gershwin, songwriters like Mitchell or Pop behemoths like Bowie or Radiohead – surely preclude us from forming a single reactive opinion which dismisses well over a century of music history in a single blow, and holding it so widely. I don’t doubt that whatever someone is thinking of when they say they don’t like Jazz is something they genuinely don’t like and that that is a considered opinion – I also wonder what it is they are thinking about, and how precisely it would line up with what the person next to them calls Jazz and doesn’t like.

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    24 July, 2016, 13:28 | Blog · Music · Writing

    Mis-spent Youth

    I was in a rehearsal recently during which a friend was trying to play a line in exactly the way I was playing it. His playing was great, but we didn’t sound like one another. His natural inclination was to articulate the phrases and transitions differently, and to place the stress in different spots. His final comment came: “I just don’t have any of the same instincts as you”.

    In these moments in which I’m invited to wonder why I make the noises I do and no others I tend to think of the players I’ve listened to most and make an effort to blame them for my choices, so I casually suggested he perhaps hadn’t spent as much time as me listening to Mark Knopfler during his formative years.

    His proud reaction was to assure me that his youth had been far too mis-spent to listen to uncool music. I quietly wondered whether mine hadn’t, by his own definition, been more mis-spent than his by my doing just that.

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    9 June, 2016, 17:00 | Blog · Music · Playing

    This is from the sessions recording original music by Chris Cundy which explores the overlaps of composed and improvised sound. It was a pleasure to record at Wincraft Studios in Bourton on the Water, Glos., and an honour to play with an illustrious ensemble:

    Chris Cundy: Bass Clarinet
    Mat Martin: Guitar
    Fyfe Dangerfield: Piano
    Hannah Marshall: Cello
    Dominic Lash: Double Bass
    Mark Sanders: Drums

    9 June, 2016, 15:50 | Blog · Music · Playing

    Kirsty McGee - A Plague (Demo)

    Been playing with new electric sounds for the material Kirsty McGee has been writing lately. This played on a Daddy Mojo Cigar box through a Fender Champ 600 – I hope it’s the kernel of a great sound…

    I found this (from March 2011, along with another, similar demo) whilst clearing out my old tumblr blog and was pleasantly surprised by the sounds and the playing on it, so I’m re-posting it now. This is how I usually think I’d like to be able to play – I must have found it that day.

    23 September, 2014 | Blog · Music · Playing · Recording

    New single from James Brute, featuring me on clapping and packing crate and lungs etc. Directed by David Fishel and filmed shortly after James broke his collar bone.

    Released September 23rd, 2014

    Performed by James Steel & Mat Martin
    Recorded by Nick Foots

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    20 September, 2014, 14:58 | Blog · Music · Theatre

    “To London, Love Me”, a piece on which I worked with Lowri Jenkins and Jennifer Fletcher back in 2013 is returning as “Invisible City”, following a period of R&D in various locations including Wales and Spain. Early next year the piece will enter its final stage of development at Chapter Arts in Cardiff and I’m looking forward to getting back together with Lowri and Jenni to find out more about what has happened since I was last involved.

    Invisible City was written by Lowri Jenkins and brought to life as a collaboration with Director/Choreographer Jennifer Fletcher. It tells the story of Marie, a naïve newcomer to the big city. Struggling to adjust, she becomes a woman on the edge of an everyday trauma. Surreal and tender, To London, Love Me is an ode to longing, hope and the loneliness we often try to escape. The work is highly physical and works closely with a unique score composed by Mat Martin to produce a multi-disciplinary performance.

    Originally commissioned by Rich Mix (London) in 2013 the work has since been presented at SCHIUME (Venice, 2013), St. Donats Arts Centre (Wales, 2013), ACT Festival (Bilbao, 2014) and Nunart Guinardó (Barcelona, 2014).

    1 April, 2013 | Blog · Music · Playing · Recording

    The song Sandman is from the album ‘The Kansas Sessions’ (HPCD004, 2008), and features in the 2013 movie ‘Trance’ by Danny Boyle.
    The song ‘Setting of the Sun’ is from the album ‘Contraband’ (HPCD007, 2012).

    Released April 1, 2013

    Kirsty McGee: Vocal, Guitar
    Mat Martin: Banjo Uke
    Katie Euliss: String Bass
    Colin Mahoney: Drums, Percussion
    Larry Maxey: Clarinet

    Produced by Mike West
    Recorded by Mike West at The Ninth Ward Pickin’ Parlour
    Mastered by Denis Blackham at Skye Mastering
    Artwork & Graphic Design: Mat Martin

    12 January, 2013 | Blog · Music · Playing · Producing · Recording

    Released January 12, 2013

    Joanna Chapman-Smith – Vocals, Guitar, Copper Pipes (track 11) and Clarinet (track 1)
    Todd Biffard – Drums
    Patrick Metzger – Double bass
    Albert St. Albert – Hand percussion, Vocals
    Mat Martin – Banjo, Tenor guitar, Guitar
    Jaron Freeman-Fox – Violin

    Produced by Joanna Chapman-Smith and Mat Martin

    17 December, 2012, 00:00 | Blog · Music · Theatre

    Rod Farry has put together this little video preview of ‘The Many Apologies of Pecos Bill’ from the scratch performances Greg Wohead and I did at Battersea Arts Centre in November.

    The final piece should be on the road in 2013.

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    25 November, 2012, 00:00 | Blog · Music · Theatre

    Greg Wohead - The Many Apologies of Pecos Bill

    The wonderful Greg Wohead and I will be returning to the piece we built in September for the Yard theatre, Hackney for a week’s redevelopment following Greg’s trip to Texas where he performed and workshopped the piece some more.

    We’ll be taking it apart and putting it back together again, leading up to some pay-what-you-can scratch performances of wherever it ends up as follows:

    The Many Apologies of Pecos Bill: Scratch – December 06-08th, Battersea Arts Centre, 9pm.

    Here are some pictures from the Yard performances, taken by Rod Farry in September.

    19 November, 2012 | Blog · Music · Playing · Recording

    Released November 19th, 2012

    ‘Greedy Magicians’, singer-songwriter Matt Hill aka Quiet Loner’s third album, is a collection of contemporary protest songs seething with disgust and shot through with melancholy at the state of our coalition-led nation. It’s an album which responds both personally and politically, reflecting on recent events and rewriting them as chapters in a long and historic struggle of the many against the few.

    Rejecting the securities of a conventional recording studio, Hill instead recorded in an 18th century church in Salford, an area steeped in radicalism. Over a single evening in May 2012, lit only by candles and fairy lights with around 100 people present to witness it, Hill and his fellow musicians (with members of Samson & Delilah and Last Harbour) recorded the songs totally live in single takes.

    The album sleeves are handprinted using 19th century machines, the techniques used to print radical pamphlets now deployed to produce a 21st century form of protest.

    ‘Greedy Magicians’ is a strong and self-assured artistic statement and there’s a powerful atmosphere that permeates this record. Quiet Loner has made a record about standing up and speaking out, about knowing your history and, most importantly, about how community is our strength and our hope.

    Mike Doward: Double bass, Vocals
    Tammy Hermann: Vocals
    Matt Hill: Vocals, Guitar
    Mat Martin: Tenor guitar, Percussion, Vocals
    James Youngjohns: Violin, Mandolin, Guitar
    Anna Zweck: Accordion, Flute, Vocals

    4 November, 2012, 17:53 | Blog · Music · Playing · Touring

    Myshkin's Ruby Warblers - BBC Radio 3

    World On 3 - Myshkin Live Session

    The live session Myshkin and I, as official Ruby Warbler on tenor guitar and banjo, recorded for BBC Radio 3 this autumn, was broadcast this week. As far as I know it will be archived for listening indefinitely at the World on Three page.

    Super happy with these arrangements, and with the Ruby Warbling in general, and looking forward to more work with Myshkin next year. This music is amongst my favourite to work on – harmonically it goes to some of my favourite dark places, and the chance to be inventive is always present. There are only a few artists I’ve played with who give the chance to get your chops around such a variety of styles and ideas.

    A very early version of a Lorca setting from Myshkin at the end of this session, too. Such a treat to be involved in this project at such a formative point, too.