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Album review: Stanley Brinks and The Wave Pictures “Gin” (Folk Radio UK)

February 18, 2014

Stanley Brinks and The Wave Pictures 'Gin'It’s a measure of how entrenched technology has become in our collective consciousness that the idea of an album “Recorded entirely live in the studio, without headphones or overdubs, and with a good deal of improvisation” now arouses a frisson of anticipation where it was once the norm. After all, the last two decades has seen the advent of affordable digital recording equipment which has enabled a generation of musicians to create some stunning compositions with little more than a laptop and a sampler, and this certainly seems to be a widespread, if not ubiquitous, way of working. Multitrack recording, on the other hand, has been around for some sixty years or more and there’s no doubt that many of the generally acknowledged masterpieces of our times – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Dark Side of the Moon spring immediately to mind – simply would not have existed without the creative possibilities afforded by multitrack recording. Be that as it may, even though sound recording has been evolving since the late 19th century, the fact remains that live music has been the way of things for millennia and it doesn’t take much to build a persuasive case in support of the continued importance of live performances, wherever they take place.

In this context, Gin, the new album by Stanley Brinks and The Wave Pictures, occupies an interesting middle ground: ten songs played live in a recording studio using a comparatively minimal amount of equipment to capture the performances – and it’s to the credit of the musicians, as well as Simon Trought and Giles Barrett at London’s Soup Studio, that all concerned felt able to walk this creative high wire without feeling the need to resort to the safety net of multitrack techniques, overdubs and other studio gimcrackery. The result is a record with a huge presence and an overall ambience which makes a refreshing change from some of the more, dare I say, over-produced work that tends to predominate the contemporary music marketplace. As Stanley sings in Max In The Elevator:

“in our digital-schmigital days
humanity finds new ways”

It’s difficult to single out any particular track as a highlight; Gin is a cohesive whole with exemplary musicianship throughout and deserves to be heard as such. Nevertheless, it’s not without its truly sublime moments: Dave Tattersall’s lead guitar on the broken-hearted beatnik lyricism of I Wanted You; Stan’s sopranino [sic] saxophone on Time For Me, a song which wouldn’t have been out of place drifting through the late night heat and smoky haze of Rick’s Café in Casablanca; Franic Rozycki’s prowling bass on Blues About Krishna’s Latest Avatar; Jonny Helm’s ominously rumbling drums on the brooding Light and Slow; the red-eyed and fevered travelogue that is the lyric for No Goodbyes… I could go on, but really, you need to hear this album for yourself.

In these cynical times, it would be easy to dismiss the idea of an album recorded live in the studio as nothing more than a clever marketing ploy, but anyone who takes that view will miss out on a joyous and celebratory record which crackles and sparkles with a joie de vivre which is sadly lacking from all too many of Stanley Brinks and The Wave Pictures’ contemporaries. Set aside your giant garishly-coloured headphones, put on your dancing shoes and take a large swig of Gin: it’s a real tonic.

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Originally posted at Folk Radio UK (18 February 2014)

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