“Scrapbook”, a 9-track album released in autumn this year on the Spark label, is the work of Angus Bayley, composer and musician as well as scientist! All of the tracks but one are in fact composed by Angus except “Alex’s song” which is co-written with Alex Chilton.
The album opens with “Alex’s song” which flows so well that one does not realize it is 5 minutes long! That time just simply flies and the listener is left wanting more.
“Triads”, a mellow, almost melancholic track where the trumpet and strings are main protagonists, but which eventually rises up to a more rhythmic tempo. “Wrioter” is a piano ballad, but not as we know it, the interaction of the trumpet creates is just lovely.
“My first friends” reminds me of a little French interlude, a summer promenade; it creates a gentle atmosphere, which develops into a very elegant composition. “Singer man” is my favourite track: Paul Trippett’s bass notes start this piece darkly, one is pulled in and soon the piece is an amalgam of instruments. Ingenious.
Since the album release, the band has been touring and will be playing at the Vortex (Gillet Square) in London on Friday 9th December! This will be a double-bill and the audience will be able to catch the Tom Green Septet, too! Not to be missed!
Let’s keep an ear and eye open for Angus Bayley and his band (aka Scrapbook), a talented band with a vision for the diverse.
Personnel: Angus Bayley – Piano/ Compositions; Alaric Taylor – Trumpet; Kieran McLeod – Trombone; Daisy Watkins – Viola; Nick Sigsworth – Cello; Paul Trippett – Bass; Dave Hamblett – Drums
Here is my recent Q&A session with Angus:
1. You are a scientist AND a composer/ musician – how do these two professions work in your world?
Outside music I actually work programming computers now, not doing science. It used to be traditional science, i.e. in a white coat in a lab, but stopped to go and get involved with the insurgence of internet startups, some of which were doing stuff that made the world better. I wanted to see if I could contribute. Sometimes I use software and science interchangeably when people ask me about it, both meaning “technology work”.
I do software work during the weekdays then in evenings and weekends I work on music. I take time off work to record music and go on tour. It works, just about.
2. Scrapbook has 9 tracks, all different and yet one can sense a common vibe, almost ethereal. How did the idea of using strings (violin and viola) come up?
This music uses rich chordal drones and chord sequences as a basis for tunes – a lot of the emotive power of the music comes from that part of it, and in that way it is not unlike film music. Some of the best film music does this kind of thing really well using strings. Not only that, but strings have been incorporated into a bunch of jazz and rock groups before (e.g. Mahavishnu Orchestra, some Django Bates, some Charlie Parker), and in each case it really elevates the timbre of the music. Strings just have a magic quality to them when it comes to filling out pretty chords and doubling melodies with other instruments. So when I wrote my music, which is more pretty than angular, it seemed obvious to me to use them.
3. It’s almost a year since Scrapbook was recorded, although it was not released till September this year, how does it feel for you, as a composer, to see this album “age” and “grow”?
Exciting. Mixing and mastering it was awesome – there were a bunch of pretty moments from the recording session that I only realised happened when listening to it afterwards in Alex Killpartrick’s studio, and when we noticed them we were able to mix the record in a way that emphasised them.
4. How do you compose? Do you have a particular routine?
There’s no routine, although a lot of the material on this album started from “accidental” chord sequences that I’d happen upon when just playing about without any structure or routine at the piano. I used to spend a lot of time – probably a disproportionate amount of time relative to most jazz musicians – sitting at the piano playing with chord progressions. Making up new chords, trying all different combinations of them, moving them around. Most of the time this ends up with me playing something that just seems totally random and not that meaningful, and that’s not that exciting. Other times what I play ends up converging on something that’s similar to something else I’ve heard before, and that’s not that exciting either. But every now and then there’s a happy accident: a little theme or phrase predicated on a harmonic idea that I’ve never heard in any music before, and at the same time sounds really powerful and beautiful to me.
When that happens I feel like I’ve just been privy to a new discovery – much like a scientist peering into an electron microscope gets to see a rare and very beautiful side of nature that only a few people get to see, in moments like this I feel like I’m getting a first look at something special that nobody else has ever come across and I’m really lucky to have seen it. And right then I feel incredibly motivated to find a way to let other people see it too, and that means getting it into a form that resembles a song, and doing it in a way that at the very least preserves the original message of that idea, but hopefully emphasises it.
5. Tell me why is Scrapbook on the Spark label?
I know the guys from Spark and I know they are capable of being really organised and getting stuff done. I’ve heard some bad stories about other labels and albums getting into tricky spots because they haven’t been administratively capable, so with Spark there wasn’t anything to worry about in that respect. They care about putting out good music, and they care about getting it heard too, so it seemed like a good fit.
6. Do you have a favourite track from the album?
I’ve got a few, each of which is a winner in it’s own way. I really didn’t let any music get into this album that I thought was only OK – each song had to be very purposeful and get across something that I genuinely thought was an important, original musical idea. There are no B tracks. However there are two tracks I like to draw attention to – Steam and Tides – because they both feel really different from a lot of other music I know and yet despite the fact that they are pretty alien to what I usually hear and have grown up around, I think everything in those tunes is pretty natural. Each note gets a real point across, and each of the points that they get across are in sync, in one unified direction.
7. Any highlights from the tour?
We just finished tour in the last few days, the final leg we did probably was the highlight. Playing at the Lescar in Sheffield was fantastic – we came down into the city from an incredibly bleak dusk fog on the snow dusted peaks, to the venue which had a great warmth to it – there was real enthusiasm for that night.
8. What next for Angus Bayley & co?
We’ve got a London set coming up at the Vortex on the 9th December at the Spark label showcase, and we are targeting some festival gigs for the new year. Further plans still being formulated, but we keep our website and facebook pages up to date so stay in touch: