It's been a busy start to the year for me, playing some gigs in Scotland with Barrett's Dottled Beauty and overseas with Burd Ellen. I'm due to head south soon to play a Pefkin show in Carlisle, then play a bunch of shows in March in Glasgow, New Galloway, Bradford, London, Brighton, Sheffield and Newcastle to launch my forthcoming album.
Yes!! My forthcoming album!! 'Celestial Navigations' is released on 25th February on Morc records on lovely vinyl with a screenprinted cover featuring an illustration by my super-talented partner in crime and life Alan Davidson.
18 months ago I was asked to play at Papa Westray’s Øy Festival with a brief linking the self-sufficiency and ingenuity of islanders to space exploration. The 5 songs that make up this album are the result.
The opener and title track takes its name from a pre-GPS method of navigation using a sextant to read the stars and plot a course over the seas. It features my fellow Celestial Navigator from Electroscope on VCS3, vocals, clarinet / bass clarinet and Revox A77 tape recorder - John Cavanagh - and is a typically Electroscopian slice of swooping space pop that dissolves into woozy ambient drone.
The other 4 songs are loosely themed around Arctic exploration, in particular the Orkney-born explorer, John Rae, who discovered the fate of Lord Franklin as well as the North West Passage. Alan Davidson of the Kitchen Cynics plays some magnificient psych guitar on epic side 2 opener ‘I Am John Rae’.
It wouldn’t be a Pefkin album without birds, and ‘Tulungusaq’, a dreamy slice of psych pop with delicious vocal harmonies, violin, mellotron and thumb piano, is based on an Inuit creation myth about the crow.
Finally, both sides close out located firmly in the frozen far north. ‘Numenius Borealis’ is the scientific name for the Eskimo Curlew which made the Arctic tundra its summer home before it was hunted into (probably) extinction. The only photograph taken of this beautiful species of wader was in 1962 in Galveston, Texas. This elegy takes the form of a haunted chorale bathed in oscillating waves of ominous hum.
I met Stromness-based metalworker Fiona Sanderson on Papa Westray where she was exhibiting a sculpture named ‘Aeolian Chimes’ made from a handthrown copper bowl and grandfather clock chimes. This beautiful creation, on loan to me, features throughout the album, most prominently on ‘Aurora Borealis’, an incredible aural exploration of the Northern Lights, layering violin, vocals, electronics and harmonica, a dronescape to sink into and drift. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to make music with this wonderful piece of art.
I have been busy doing some remixes for Sweet Williams (digital release on Gringo - out now), Grey Malkin & Ashtoreth and Burd Ellen (also out now) as well as contributing vocals to a forthcoming Trappist Afterland / Grey Malkin collaborative project. Also forthcoming is a special lathe / cd compilation tribute to Scott Walker on Sonido Polifonico and my contribution is a take on 'The Electrician' which moves from spooky to lush baroque pop to downright evil.
I am approaching my 20th year recording and performing under the Pefkin name so next year is going to be a celebration of two decades of wilful obscurity!
I have been writing and recording my next album over the last 18 months. It is called 'Celestial Navigations' and will be coming out on glorious vinyl on Belgian label Morc Records (like my other two vinyl LPs). It features 5 compositions themed around Arctic exploration of the 19th century, with topics (loosely) covering how to use a sextant, Inuit creation myth and crows, the aurora borealis, an extinct curlew and Orkney-born explorer John Rae. It is thanks to the wonderful Oy Festival in Papa Westray that this set of songs exists as I was invited to write something that met the theme of islanders and space exploration. This was the result. On the same trip to Papay, I met with the wonderful metal worker and scuptor Fiona Sanderson who was exhibiting her piece Aeolian Chimes, constructed from a handmade copper bowl and grandfather clock chimes. Fiona invited me to play this as part of an improvised piece in my set and she liked what I did so much that I have Aeolian Chimes (or The Bowl as it generally gets called) on long term loan. The Bowl is the star of the show on 'Aurora Borealis'. Expect the album in February / March 2020.
Later in the year I will be working with my absolute fave Sonido Polifonico on a special 20th anniversary lathe cut.
Regular Pefkin listeners will know of my love for wildlife, particularly anything with wings! I have been working on an album of songs about bird folklore with Alison O'Donnell, Alan Davidson, Grey Malkin and David Colohan. This is called 'A Colloquy of Birds' and we are looking for a label currently.
I've been very busy gigging this year with Pefkin, Burd Ellen and the Kitchen Cynics with highlights being Sidmouth Folk Week, Woolf II, Fano Free Folk Festival and supporting Sweet Williams twice. I will be venturing south of the border next year to play in Carlisle in February, then a short tour with Luki in March. Alan Davidson and I are also dusting off our paisley pattern to revive our psych folk project Barrett's Dottled Beauty and we will be playing Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen early in 2020.
I have been very fortunate to play with some marvellous musicians this year: Debbie Armour who has given me the freedom to bring all my Pefkin strangeness to the traditional folk table and it has been such a treat to be involved with such a wonderful singer in such an interesting and challenging project. We have a cassingle coming out early 2020 on which I also provide a remix. All my psych folk dreams came true when I was asked to sing with Meadowsilver (Grey Malkin ad Stephen from Rowan Amber Mill) and we have issued an album and collection of singles. I have also done some live shows singing and playing violin with my partner Alan Davidson of the Kitchen Cynics in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Hereford and Woolf II.
Very best wishes to anyone who has supported me by coming to see me live or buying my music over the last 20 years!