KIRSTY ALMEIDA @ BAND ON THE WALL
HUNGRY PIGEON 2010
FRIDAY MAY 28TH
*** Day / Weekend ticket which are available from http://www.ticketline.co.uk and http://www.seetickets.com.com where Hungry Pigeon is featured on the homepage of both sites , and http://www.wegottickets.com ***
*** Also available in person at Piccadilly Records ***
Musical dresses, circular doors, chirping toy birds, sonic hallucinations: in Kirsty Almeida we’ve the return, at last, of the enigmatic true eccentric. Her music (like her life) is magical, the kind of radiant soul-revue sophistication that’s been gone so long it suddenly feels brand new; crystalline vocals untouched by meddling sheen, live instrumentation tinkling across your synapses, the glowing warmthof classic song-writing pulsing like amber jewels. Her debut album, ‘Pure Blue Green”’ is a timeless spectrum of soul, folk, blues and sumptuously intricate voodoo pop beamed through the prism of her gifted seven-piece band. Signed to the legendary Decca label in the summer of 2009, her debut album (like her) took the scenic route to get here: mostly written in two months in a friend’s converted stables in Sheffield in 2007 where she lived the artistic dream (immersed in paints, fabrics, instruments and fairy lights) while she and her band, hewn from Manchester’s vibrant jazz scene, conjured the musical magic.
“A lot of musicians will talk about The Magic,” she says. “Something happens in the room and I can see colours or flashes of light or I’m overwhelmed by texture.”
‘Pure Blue Green’ was produced by the mythological Youth (U2, Primal Scream, The Verve, Beth Orton, one half of electronic duo The Fireman with Sir Paul McCartney). The first time Youth heard her songs, he was astonished and told her “this is really well-rounded, amazing, sophisticated song-writing’”. “ I didn’t even know who he was,” admits Kirsty, “ The first time I met him, at his house, his 76 year old mother answered the door wearing a bomber jacket and she was really posh and really lovely and heavily into very intense hip-hop. She said ‘I’m really sorry, Youth is asleep’. So I thought Youth was a youth, like 19 years old.”
Finding an instant connection through their musical, ideological and psychedelic minds, they became inspired collaborators, recording the album in October/November 2009 at State Of The Ark Studios in Richmond, Surrey, the vintage boutique studio owned by song-writer/producer Terry Britten (and loved by Regina Spektor), a tantalising grotto of valve equipment, a Steinway B grand piano, a Hammond B3 and a dazzling vintage Wurlitzer. Prior to recording, Kirsty and her musicians (drums, upright bass, keyboard, guitar, trumpet, trombone, saxophone) spent two weeks on an experimental adventure – relocating to Spain where they played, sang, swapped instruments, fought, cried and laughed “until, by the end, I had a proper, real band, as opposed to me singing over some session musicians”.
Also intrinsic to the album was assistant producer John Ellis, the renowned keyboard player/producer/multi-instrumentalist who previously worked with Lily Allen, Tom Jones, Corinne Bailey Rae and who Kirsty describes as “an old spider wizard who lives in a ballroom in Manchester”. Recording the album at State Of The Ark over two intensely productive weeks, Kirsty and “the boys” were continually inspired by Youth’s mesmerising talk of voodoo music, New Orleans funeral marches, circus music, Bond themes and the classics of the 1970s. Kirsty had a ball. “Youth is a maverick, renaissance artist so it was an amazing experience,” she smiles. “He’s so creatively open. Essentially, he’s the guy you see at festivals next to the speaker, dancing away on his own. He really feels it.”
The result, ‘Pure Blue Green’ is sublime, gracious, lusciously melancholy and inspirationally uplifting. ‘Scares Me’, a lyrical paean to the terror of true love, is a brooding atmospheric with a Bond theme overtone, a song which ends in the most dramatically lengthy single vocal note since, say, the one which closes Bill Withers’ ‘Lovely Day’. “I wanted to blow Youth’s mind,” remembers Kirsty, “so he would let me finish for the night and I could go to the pub. So I held that note and Youth shot up in the air and went ‘yes!’ And I went to the pub.” The stunning ‘Butterflies’ is the delicate, yearning, piano reverie which Kirsty calls “my beautiful, little simple song”. The country-tinged, irresistibly melodic ‘Late At Night’ was written in Youth’s Spanish home, in a circular room with circular doors and features Bernard, The Bird Of Time, a plastic bird which flaps its wings and sings, bought from a local street vendor. “Bernard somehow turned into our mascot,” says Kirsty. ‘Willow’, meanwhile, is a soul-wrenching stunner which features “a Nintendo DS solo”, ” ‘Sweet Ole Love’ is Kirsty’s lyrical favourite: “I fell in love with love’s own face, there was nothing I could do/I have drank a few, I drank a case, then I got drunk on you/It hurts me so to feel this cold, the remedies I’ve tried/I wish a brand new heart would grow so I’d feel warm inside.” The magic glimmers on: ‘Spider’ is her voodoo song, a horn-and-
handclaps musical folk-tale as eerily evocative as prime-time Joni Mitchell, ‘Cool Down Rewind’ recalls late 80s Edie Brickell, ‘Shine All Your Light’ shimmers with piano-swoops and the plink of steel drum, ‘Old Josie Brown is classic camp-fire story-telling,” “I think it’s time,” decides Kirsty, wisely, “for music with real soul.”
It’s been an artist’s life forever. Born in the UK, brought up in Gibraltar, she travelled the world as a kid (Venezuela, Singapore, Florida, the Philippines), partly because of her Gibraltarian dad’s work and partly because of the disintegration of her parent’s chaotic marriage. Kirsty’s home became music: “Music was the only place that felt like home, always.” At her many worldwide schools, 19 in all, she would pick up a guitar, play piano and work things out by ear, “harmonies were easy, hearing chords on guitars was simple”. She’d also been painting, sculpting and crafting forever. “I recently made a shaker that was made with shards of glass inside and I can see and hear diamonds falling,” she explains. “I just love sound.” She also, naturally, finds colours in chords and blends them together exactly as a
painter would. “I am,” she cackles, “a massive hippy.”
At the formative age of 17, Kirsty left Gibraltar for the possibilities of London, becoming an exceptional art student at Middlesex University, painting both abstractly and illustratively (ice cubes were a favourite) and was good enough as a teenager to exhibit her paintings and sculptures before moving to Leeds for musical study at the prestigious Bretton Hall. Here, a spell in musical theatre began with the now globe-travelling ‘Carnival Messiah’ (Handel’s Messiah performed in a carnival style) where, alongside lead singing, “as people began to fall apart”, she’d double up on jobs (PA to the artistic director, stage manager, costume designer, choreography assistant, understudy). “Everyone would say, ‘get Kirsty, she can do it!’,” she says. In 2001 she moved to Manchester, became a singer/songwriter touring the city’s smokiest gin-joints and sang on one occasion for Latin band La Gran Descarga who, by the end of that night, requested she join the band full-time. Soon, she became the principal singer and song-writer and toured the UK theatre scene for 3 years. Descarga became successful and had a keen live following with international opportunities now emerging from Switzerland to Peru. “But I didn’t want to become a Latin artist,” says Kirsty. “It was a hard decision but I decided to go to Sheffield and write my own album. Which I did, in two months. My whole life, I’ve made my imaginary world real.”
An experimental craftswoman, Kirsty customises her own instruments and creates her own stage-wear, collaborating today with internationally renowned stylist Mrs Jones (Kylie’s white jump-suit, Brandon Flowers’ feathery epaulettes), and is currently working on a musical dress specifically for the forthcoming live shows. “We’re gonna make a big ball-gown train out of spoons and forks and knives and attach little bells all the way down,” announces Kirsty. “So I can actually play my own dress. Great!”.
For years, Kirsty has lived in a parallel dimension, making both music and a living on quietly productive sidelines; today, she runs a musical collective, Odbod, in her Manchester hometown (currently commissioned to record two tracks for the independent London film project ‘Patagonia’) while her name as a solo artist has turned from underground murmur to word-of-mouth phenomenon. In 2010, she just might be a pioneer. “In this new decade I think there’ll be a lot more people like me coming through,” she concludes. “A lot more artists who are doing this because they love music, not because they want to get to the top or be a fashionable person. I think everything will be a bit more real. I don’t mean we lose the fantasy world, that should always be there, but so many songs today are about production and audio glitter. It would be good to be part of a truly magical scene.”