Stephen’s first ‘soundtrack’ collection was released October 15th 2001 in a limited edition
1. Nevercoming Home (2.01)
2. The Rice Trail (1.29)
3. 0-1-800-Jesus (4.21)
4. Sawcuts (2.51)
5. Nervous Ice In Cheap Cola (1.40)
6. Do You Think He Was Singing It (2.28)
7. The Broken 88 (1.53)
8. Squeeze The Trigger Gently (4.32)
1. Arthritis Kid (3.16)
2. Jokeshop Bullethole (3.34)
3. Tolls On The Freeway (3.12)
4. Gang Cult no.5: The Black Reindeers (2.20)
5. Here We Attack (2.09)
6. 17 Blue Sun Road, Yellow Hill (2.08)
7. 25 Watt Halo (2.31)
8. Baby’s Coming (1.34)
1. Hai (2.00)
2. The Restaurant Is Guilty II (2.31)
3. Baby Jesus Opens His Presents (3.03)
4. Tealeaves On The Rooftiles (2.38)
5. Waking Up In The Coffin (3.53)
6. Always Bright (3.01)
7. Loveable Thug (2.55)
8. Commercial Suicide (1.27)
Easy Tiger: eta002cd
Chrysalis promo: amber cd1
This is a compilation of instrumental film music, recorded from 1985 to the present day.
It is the soundtrack work of
Stephen Jones, ex – Babybird
From 1995 to 2000, Stephen Jones was known as Babybird.
A song writer who has sold two million records
To date his music has already had 200 national and worldwide TV syncs, including adverts, video, super 8 and film.
This promotional compilation is a taster of music eventually intended to be heard with film.
It is a collection of instrumental music recorded from 1985 to the present day. It represents Stephen Jones’s obsession with soundtracks, breakbeats, and orchestral music.
He has also written and had two novels published in 2000.
He is writing his third.
(from amber cd1)
This release was on all accounts eagerly awaited for several reasons. First of all, it’s the first release by Stephen Jones not to be issued under the Babybird moniker, while also being the first album in a long time not being released by Echo.
Second, promo discs (amber cd1 and some CD-Rs) of this release started circulating already in July (one copy went for well over 100£ at Ebay) without any kind of news being issued to the baffled fans who only vaguely knew about this apparently quite ambitious attempt at creating scores and tracks to accompany films and other kinds of visuals.
Third, it marks a turning away from more traditional song writing style, especially since Bugged, and instead treads into a more undiscovered and experimental territory leading many (including myself) to expect some sort of Dying Happy Two.
Previously, Dying Happy and even The Bad Book had shown efforts into creating rare moments of filmic imagery with great artistic success. But this new album, then, was Jones’ fully-fledged stab at going all the way and apparently make a living out of focusing his methods on the visual style of his music. And last, how on earth do you try to suppress those expectations while waiting for a 3 CD set of 3-inch discs containing works from the last 17 years?
Well, I surely had a hard time waiting in the light of the lack of press and news up-dates from the official website and the never-ending setbacks of the release date. But finally, it’s out on Easy Tiger in the most lovable foldout cover design seen in recent years – and in many ways it’s well worth the wait.
So what’s it all about then?
Quite predictably this is not music for your average Hollywood blockbuster, so there’s no overblown classical scores in the mode of what John Williams is capable of just too many times every year. Nor will you find some sort of red line running through these 24 tracks that might imply some sort of cohesion or internal logic building up to an inevitable conclusion (As I always thought was the case with Dying Happy).
This is in other words a rather uneven collection of compositions that does, however, follow some of the premises of soundtrack scoring; most tracks are short and delivers short moments of drama, sensation and atmosphere. And there is a genuine sense of cinematic drama that I haven’t previously heard so unmistakably in Stephen Jones’ earlier home recordings.
No need for gloomy and ambiguous lyrics here, just the music conveying all those different emotions. And in that respect this collection is quite successful though not being highly original in the attempt of letting the instrumental textures stand alone and speak for themselves.
Disc one consists mostly of ambient-like sequences operating at a very poignant mode which somehow makes it inevitable to make references to the likes of Brian Eno, Vangelis and even some of David Bowie’s instrumentals (the Berlin stuff (all right, that’s Eno again) and also some of The Buddha of Surburbia soundtrack album.
And it is difficult not to be moved by the sensible and mysterious synthesizer soundscapes and almost random piano abstractions of Do You Thing He Was Singing It, Nevercoming Home and especially Sawcuts.
0-1-800-Jesus samples a tele-evangelist (OK, this is done before, best by Byrne/Eno on My Life In The Bush of Ghosts) on top of a truly haunting string arrangement and slowly builds up a nerve wrecking climax. Great stuff…and really creepy. Squeeze The Trigger Gently opens up slowly and gently but is suddenly disturbed by a violent breakbeat and a loud and progressive horns section turning the track into an action-fuelled symphonic roller coaster ride. Very classic and very modern!
Disc two follows with more breakbeats and gloomy electronica on tracks like Jokeshop Bullethole and 25 Watt halo. 17 Blue Suns Road recycles Hospital only this time with a trumpet standing in for the vocal. Arthritis Kid samples a child’s prayer and is probably the most up-lifting tune here – with Stephen’s vocal instead is could easily have been found in Bugged. Tolls on the Freeway sound like something off the first David Holmes album, and the closing Baby’s coming is yet a return to a sort of Eno-esque synth-soundscape.
Disc three, then, has more of the same excursions into trippy electronica. Waking up in the Coffin is just outstanding (my favourite on all three discs – reminds me of German electro pioneers Cluster’s mid-70s albums such as Zuckerzeit and Sowiesoso), while the all too short Hai is rather unfinished.
The restaurant is Guilty II is a variation of everyone’s favorite off the Bad Shave album, and Commercial Suicide ends the album as a sort of symphonic slowed down adaptation of Bad Old Man. While the first disc primarily focuses on low-key ambient sequences, this disc is far more settled on conjuring small dramas out of breatbeats and mid-nineties trip hop-esque figures.
So there’s lots of emotional imageries and inspired moments of cinematic ambiance contained in the music on all three discs here. But somehow 24 short tracks delivered over 3 discs is nevertheless too much to actually fully enjoy this collection as a cohesive and carefully structured album (I later copied all discs onto one CD to much joy). Of course the objective with this release is far more promotional than commercial, but to build up a filmic drama just by the sheer organization of the selected pieces of music ought to be an inevitable aim in its own right on an album like this one.
Also, the best tracks are in fact those that are allowed to evolve over time (Waking Up on the Coffin and 0-1-800-Jesus) and really put the hook in you, while others (Hai, for instance) seem rather aimless and hardly original. Maybe because its all too short ultimately to affect the listener – and some instrumental electronic music only seem legitimate when allowed to slowly build up a genuine atmosphere of excitement.
Applied to a visual framework, it is obvious that there might just not be the desired amount of time to do so when the soundtrack has to serve the purpose of conveying an instant moment of atmosphere to correspond with the images on the screen.
But here on this album where the listener is confined to create these images oneself, well, it just doesn’t always work very good – or at least not as well as with some on the tracks on Dying Happy (When Everyone Speaks English, The World Will Explode as the most obvious example) without drawing too many similarities between these two very different albums. But mind you, this is not a general impression of the whole disc set itsel,f but just a thought I had after listening to this album constantly for about a week.
So there might not be much news here in terms of Stephen adding new dimensions to otherwise well-explored genres of modern electronic music, but what saves the album is definitely his ability to create unpredictable and beautiful moments of absolute melancholy (and downright despair) out of otherwise recognizable contexts – just as it happens with his pop music. And out of the 24 tracks there truly are many of these unique moments.
By the way, most of this album sounds very modern in terms of styles and methods, so I have no way of telling when each track was recorded. Some of the mellow breakbeat material sounds like mid-nineties trip hop as Massive Attack or Portishead would have done it years ago, but generally an overall impression is that this is a pretty timeless collection, which also ought to find an audience among film directors and other visual artists on the lookout for the right piece of music to go along with those dark and dream-like images.
Let’s just hope there’s a whole new career lying ahead of Stephen Jones here. On all accounts, this collection is the proof that it’s well worth it.