29 September 2011

Music #2 - Agnes Obel

Here it is - the second instalment of our music posts, which are running for the next two weeks also, bringing you four of our favourite artists/groups for you to discover and enjoy.

Today we are shining the spotlight on the outstanding folk/indie artist, Agnes Obel. Agnes is a danish singer / songwriter, living in Berlin, and my gosh is she special.

The day we met Agnes Obel and her cellist, Anna Muller, April 2011.
(We blogged about this gig back in April, which you can read here.)

We first discovered Agnes about 8 months ago, when perhaps her most famous song Riverside was played on 6Music, and had us immediately hooked. She is a fantastic pianist and an incredible song writer. Her music speaks of magic and mystery to me.

Agnes Obel, 'Riverside' - from her first album Philharmonics.

As well as her obvious musical abilities, I love Agnes' mind. She looks at things in such an interesting way, and seems to have such an extraordinary relationship with her music.

I recently read a fantastic interview with Agnes, by PageDigital, where she described her feelings for her music, which I found to be really interesting...

Obsession? Devotion? Sounds like Obel’s in a heavy relationship. “It’s a love story,” she confirms. “I think it is for everybody who makes music.”

As the songstress lists qualities she admires in music, I suggest they’re similar to ones sought in a lover. “Oh my god,” she laughs, a little shocked. “I don’t know… I think I also look for a friend in a lover. I’m not sure I would say music is my friend.”

Really? “It’s too powerful.” Songs can turn on you, says Obel. Perhaps that’s whey she has such respect for her melodies. What’s she thinking about up on stage, singing lines like: Guess who died, last night, in grey stockings? “Sometimes I just sit there thinking: Oh my god, this is horrible,” she admits, dissolving into laughter.

Extract from PagesDigital, read the full interview here.

In another interview with The Quietus, she described her inspiration...

"I think I get my inspiration from the melody. Sometimes I feel like a melody doesn't have anything to do with me, but it's just something that comes, is accumulated from me playing on the piano, and then this little creature just appears." She giggles quietly. "Then I just follow it, and I don't feel like I'm making it. It's like it makes sense, it wants to go that way, and I feel like sometimes there's a story in it, a little story. Maybe the right hand is playing something and the left is like, 'Oh. It's saying something.' There's a certain atmosphere and mood to it."

Extract from The Quietus, read the full interview here.

I love how intense her relationship with her music is. In some ways it seems to be the love of her life, but in others it seems to be a bit of an enemy. It is incredible how she talks about the lyrics like she didn't consciously write them. It seems as though her music is from within her - it possesses her, controls her mind to form the words and her fingers to form the melody. She is in awe of it, controlled by it, humbled by it, and at the same time perhaps a little afraid of it.

The lyrics quoted in the extract from Pages Digital is actually one of my favourite of her songs, Philharmonics. The lyrics and sounds conjure up eerie, magical and beautiful images in my mind - it is so inspirational.

Agnes Obel, 'Philharmonics' - from her first album Philharmonics.

Philharmonics, her first and only album to date, showcases her talent across the board - where she wrote, played, sang, recorded and produced all of the material herself. There is a good mixture of songs on the album, and some of which are purely instrumental, which I love. The album also includes a cover of John Cale's I keep a close watch (Close Watch), which is beautifully executed.

Agnes is now in the process of writing her next album, which we cannot wait to hear.

Want more?...

Check out Agnes' website: agnesobel.com
Keep up to date on Facebook: facebook.com/agnesobelofficial
Follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/agnesobel
Listen more on Myspace: myspace.com/obelmusic
Buy Philharmonics now: facebook.com/philharmonics

Again, next week we will be releasing the next music post, so keep your eyes peeled for that. In the meantime, we would love to hear your thoughts on this post - are you a new Agnes fan who will be purchasing the album? An existing fan who wants to share their thoughts? Please feel free to leave us your comments.

21 September 2011

Music #1 - Thrice

Welcome to the first of 4 music posts, introducing you to the bands and artists that inspire us. The aim is to bring you creative inspiration from a new angle, and for you to find at least one new artist or group that you want to immediately run out and buy the albums of.

To kick things off, I am beginning with experimental post-hardcore band (though they are hard to pigeon hole), Thrice, in celebration of their latest album release Major/Minor, that we had a much anticipated first listen to last night. If any of you fancy sampling it, they are actually performing some of the new songs in a live session at the Red Bull Studio, tonight at 10pm UK time.

The day we met Dustin Kensrue (lead singer and lyricist in Thrice), January 2010. 
Can you see the awe in our eyes?! He was just as kind and gentle as I imagined he would be.

I first discovered Thrice through my fiance when we first met - a devoted fan he was even then, and that has just grown and spread all over me too, with their infectious talent. At the very beginning, all I had heard was their earlier, heavy stuff like from their album Artist in the Ambulance, and although I was immediately struck by their lyrical talents, and loved some of the songs, the majority of sounds were a bit too hard for me.

The first new album release that I experienced was The Alchemy Index, and in true Thrice-fan-style, my fiance had planned the release day out perfectly. He had booked the day off work for us both, but we got up at the crack of dawn for a treat of a breakfast and a stroll into town along the river, on what was a beautiful Spring morning. Arriving at HMV as it opened, we rushed in and bagged our pristine copy of the album. The walk home was a lot less calm, as we power walked the whole way in anticipation! Finally, we clambered through the door of our apartment and crashed on the bed with our headphones. Then, on that first listen, Thrice had me hooked, with a much more experimental sound that they had developed.

Thrice are such a special band, because they are made up of such amazing people, with such incredible skills. They are fathers, husbands and music lovers. They are family men. They have never been chasing fame or money, or dabbling in drugs, as so many in their line of work do - instead they have a real, true passion for what they do. They create the music that they want to create, and with a massive fan base that has grown up with their ever evolving music, they are the most loyal fans I have ever known, and I am proud to call myself one of them. Thrice have no bounds, and I love that - they are constantly experimenting with new sounds, new ways of doing things, and that is what is so exciting about them.

The Alchemy Index album was split into 4 discs - Earth, Air, Fire and Water. While Fire was obviously heavier, I really enjoyed it in contrast to the lighter Earth, Air and Water discs - and they all work so perfectly together. This album, for me, was where they excelled in every way - lyrically, and with sounds that worked in such harmony.

Thrice, 'The Whaler' - from The Alchemy Index, Water disc. 
Delivered beautifully by lead singer Dustin Kensrue.

Thrice, 'Silver Wings' - from The Alchemy Index, Air disc.

The Whaler is one of my very favourites of all Thrice's songs - it really moves me inside. I love the way he describes the tears in his daughters eyes as tiny seas, and the pure depth of emotion that is within the lyrics - it always makes me think of him leaving his family for tour.

Silver Wings for me, is by far the best example of how amazing Thrice are lyrically. Every time I hear this air sonnet, I am blown away by their skill, and to do this absolute justice, I have copied the lyrics below, incase you can't make all of them out in this recording.

From tender years you took me for granted
But still I deign to wander through your lungs
While you were sleeping soundly in your bed,
(Your drapes were silver wings, your shutters flung)

I drew the poison from the summer's sting,
And eased the fire out of your fevered skin.
I moved in you and stirred your soul to sing;
And if you'd let me I would move again.

I've danced 'tween sunlit strands of lover's hair;
Helped form the final words before your death.
I've pitied you and plied your sails with air;
Gave blessing when you rose upon my breath.

And after all of this I am amazed,
That I am cursed far more than I am praised.

If you haven't already established, Dustin has an amazing mind - he is deeply intelligent and emotionally intense. I love hearing his strong views on the many things he talks about, but especially marriage and love, which are often expressed through the songs he writes. On the new album, Major/Minor, the song Anthology is a great example of this - and what a great recording this is too...

Thrice, 'Anthology' - from Major/Minor, their newest release.

After only having one listen so far, I can't wait to hear more of the new album - to hear all of the different instrumental layers and to pore over the lyrics. But, need I say it, it is sure to own our home over the next few months at least.

Want more?...

Check out the Thrice website: thrice.net
Keep up to date on Facebook: facebook.com/officialthrice
Follow them on Twitter: twitter.com/officialthrice
Listen more on Myspace: myspace.com/thrice
Read more about them: ocweekly.com

Next week we will be releasing the next music post, so keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, tell us what you think of this post and Thrice - are you a new fan that will now be purchasing an album? A contented existing one that wants to share thoughts? Do share, we love to hear from you!

14 September 2011

Canal Boat Art

I do love to stroll alongside the canal, feeding the ducks and swans, and watching the boats go by. Worcester is great for that, and towards the Diglis end in particular, there is such a holiday feel about it, and the pace of life seems slower.

Some people even live on the canal boats, and lately, on the cooler evenings, it has not been uncommon to catch the distinct smell of a log burner, which some have aboard their boat - aboard their home.

There is something about canal boats - the idea of being on the water in a snug homely boat, next to a real fire - and the fact that you can do literally anything you like to it. I have often seen people doing up the boats, which I find fascinating, and that is how I discovered Canal Boat Art.

Sitting on the water one day was a beautiful boat, painted with the most stunning landscape scene, which seemed to just melt into the surroundings...

Luckily the boat in question also carried a website address for the artists, and so after a quick search, I found out a lot more about them.

Canal Boat Art is a consortium of artists, that serve not just England, but all over the world. They create personal commissions for boat owners - from pastoral scenes that blend into the landscape (like this one), to brazen collages that spark fun and amusement, and in all cases, creating personal pictures that will bring pleasure for generations.

I do like to discover something new, and this is one of my very favourite discoveries to date.

07 September 2011

Christening Invitations

One of our most recent projects has been the design and creation of some gorgeous invitations, for a joint Christening. We had so much fun creating these, as so much experimentation went into them. Finally, we can unveil the end result, as we packed them up ready for delivery...

Both the elephant and the kiss stitch border were hand embroidered, and the names that have been blown from the elephants trunk, hand painted. In the copy, we added a real warmth and playfulness - with the reference to 'Grandma's House' for example.

These invitations were digitally printed onto a thick, uncoated, lightly textured ivory stock, and teamed with matching blue envelopes, with detail picked up on the diamond flap seal.

01 September 2011

Awesome Autumn

As you can see from the beautiful burst of yellow, Leaff has now transformed into the season of Autumn - our very favourite of the seasons. There is a lot that I love about Autumn...

The chill in the air; the first wear of my warm coat; the distinctive smell and lingering smoke from a nearby fire; the silence of a crisp morning; the certain sound of footsteps on frozen pavements; the way the frost illuminates the webs in the garden; the comfort of lights glowing from warm houses; the sleepiness of dark mornings; the cosiness of dark evenings...

Long, fresh walks in the countryside; the beauty of the leaves as they explode into colour; the crispness as you tread on them; the ruffled birds on the garden fence, waiting for their fatty breakfast; my breath hanging in the air; the magic of halloween; the sight of the pumpkins growing in the nearby allotments; the smell of smoke on bonfire night; the crackle of sparklers...

A glass of red wine in front of our log fire; soft, comforting candlelight; extra blankets on the bed; being inseparable from my hot water bottle; lazy weekends in our home; hot herbal baths where the steam clings to the window; 'soul food' for supper; the anticipation of a snowy winter; the excitement of the festive season; and the magic that is still to come.

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