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Grasscut - 1 Inch / ½ Mile - out on Ninja Tune



Grasscut One Inch Half Mile
Grasscut - 1 Inch / ½ Mile
(CD/Download) Ninja Tune ZENCD148/ZENDNL148, 2010-06-21

Grasscut are Andrew Phillips and Marcus O'Dair. Phillips is an award-winning film and television composer with over one hundred screen credits; O'Dair is a double bassist and keyboards player. The pair made their live debut at the Loop Festival (Fourtet, Caribou, Holy Fuck) in August 2008, and have since performed at Tate Britain, the ICA, the Union Chapel and Koko, as well as opening the main stage at The Big Chill 2009. They have shared stages with Plaid, Clark, Luke Vibert, Tim Exile, Nathan Fake, Daedelus and Anti-Pop Consortium, and remixed the likes of Bonobo and Jaga Jazzist and been remixed by Nathan Fake and Bibio. They have been played on BBC Radio 1, 2 and 3 as well as performing sessions on XFM and 6 Music, DJ fans include Rob Da Bank and Tom Robinson. This is their first album together.

Grasscut One Inch Half Mile
Grasscut - 1 Inch / ½ Mile
(CD/Download) Ninja Tune ZENCD148/ZENDNL148, 2010-06-21

Tracklisting :
01. High Down
02. Old Machines
03. Meltwater
04. The Tin Man
05. Muppet
06. 1946
07. The Door In The Wall
08. Passing
09. In Her Pride

Links :
myspace.com/grasscutmusic
ninjatune.net/ninja/artist.php?id=155

Press Release :
Sometimes an album title is chosen at the last minute or for no other reason than it sounds good. Sometimes an album is just an assemblage of unrelated tracks and the title is meant to give form to a body of work that doesn't really have any. Sometimes the title comes to its creator in a stoned dream. Sometimes it's found written on the back of a pub toilet door. Grasscut don't work like that. Main writer Andrew Phillips doesn't say or do anything without it meaning something. So in using the slightly old fashioned (but highly accurate) map scale of "1 Inch / ½ Mile" you can be sure he's trying to tell us something.

"1 Inch / ½ Mile" maps the route of a transcendental journey across a real landscape, centering on the Sussex South Downs of "High Down", but taking in frozen mountains in North Wales ("Meltwater"), a man with a metal walking stick in a park in Brighton ("The Tin Man"), his mother's memories of post-war rationing ("1946") to the slightly more metaphorical Nintendo Cathedral of "Muppet" and Hilaire Belloc riding a winged horse across the nation. Weaving in between the lead vocal are voices from the past and the present, snatched from mobile phones & gramophones - a 1920s tenor, gossiping mums, land developers and the aforementioned Victorian singing poet. It's a remarkable achievement - an evocation of a place and time where the countryside meets technology, a kind of interzone between the past and the future, and a journey through it that's often funny, often moving, technically brilliant but never anything other than catchy and memorable.

Grasscut are Andrew Phillips and Marcus O'Dair. Phillips is an award-winning film and television composer with over one hundred screen credits; O'Dair is a double bassist and keyboards player. The pair made their live debut at the Loop Festival (Fourtet, Caribou, Holy Fuck) in August 2008, and have since performed at Tate Britain, the ICA, the Union Chapel and Koko, as well as opening the main stage at The Big Chill 2009. They have shared stages with Plaid, Clark, Luke Vibert, Tim Exile, Nathan Fake, Daedelus and Anti-Pop Consortium, and remixed the likes of Bonobo and Jaga Jazzist and been remixed by Nathan Fake and Bibio. They have been played on BBC Radio 1, 2 and 3 as well as performing sessions on XFM and 6 Music, DJ fans include Rob Da Bank and Tom Robinson. This is their first album together.

"And there I saw the Channel glint and England in her pride. And I ride, and I ride." - Hilaire Belloc (The Winged Horse), as sampled by grasscut (In Her Pride)

Beside the suburban sprawl of Woodingdean, on the fringes of Brighton, runs an old drover's route now called Norton Drive. From there, a gate between two mobile phone masts leads to a 50-minute circular walk through a verdant, and surprisingly secluded valley. Normally it is soundtracked simply by sheep and birds. With the addition of headphones, however, its twists and turns also reflect the nine tracks of Grasscut's 1 Inch / ½ Mile, an album conceived on these very South Downs.

The journey begins with the bucolic grandeur of High Down, at the northern end of the valley where a white cross once marked Poets Grave. With Meltwater and Tin Man, the album unfolds through the contours of the landscape, through Standean Bottom to the lost village of Balsdean, destroyed by British Artillery in the Second World War.

The chatter and clatter of Muppet coincides with our arrival at what was once that village's manor house, subsequently converted into a lunatic asylum; 1946, with the former site of the Norman church. Yet all are now buried under the rolling downland grass. Only a plaque remains, marking the place where the altar once stood.

Past the disused farm buildings, the bittersweet Door in the Wall and barely constrained violence of Passing lead us out of the valley, and our buried past. As we return towards the phone mast, In Her Pride itself brings the album to its transcendent close.

Walkers are invited to refer to the album's map-based artwork for details of the route, complete with recommended sites for playing the songs. New song, A Lost Village, available for free download from the Ninja Tune website, is designed to be played as walkers return to the start, as a kind of coda. The tune also contains clues relating to the location of a time capsule secreted by Grasscut somewhere on the walk - containing, amongst other things, an utterly unique track unavailable anywhere else in the world.

"There are more ways than one of getting close to your ancestors. Follow the old road, and as you walk, think of them and of the old England... You can hear the thrumming of the hoofs of their horses, and the sound of the wheels on the road, and their laughter and talk, and the music of the instruments they carried. I feel I've only to turn my head, to see them on the road behind me." - Powell / Pressburger (A Canterbury Tale)

Track-by-track guide to "1 Inch / ½ Mile" by Andrew Phillips :

High Down
I wrote 'High Down' at the phone mast at Fulking Beacon on the South Downs in Sussex. It's about how it feels to have left the city, seeking solitude in nature, and to be electrified by the power of an image: the natural meeting the unnatural - starlings flying around a phone mast. I wanted the song to be as dramatic as that felt, colliding lyrical classical piano with abrasive electronic textures, while the lyrics explore the contrast between urban - 'drive straight on at the bypass' - and pastoral - 'rabbit eye mirror the skylark'.

Old Machines
'Old Machines' was started in the woods in Stanmer Park outside Brighton, where sometimes you feel as though you're in the remotest countryside, but you can still hear cars the whole time. The 'Old Machine' of the title is the brain, dealing with shadows in dark woods, or shadows in city streets. The music contrasts classical strings with heavy electronic beats, and the lyrics explore the relationship between our primitive emotions and our technology. Frank Byng plays the fractured live drum break in the middle of the track. The American gentlemen whose voices feature at the end of the song were discussing a property development in Sussex; I had to record them! It seemed right to have their voices over a string quartet in the style of Vaughan Williams at the end, with the sound of a motorway in the distance.

Meltwater
On 1st January 2009 I was climbing in North Wales. The mountain ridge we were on ran west to east, and divided the country into low lying cloud to the south and blazing sun to the north. The day was so cold that huge chunks of ice were floating in the sea, and the mountain lakes were frozen. We ran out on them to the edge of the ice and gazed down into the black depths. Everything was like crystal, and we felt like we were gatecrashing the most amazing party in a room full of chandeliers, like we shouldn't be there out there on the ice. The brilliant live drums on this track were played by jazz drummer Jim Whyte.

The Tin Man
This song was inspired by 3 things: the squeaky gate sound at the start is a recording [on my phone] of a massive moving metal sculpture at the Pompidou Centre in Paris that had a haunting melody to it. The singing voice is Count John McCormack's, (known as 'The People's Tenor'), from 'The Little Silver Ring', which he recorded in 1927, where he imagines his own death and grief at no longer being able to think of his lover. I found a 78 of this in an antiques market and fell in love with it, sampled it sticking a mic inside my wind up gramophone. I met an old man with a metal walking stick in a park in Brighton, who told me his wife had recently died, and his story linked all these sounds in my head.

Muppet
This song is about a very English kind of frustration and totally losing your ability to communicate... I was talking to a bunch of people having a conversation none of us could be bothered to have, we all couldn't wait to get away, and I could hear someone really gossiping about a mutual friend behind me - I couldn't resist pretending to text while actually recording them... I wrote the song while walking home and recorded the vocal straight into my phone. Musically it had to go from a pop song to total self destruction... I remember Marcus ramming a drumstick into a cymbal, jamming the stick into a tom and bowing the cymbal furiously while I was yelling at the end. We really went there. Frank Byng is also on drums here.

1946
This is my favourite track from the record. The voice is my Mum's. She didn't know I was recording her speaking (are you getting the snooping audio freak theme yet?) and I love the way her memories of post-war austerity go from black and white (or 'very grey') into colour as she remembers more and more. I wanted to create a landscape of overlapping metallic gamelan-like sounds around her voice, so got hold of a clothes rail and hung saucepans, woks, and cymbals off it and played them with soft beaters. The whole thing takes off in a string trio in the middle section - played by Ms Annie Kerr on violin, viola and Mr Marcus O'Dair on double bass.

The Door In The Wall
Krautrock meets the Brians (Wilson and Eno) and Robert Wyatt. I wrote this very quickly on an old casio keyboard with a great organ sound, bashed down the drums and the lyrics just fell out pretty complete. It was influenced by Hilaire Belloc's 'The Winged Horse' (which features in 'In Her Pride') - he's flying over England towards the Channel on his feathery steed, I'm on Southern Trains heading back to Brighton. Both having transcendental experiences of England, though.

Passing
I started this on a tour bus, in the middle of the night on a motorway in the north of England, watching car headlights. There's a lot of darkness in the track, loads of distortion and glitch, it reflects the time and the place, and the way things were appearing and disappearing into the night.

In Her Pride
The singing voice is English poet and man of letters Hilaire Belloc, performing his poem 'The Winged Horse', recorded in 1932. The speaking voice is the American poet Ezra Pound, reading from 'EP: An Ode', written in 1926. Though an old man, Belloc's voice is extraordinarily powerful as he sings of flying over England and Europe on a horse, seeing figures from the past. Pound is meditating on the decadence of the 1920s and his own old fashioned artistic naivete: "the age demanded an image of its accelerated grimace...to maintain the sublime, wrong from the start". I really like this idea and it's very resonant for grasscut. I also wanted to end the album with a chorus of the reflective voices of the old.
Djouls

Djouls

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