Music legend and XTC co-frontman Colin Mouldingis back with new music, this time as a solo artist, presenting his new single‘The Hardest Battle’, which will be released as a CD single in 4-panel digisleeve via Burning Shed on July 2.
Containing two songs – ‘The Hardest Battle’, ‘Say It (original version)’, and an exploratory demo of the title track, The Hardest Battle represents XTC founding member Colin Moulding‘s first-ever fully solo release.
This release offers a tantalizing glimpse into the creative process of one of the UK’s finest songwriters, showcasing Colin’s English pop vision with XTC’s trademark qualities of melody, rhythm, variety, and idiosyncratic subject matter, mixed in with nostalgia and a degree of pensiveness.
Following two releases withoriginal XTC drummer Terry Chambers under the TC&I moniker – the ‘Great Aspirations’ EP and the album ‘Naked Flames: Live at Swindon Arts Centre’, ‘The Hardest Battle’ is the first new material from Moulding in many years.
“To be nobody but yourself – in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight”… I saw these lines in a book I picked up in a secondhand bookshop and thought…maybe there’s a song there …I think it’s by the poet EE Cummins,” says Colin Moulding.
“And there it was. All I had to do was come up with some music to marry to this notion. I do think most people aren’t themselves really, or become themselves eventually. And that struggle isn’t easy. I recorded this pretty much in isolation as most people have been this past year or so. One crazy year for all of us. Perhaps ‘The Hardest Battle’ we humans have faced externally, as well as the one we fight internally everyday,”
Founded in 1972, XTC only had their first UK charting single in 1979. Moulding wrote the first three charting singles (‘Life Begins at the Hop’, ‘Making Plans for Nigel’ and ‘Generals and Majors’). Moulding continued with frontman Andy Partridge through the group’s dissolution in 2006. In 1984, they also, along with XTC bandmate Dave Gregory and Ian Gregory, formed The Dukes of Stratosphear, anticipating and celebrated by retro-minded movements such as the Paisley Underground.
“About ‘Say It’, I just felt this track deserved a better fate than it got really. I wrote it for the XTC album that never was . But it ended up on a promo disk amongst XTC’s ‘Last Days of Rome’ This version feels much more akin to my original song mindset compared to the expedient I agreed to at the time,” says Colin Moulding.
Regarding ‘The Hardest Battle (First Exploratory Demo)’, Moulding adds, “I think demos are much more of a demonstration to ones self than for other people. You have to find out what works and what doesn’t. Therefore, you shoot from the hip and just fire it out, and see what sticks. Larkin always said that he didn’t know what his poems were about initially until he got some way into them ;- that’s what this is;- I’m just ‘Larkin’ around until it presents itself. Then the crossword puzzle can begin.”
TRACK LIST 1. The Hardest Battle 2. Say It (Original Version) 3. The Hardest Battle (First Exploratory Demo)
CREDITS Produced by Colin Moulding and Stuart Rowe Mixed by Stuart Rowe All instrumentation by Colin Moulding except on ‘Say It’, where Jon Buckett plays piano All songs written by Colin Moulding Mastered by Jason Mitchell at Loud Mastering Manufactured by Noisebox Digital Media Artwork by Andrew Swainson from a concept by Colin Moulding Recorded within the Sound of Christ Church Bells Released by Burning Shed. Cat No: CMCD001
London – Super-duo Geoff Downes & Chris Braide, known as the Downes Braide Association (DBA), release their new album Skyscraper Souls on 17th November through their own label X2X Records via Cherry Red. This is their 3rd collaboration and follows their two previous critically-acclaimed releases Pictures of You (2012) and Suburban Ghosts (2015).
Both members have an immense body of work. Chris Braide is a British singer, songwriter and producer, now based in LA, who has written and produced songs for Beyonce, Lana del Rey, Paloma Faith, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, David Guetta, Sia, Afrojack & Marc Almond… to name a few. Geoff Downes is the prog legend who has played keyboards in The Buggles, Asia & Yes… he co-wrote the hits “Heat of the Moment” and “Video Killed the Radio Star.”
Skyscraper Souls is a more traditional progressive/classic rock/band album than their previous material, but retains a strong pop aesthetic and features many great guest contributions, including Marc Almond, Andy Partridge from XTC and Kate Pierson from the B52s. The front cover artwork is by Roger Dean.
The idea for the album started as a series of sketches Geoff had been working on after a break from touring last year. By the time he returned from the road he directed the subsequent pent-up energy into composition and the ideas literally poured out. As a kid, Chris had always loved expansive pieces like “Close To The Edge” and “Tubular Bells.” While he is a huge pop fan and has written multitudes of pop hits for pop stars, his heart has a special place for those big studio epic productions.
On this album, Downes & Braide were joined by drummer Ash Soan (Trevor Horn, Squeeze, Faithless, Del Amitri, Adele, Cee Lo Green, Will Young, Robbie Williams & Gary Barlow and many more) and bassist Andy Hodge. Chris says, “Having such an amazing rhythm section really brought the songs to life. With previous albums we always used drum machines and samples. There is so much warmth and movement in these recordings. They breathe!”
The fact that their ‘association’ has always had to fit around their extensive commitments has never dulled their remarkable musical creativity. This album went a step further and was co-written remotely – at no time were the pair ever in the same room! Chris explains, “Geoff would send me folders full of stuff such as the magnificent piano pieces which turned into ‘Glacier Girl’ and ‘Prelude.’ As soon as I heard the chords I was writing lyrics like a mad man and before long the album started to materialize.” Geoff adds, “The ideas themselves were in a very rough format, but with the melodies & basic harmonies. Chris started playing around with these, and often, they came back with some radical changes, but Chris was always very conscious to retain my original idea.”
The pair feel Skyscraper Souls is their strongest album to date, which is no mean feat! This album contains constant motifs and themes that recur and flow throughout. Keeping strong melodies to the fore they have created a wonderfully interesting soundscape.
Track list as follows:
1. Prelude (ft Andy Partridge – XTC)
2. Skyscraper Souls (ft Kate Pierson – B52s)
3. Glacier Girl (ft Andy Partridge)
4. Angel On Your Shoulder (ft Matthew Koma)
5. Tomorrow (ft David Longdon – Big Big Train)
6. Lighthouse (ft Tim Bowness)
7. Skin Deep (ft Marc Almond)
8. Darker Times (ft Andy Partridge)
Outside of DBA Downes and Braide remain in high demand.
Geoff has been pretty much flat out touring the world with Yes and Asia for the last few years. Any breaks have been filled up with other projects, including putting together some new Buggles ideas with Trevor (Horn). He is also writing film and library music.
Chris has been writing music for movies in LA, the most recent being a new animation called LEAP. He wrote “UNSTOPPABLE” for the Olympics with the artist SIA and has co-written and produced the new single for DJ Robin Schulz. He also wrote and produced a new Marc Almond album, due out next year as well as Marc’s next single “Embers.” He produced a single for Elle King for a big ad campaign featuring Kendal Jenner, and is currently scoring a movie soundtrack at his studio in LA. He has written a song for Trevor Horn called “Sky Show” for an animation he was working on. With more new ventures, Chris has had no break this year, but wouldn’t have it any other way.
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