I Am Kloot – Album Making Documentary
aaamusic | On 22, Jun 2010
I’m listening to Sky At Night during a very quiet week, the quietest week that Europe has experienced in more than half a century. A volcano – Eyjafjallajokull (which surely must be Icelandic for supercalifragilistic) – has erupted, closing every inch of European air space with her massive plume of ash. The sky is full of nothing but birds and clouds. Walking in Richmond Park, on the Heathrow no-flight path, my friend can hear the deer crunching the grass. It feels like someone has opened the lid of the atmosphere and let Space in. These are spookily perfect conditions in which to listen to these songs of love and astronomy.
It was Danny Boyle who gave me my first I Am Kloot album – it was ‘Gods and Monsters’. He was hoping it would inspire me to think of a story for a movie. I played the album constantly and the next one – ‘I Am Kloot Play Moolah Rouge’, which I loved even more. ‘Play Moolah Rouge’ was recorded in a very few days. It feels like you’re listening to a three piece band playing live, and it convinces you that three is the perfect size for a band – unequal, unstable, overstretched, full pelt. Guy Garvey says that Kloot have always been about performance rather than recording, that the studio bored them. So I was pretty taken aback when orchestras, choirs, saxophones and harps started pouring out of the speakers on ‘Sky at Night’. It’s lavish and nocturnal, reflective. A “wee small hours” of the morning album. If it did inspire a movie idea it would be a movie about a man walking back down the mean streets from his latest heartbreak, glancing up at the sky and realizing that Greater Manchester has somehow cut loose from Earth and is in a perilous orbit round the rings of Saturn.
Garvey says that when he produced Kloot’s first album, ‘Natural History’ “I was just pressing the record button”. This time he and Craig Potter have really gone to town. They talk about white boards, brainstorming, guest instrumentalists and, instead of a long weekend, eighteen months – on and off – in the studio. They call these extras “that silk cushion”. But it doesn’t feel like the silk cushion to me. This is not a band trying to produce, arrange or spend its way to genius. “That’s because in those circumstances,” says Garvey, “the producer is usually sort of working for the record company. But this time Craig and I are the producers and we’re mates with the band.” You can hear on ‘I Still Do’ that Marie Lionheardt the renowned harpist has not been brought in to guest, she’s playing like a member of the band. This is the same Kloot but they’re painting with a lot more colours, because they’re painting on a much bigger canvas. As Peter Jobson said, “we’re trying to get a whole life on one record – which can be tricky”.
When I talk to John or Andy or Peter about this album, they can barely contain themselves, as if they can hardly believe they’ve done it. Happy memories, favorite lines and nominations for the best track pour out of them. They talk about influences and steals. I think I’m supposed to be doing something similar here but I don’t want to be the one to say “This is Sam Cooke meets the Electric Light Orchestra conducted by John Cooper Clarke with Frank Sinatra on the theramin”. I’m not going to talk about highlights because I don’t want you to skip.
I want you to listen to it all, to let it take you somewhere. That might sound like a pointless demand in the age of the download. But… well, here’s a true story: a friend of mine had a son who hated reading. I said, well, books sound better when someone reads them to you. I put Treasure Island on his iPod for him, convinced that he’d be blown away by Long John and Blind Pugh. A few days later he said he just couldn’t follow it. It was too weird. One minute they were dead, one minute they weren’t. One minute they were friends. The next they were enemies. What was going on? I took a look at the iPod. I explained to him that you can’t really listen to a nineteenth century novel on shuffle.
Some things were made for you to sit and listen to, in a particular order. Some stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. Sit down and listen to ‘Sky at Night’. It has a story to tell you.
Frank Cottrell Boyce
I Am Kloot is – John Bramwell (vocals/guitar), Andrew Hargreaves (drums), Peter Jobson (bass).