Harps Old Master by Phelan Sheppard
Formats: CD (BAY 46CD) Digital (BAY 46E)
Release Date: 31 August 2006
Keiron Phelan and David Sheppard’s wide-ranging musical journeys have intertwined since they were teenagers. Harps Old Master is perhaps the pinnacle of their achievements to date: a lush, expansive, emotional work that envelops the listener in its melancholy beauty.
With contributions from The Willard Grant Conspiracy’s Josh Hillman (strings and Laika’s Guy Fixsen (trumpet), the album was recorded at Fixsen’s East London studio between October 2005 and February 2006. “Guy had a lot of instruments lying around and we just gravitated towards things we liked, such as a Fender Rhodes, a double bass (which neither of us had touched before) and recorders,” says Sheppard. The result is a kaleidoscopic, cinematic piece, rich in melody and charm.
Such intuitive collaboration takes years to articulate and Phelan and Sheppard have been working together for over a decade. The pair first played together in a school band that was, according to Sheppard, half mod, half Bowie. “Keiron was the first person I knew who had Can records, a proper electric guitar and a fitted suit,” says David. “He was one cool teen.” The friends regrouped in 1996 when Sheppard, who had recently been in major label contenders Balloon, returned to some of the music that inspired him as a teenager: Can, Cluster and Eno (Sheppard is currently writing an extensive biography of Eno).
“We were both wanting to do something new, without the restrictions of being in a guitar band,” says Keiron. “It’s good working with Dave because we have very different ideas but very similar reference points. We found we could go off down all kinds of tracks without getting completely lost.”
Alongside their work as Phelan Sheppard (the 2002 album O, Little Stars predates Harps Old Master), Keiron and David have released three critically acclaimed and cultishly adored albums as State River Widening. David Sheppard also works alongside Pete Astor in Ellis Island Sound and The Wisdom Of Harry, while Keiron Phelan is currently working with a singer from Düsseldorf by the name of Susan Bauzsat. Another of Sheppard’s projects, a band named Lear, brought Phelan Sheppard in contact with Ines Naranjo, the Spanish singer who supplies spoken word vocals to tracks such as the haunting ‘Collapsing Cat’. “We wanted to get a filmic monologue on some of the pieces,” explains Sheppard. “Ines is an untutored singer but just has this naturally musical quality to her speaking voice.”
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