The third album by The Memory Band will be released on CD only by Hungry Hill/Spinney on 7th February 2011. It is available to buy from this site for £8 plus postage and packing. Just click on the Releases button to be directed to the store.
In a decade which has seen a wide ranging and fruitful revival of interest in folk music, Stephen Cracknell's The Memory Band has established itself in that fine English tradition of slightly schizophrenic projects pointing in several directions at once which manage to find their place in the ever exciting independent music scene, popping up at several influential moments and though the marvels of technology finding audiences all around the world.
From the outset The Memory Band has embraced change and for its third album, Oh My Days, the ever-fluid line-up of The Memory Band has shifted once more, with a fresh emphasis on rhythm courtesy of the powerhouse team of bassist Jon Thorne from Lamb and drummer Tom Page of Rocketnumbernine, as well as an all-new vocal frontline featuring Jess Roberts, Jenny McCormick, Hannah Caughlin and Liam Bailey (whose debut album is out on Poyldor later this year). Sam Carter, winner of this year's Horizon award at the Radio 2 Folk Awards, plays and sings on a number of songs, while there are contributions from names new and old; Nancy Wallace, Dot Allison, Sam Genders on vocals, guitarists John Smith and Pete Greenwood, bassist Jonny Bridgwood, string players Quinta, Rob Spriggs, Jennymay Logan and Laura Moody, Sarah Scutt on accordion and recorder, and Serafina Steer on harp. Oh My Days is a warmly-textured, delicately-balanced blend of the best elements from its predecessors. Low-key electronic pulses and loops purr away gently beneath material that radiates a quiet strength, having expanded its palette to embrace soul, gospel, Laurel Canyon rock and country blues alongside the folk and jazz elements of the earlier albums. It's a beautifully-poised piece of work, with the usual handful of inspired covers – Sandy Denny's By The Time It Gets Dark, Graham Bond's Love Is The Law and Jeff Alexander's Come Wander With Me (from the TV series The Twilight Zone) – nestling amongst ten originals, several of which are already live favourites.
The Memory Band began in 2003, when a brace of well-received, quietly influential EPs were released on the Hungry Hill imprint, run in conjunction with Spinney and Cracknell set about assembling a band that would put living flesh on the loops, beats and drones that were to form the basis of The Memory Band's eponymous full-length debut. Upon its release in 2004, several observers were quick to place the band within the then-emerging “folktronica” movement, whilst others drew comparisons with library music, The Penguin Cafe Orchestra and even cosmic jazzers like Pharoah Sanders. A now prescient cover of Arthur Russell's This Is How We Walk On The Moon was an early indicator of a singular approach to non-original material that continues to this day.
With a line-up that included Radio 2 Folk Award-nominated singer/guitarist Nancy Wallace, multi-instrumentalist Al Doyle (Hot Chip/LCD Soundsystem), Jennymay Logan (Elysian Quartet/Basquiat Strings) on violin and session wizard Rob Spriggs on viola, the in-the-flesh version of the band played numerous shows throughout 2004 and 2005. At festivals like The Green Man, The Big Chill and the Homefires weekender (curated by occasional member Adem), they'd display a taste for thrilling improvisations around traditional and original material alike, with the live band's more muscular dimension leading to them once being memorably described as sounding like “an acoustic Mogwai”. It was this core septet, later augmented by Adem and Black Ghosts bassist/vocalist Simon Lord, that Cracknell led into the studio in 2005 to begin work on a second album, Apron Strings. Released in 2006 by Peacefrog in the UK and DiCristina Stairbuilders in the United States, it featured the stunning arrangement of the traditional song I Wish, I Wish that had become the centrepiece of the band's live shows.
After Apron Strings, Cracknell took a sabbatical from Memory Band business and took the opportunity to turn a mutual appreciation and friendship with Tunng's Sam Genders into a fully-fledged collaboration. London-based singer Hannah Caughlin was brought in to contribute vocals to the sessions alongside Nottingham's Liam Bailey, and The Accidental was born. Cracknell's network of collaborators expanded further still, via contributions from cellist Laura Moody of the Elysian Quartet and harpist Serafina Steer. An album, There Were Wolves, was released in 2008 on Full Time Hobby to warm reviews, and the band's numerous live shows were equally well-received.
Before resuming work on a new Memory Band album, Cracknell revisited an earlier project. Shortly after the turn of the millennium, he'd assembled a scratch band to perform a live soundtrack to showings of The Wicker Man at the ICA and The Big Chill. However, following numerous requests for repeat performances, he took the idea a stage further and developed a live show which would feature all the music and songs from the film performed as a live show. Calling upon his ever-widening pool of collaborators, friends and musical acquaintances, he gathered together a company of singers and players under the banner The Memory Band Perform Music And Songs From The Wicker Man and undertook a series of festival shows and club dates that received widespread acclaim. It's from this company that the present configuration of the band has grown. More recently Cracknell formed The Balearic Folk Orchestra in conjuntion with director Kieran Evans, once again pulling together a group of diverse musicians to reinterpret classic tracks from a golden age of dance music through the filter of contemporary folk. Their debut show at the 2010 Green Man festival creating quite a stir.