In the constant storm that is contemporary music it is often difficult to find something unique: a new voice amongst the chorus that you recognise and move towards because it is speaking to you. It is even rarer to find that this voice is calling from your own backyard and that, for some reason, most people seem to be ignoring it. This metaphor could, until recently, have been applied to Formby-based band CAVALIER SONG. However, with the release of their debut album Blezzard scheduled for early 2016 on God Unknown Records, it seems that ears are finally starting to listen.
Cavalier Song are a band with vision, and are acutely aware of the direction in which they want to take their music, of which Luke Mawdsley and Dan Shea made me keenly aware. “It was great being able to be really creative with the mixing process. We wanted to record the music as live as possible and then take those recordings and turn them into another space completely,” says guitarist Mawdsley, the band’s de facto frontman. “We wanted it to sound like desert music or space music. For there to be a representation of what we sound like live but then to take it somewhere else. We didn’t want it to sound like a band. We wanted it to be like a machine of sound, not a rock group.”
The album, which is entirely instrumental, does very much resemble a sonic journey. As the five songs unravel you feel yourself transported, which is at times an unsettling experience, but ultimately rewarding. Though perception is clearly a subjective concept, it is hard to see how the songs could be viewed in a way too far removed from the aesthetic Shea and Mawdsley have laid out for them. Their intentions are, for me at least, always apparent and the result is a refined and clearly defined sound that communicates their thematic ideas brilliantly.
“I’ve always been really inspired by Spaghetti Western movies but with a more Gothic take on them,” Mawdsley explains, “and over the past few years one of the things that has been a huge influence on me has been The Dark Tower books by Stephen King. We wanted to represent the kind of vastness and space in those films and books. We tried to recreate the way Ennio Morricone uses space in his compositions. On one of the tracks on the album, Anode, it’s almost like taking a screen shot from a Sergio Leone film and trying to represent that.”
The making of the record has been a long process, with demos being recorded over two years ago in the Scandinavian Church. In the time between then and the completion of the album, there have been several line-up changes and the setting for the recording of the album proper was a lot less grand than the Church. In Shea’s own words it was “a shitty, little room where we couldn’t even close the window properly”. This dilemma yielded unexpected results when the sound of a motorbike driving past outside was accidentally recorded at the beginning of one of the tracks. “It was one of those happy accidents,” Mawdsley says. “It seemed to perfectly sum up the feeling of that song. As if that’s the last person riding away into the distance and you are left on your own.”
This coincidence was certainly an anomaly in the recording process as a whole, which was meticulously planned and meant months of mixing afterwards to transform the live recordings into a different entity. The band recruited another local visionary in the form of aPAtT member Steven Cole, to offer musical guidance and help with the production duties.
“We just thought that he would be someone who would have an extra opinion on music and be able to capture it,” Mawdsley tells me. “He was unfazed and very patient with what we were doing. He was a great energy, and made sure it was still fun. Me and him spent a lot of time after mixing it together.”
Patience is a virtue that is clearly shared by both band members. They have adapted through several setbacks and continued to develop their craft. As any musician will tell you, it is hard to quite simply get music out there and have people listen to it. Sometimes the instant gratification of sites like SoundCloud and Bandcamp is satisfying, but usually only momentarily, and for a band like Cavalier Song there is obviously a requirement for far more depth in terms of a full, proper physical release.
“We had almost given up searching for a label to release [the album], but just as we had decided to put it out ourselves Jason Stoll from God Unknown contacted us and said he would like to take it on. He was so enthusiastic about the album. It instantly felt like the perfect label for us. Over the next twelve months we’re going to do a lot of shows to promote it, but not just for the sake of it. We want them to be interesting performances both visually and musically.”
Cavalier Song are a band exploring the boundaries that music can touch. The record comprises five songs which gradually unfurl over thirty minutes, audio vistas that require time and attention in order to be fully appreciated. From the haunting imagism of Oarfish – “a song about a sea creature rising to the surface” – to the gradually building, krautrock-infused strains of Trees, it is a piece of work that is as coherent as it is diverse. For listeners interested in a quick fix, this is maybe not the record for you. But for those searching for an expansive experience that is both beguiling and transcendental, there are few artists amongst the current local crop that could serve you better. So listen. They are talking to you.