Of Mice, Men and Lumps

In this modern world where the bland and the safe seem to be more commercially acceptable than the cutting edge, and thought provoking work gets little traction, it’s hard to maintain a positive perspective on the music industry. Operating outside of the norms of that industry is one action which gives blessed relief from the mundane. Self releasing and self promoting is hard work, it will cost you money, and time, and it may not reap the financial results that might be deserved, but you will at least get your music out there. When we set up German Shepherd records nearly three years ago now we had no real plan, we had some ground rules, and some small objectives, but we didn’t have an end game. Perhaps that was a good thing. Expectations might have been too high. There is frustration in this. A sense of disappointment that music we genuinely feel deserves to be heard and enjoyed isn’t getting the sort of exposure that others are. But we carry on.  By Christmas we will have released 53 albums, EPs and singles this year. Some will say that is too much, they might be right, but it came in, we liked it and so we sent it out into the world.

The 49th of those releases is from Moss Skellington. Those who know what we do will realise that this is a partnership between Ian “Moet” Moss (aka House Mouse) and Moff Skellington. The two have collaborated on two previous singles, and two live events, in the last 18 months. The time was right for an album.

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The methodology is fairly simple. Ian writes some words, and sometimes narrates them into a sound file. Moff builds a musical world around them with his battery of unique instruments. The component parts are then sent over to me for a degree of cutting, pasting, and fettling, and then Ian and Moff may add more vocals. The resulting whole is then mixed and mastered for sending out into the world. This eschews the need for expensive recording studios and other such trammels of the music industry. Most of it is done on a home studio, a phone, and a lap-top. These things are possible nowadays.

The album is called “The Lump” and comprises seven tracks. It represents two artists at their creative peak who are both cutting edge and thought provoking. The music is grounded in traditional folk forms but don’t be put off by that genre description. This is the folk of Comus and that ilk, not some chap in a woolly jumper with a finger in his ear. it is folk with bits added, a hint of Tom Waits, a smattering of Pere Ubu, a dusting of Fripp and Eno, an echo of Faust, a whimsy of Kevin Ayers, and nod towards modern urban forms like grime.  Moss’s well renowned vocals and lyrics are of course the centre piece, but the added value is Moff’s particular use of music to create new and vivid backdrops for the words.

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The subject matter is intriguing, the title track appears to be medical in it’s nature but on closer examination is revealed to have much deeper meaning. The combination of dark urban synth sounds, blues harmonica and squeeze box is utterly unique. “Chalk and Cheese”, which has a great call and response between the two protagonists, describes relationships in a honest way. “Look at the Fool”, with african rhythms from Moff,  is a piece of Moss biting wit which requires close hearing. “Posh Nosh” derides the current obsession with food in the “Masterchef” era. “Serial Killing” is a dark tale of murder and mayhem on the underground. The 17 minute “The Mouse Engine” is a magnum opus which takes you through a word-scape which Lewis Carroll would have been proud off, rich with imagery, and utterly marvellous. The album closes with the plaintive waltz “The Other Side of the Looking Glass” which offers a glimmer of hope for the future.

Exceptional , unique and stunning. It should be listened to and is a primer for outsider music. it is released via German Shepherd Records on 25th November 2016.

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