‘I Write’ is the first single from Surrey native Luke Barham aka Uncle Luc. The songs from his debut album were conceived in a Hollywood garage over the Christmas period and hark back to a time when pop music was grand, something he likes to call “baroque and roll” On returning to the UK, Luke met Finnish producer Henri Växby whose family one by one joined the recording sessions eventually becoming his backing band. Taking hints from Surrey hometown hero Nick Lowe, his songs are loaded with rich melody and vivid story telling.
Luke will be previewing songs from his debut album in March and April. Catch him at the following venues-
March 31st –The Borderline, London April 4th –Birthdays, Dalston April 11th –West End Centre, Aldershot April 19th –Notting Hill Arts Club, London (matinee) April 19th –The Old Blue Last, London
The first of a very occasional new series to STN in which people we’ve covered talk us through their current album. The first we alight on is the work of Paul Coltofeanu, who you might have known of through Free Swim but who put out an album last month of fascinatingly widescreen lo-fi warped psych-pop shapes under the name The Android Angel, complete with an intriguing backstory upon which we asked him to elaborate:
In the summer of 2011, I took my guitar to Eastern Europe where I spent ten days working on a farm in Romania, three days working on a farm in Ukraine, ten days at Sziget Festival in Hungary, and seven days in Berlin. Lie Back And Think of England is the album I have made about my experience.
1. Homes I recorded the bells sound onto my mobile phone while on a cycle ride high up in the mountains of Transylvania. They were hung around two horse’s necks. I added the sound of a piper. The bells kinda slowly pan across the speakers while the piper is constant to create the image of a lone musician on a hillside watching a small procession go past.
2. Solutions I met an English guy called Danny on the farm in Romania and travelled with him to Ukraine to work on a water buffalo Farm. He was really passionate about bears. I found him quite inspirational. He also gave me a book about the importance of finding a passion. I never read it - I kinda felt I didn’t need to because I figured Danny probably embodied its message.
3. Lie Back and Think of England Being a long way from England gave me a different view of it. Public confidence in the government and the press was reeling from the expenses and phone hacking scandals, and then the riots started while I was away too. England likes to portray itself at the forefront of enlightenment, and in a lot of ways I think it is, but at that time it also showed how stuck in the dark ages it is in some ways too. The female vocal is provided by my friend Sarah Mahony. Was chuffed when John Kennedy played this song on XFM.
4. Distant Star I met this amazing girl in Ukraine who helped me get to a train station so I could continue my journey. I wrote this song for her. This song was featured on the BBC Introducing Mixtape.
5. Ability Park I met a girl called Asia on the train into Hungary and I went with her to Sziget Festival in Budapest. While I was there I met lots of people from all over Europe which was really enriching. This instrumental is supposed to represent those glorious hazy wanders from stage to stage at a music festival.
6. Foreign Son This was actually the first song I wrote when I spent the summer of 2010 in New York. It didn’t quite fit with the album borne from that experience (2011’s Marble Sun), but it seems to fit on this one. I wrote it in Washington Square and I think it is New York talking to me telling me to man up and enjoy life instead of writing loads of ‘cry-wank’ music which I had been doing up to then!
7. Her Shoulders I have a thing about shoulders.
8. Chicago John Recording live drums can be such a mission so I goofed around for the first time with midi beats on garage band. I recorded four or five songs which were mostly awful but I couldn’t get this one out of my head. I had a bit of a rough year last year and often I couldn’t get to sleep. To help me sleep I invented this imaginary, comic-book world of espionage in my head and Chicago John was one of the characters in it. This song was also featured on the BBC Introducing Mixtape and played on 6 Music by Gideon Coe.
9. A Parliament of Owls Without wanting to sound like a dick I think this track most represents where I am musically in 2013 - lost for words, searching for something new, a little bit devoid of inspiration, stuck in a tunnel. For that reason it works above all others as the final ‘full’ composition on the record. I am moving out to North America for a few years at the end of July to start new projects and recordings.
10. Follow the River This short outro is the orchestration from the title track given it’s own space as the sun sets on the record. It was a very, very profound experience in Eastern Europe that I am not entirely sure I will ever fully get my head around.
Paul/The Android Angel has a few live dates: 28th May Brighton Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar 2nd June London Foxfest 20th July London Spice Of Life 27th July Redfest
The Android Angel – Distant Star The talented Paul Coltofeanu, aka The Android Angel, makes another New Tunes appearance with this excellent track ,where the guitar makes a more prominent appearance than in some of his other great tunes.
*We recommend clicking the photo above and reading the Key with the photo open in a window to the side
1: So this is our guy – with a lemon wearing his head as a hat. His head is also wearing a hat. He is Paul Coltofeanu. The man behind Art Brut-ish post-pop guitar lovelies Free Swim. But here, under the moniker Android Angel, he plays at a different speed. Expect summery guitars and hushed vocals pouring out of your stereo like so much spilt sunny delight.
2: First song proper of off Lie Back and Think of England (after a chilled out 20 second intro) is ‘Solutions’. It’s full of joy. And very problem solving. Its best suggestion is this: ‘I declare if I get rich / i’ll buy a camper van (yeah man) / for all my friends’. What could be nicer than that? Thus far everything is innocent and vaguely detached from reality.
3: Title track ahoy – ‘Lie Back and Think of England’ changes things up a bit. It’s hard to tell whether this song is some sort of satire of political engagement, or chocked full of actual anger. All I know is it’s hard not to laugh at the fairly out-dated reference to the expenses scandal, dealt with by a fantastic backing vocal (‘they spent all our money on some porn and a duck house’). This offensive old book is as close to porn as i’m willing to get for MBMB.
4: On ‘Distant Star’ things get a bit faster (like this bloke on a segway). Coltofeanu wonders if he (like this bloke on a segway) will be able to go faster if he ditched his love. Why does he want to go faster? We don’t know. But it’s sure catchy (like this bloke on a segway?)
5: A cool instrumental number now, which is hard to deal with pictorially (because I have no imagination). But it sounds like some sort of national anthem for an underwater indie-kingdom.
6: Things slow down again on ‘Foreign Son’, which is an adorably summery number to listen to a long haired man play around a fire on a particularly warm dusk. It smacks of Nick Drake and that whole folk revival thing.
7: ‘Her Shoulders’ has slowly started to haunt me. It begins with some relaxed beats that could have almost made it into a disused XX outro. It’s deeply concerned with bodies and movements. Hands and shoulders mainly. It’s like a child holding onto an injured bird and at first you think: ‘aww that kid’s gonna save a bird’, but then you look harder and you think maybe the kid is holding too tight and wonder if it’s doing it on purpose. Like that. But a song.
8: ‘Chicago John’ is a big brash song that somewhat overwhelms the rest of the fairly relaxed and understated record. It’s not bad by any means, just overpowering. It lands somewhere between The Kinks and Icky Thump era White Stripes. It does have a fantastically absurd chorus though: ‘Spies, lies, good disguises / Parkour through high-rises’.
9: Another instrumental number (to cleanse our pallet after ‘Chicago John’). If the first instrumental track takes place in an alive and thriving underwater kingdom, this one is deeper down, in that bit of the ocean that is so dark it might as well be space. It’s mysterious and vaguely threatening, a bit like John Carpenter’s score to Assault on Precinct 13.
10: To end we have a one and a half minute long song of sweeping strings and horns, which breaks down into exactly the same bells we find in the intro. OMG it’s like a circle, a cycle. The album isn’t really over, it’s just beginning again (lame). I’ve taken the title of the outro ‘Follow the River’ to be a reference to Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake (which no one has ever read, but I’m told starts half way through a sentence about a river which is completed at the end of the book). So to depict this we have Joyce on a rocking chair looking disapproving. He is wearing an eye-patch because he is an undersea pirate.
Another from Tom Robinson show, it was the track Croydon Fernandes that stuck in my head, one of those tracks with a cracking beat and lyrics that make you listen, including Geoff Capes, shell in a scotch egg and pulling ex-girlfriends. Listen to this and not smile and nod along, I defy you to.
So I grew my collection to all the EPs on their Bandcamp page, including the new one Yolanda The Panda. After this and finding them on twitter at @SwimmingFreely I tried to have a search to find out more about them, but there seems to be surprisingly little, and I have the impression it is just Paul Coltofeanu & David Knight who ar responsible for all of it. This is no bad thing, and the lyrical interplay and stories on these short snippets of music would make any journey to work so much better. It was also from here that I was made aware of a new album coming out…
The Android Angel
Click will take to a place to listen!
This one does seem to be just Paul Coltofeanu and while I have only heard this album it is different enough to be a separate project, unlike Thom Yorke where his side bands sound exactly like Radiohead. The title track references phone hacking, duck houses and porn, which shows that there is more to this than just jaunty tunes. Overall it is more melancholic than the Free Swim material, but that is not to say this is a depressing album. The excellent Foreign Sun at the half way point is one of the tracks that if accorded the right airplay would see the band name appearing in all the lists that people seem to use to pick what to play and buy.
There are a few tracks making the crossover between the band personas, Chicago John who has “got it going on” being one that would not be out of place on a Free Swim EP, but is not out of place here either.
Very hard to categorise, which is generally a good thing when listening to new music, this album will I am sure like it has me, looking for more in the back catalogue and wondering how it has been a secret for so long. Obviously being the 2013s there is a twitter at @TheAndroidAngel and there are tour dates appearing and being looked for, so try and catch live as I think it would be well worth it.
The Android Angel is Paul Coltofeanu, probably best known to our readers as the man behind panda-bear themed rockers Free Swim. However, in reality it is Free Swim who are the side project, Lie Back and Think of England is actually the third album to be released under The Android Angel moniker.
If you are used to his Free Swim work then the able might come as a bit of a shock. The brilliant EPs that he released under that banner tend to be a full-on blast of off-kilter guitar pop, so hearing the atmospheric 23 seconds of opening track ‘Homes’ followed by the gentle acoustic guitars and hushed vocals of ‘Solutions’ is evidence that you are in a different part of Paul Coltofeanu’s musical brain.
To some degree this album can be seen as a logical next step from the forth Free Swim EP, She Dreams In Lights, which already hinted at influences like The Flaming Lips, Super Furry Animals and Sparklehorse in the sound that he was producing. This is a pretty record, full of subtle playing and sweet melodies; beautifully self-produced in in Romania, Ukraine, Hungary, Germany and the UK.
The title track is just lovely, with Sarah Mahony adding some excellent vocals to a duet that is lyrically rather downbeat. Some of the references in the song may date it a little, but they also give the song a place in time that suits the mood.
‘Distant Star’ is even better, a fully formed slice of fuzzy pop that deserves a place on any radio station playlist (and has already featured on Tom Robinson’s 6 Music Show). This is followed by ‘Ability Park’ which is a kind of jazz-folk instrumental that showcases Paul Coltofeanu’s musical skill and mastery of melody pretty perfectly.
One of the things that takes a little time to get used to on listening to this record is adjusting to the less jokey nature of the songs. I’m so used to hearing him sing about growing extra hands or eating a vienetta that a delicate folk song like ‘Foreign Son’ seems at odds with my expectations. This only takes a couple of listens to adjust to though, and it isn’t going to trouble anyone new to The Android Angel who isn’t already a Free Swim devotee.
The only slight criticism I have of Lie Back and Think of England is that the last few tracks seem to break the cohesive nature of the album. ‘Chicago John’ is a fantastic song, I love the instrumentation on the track and it is a lot of fun. It doesn’t seem to quite fit with what has come before though, and sounds much more like a Free Swim track, but it is quite brilliant on its own. Finishing the album with two instrumentals is also little out of kilter with the general flow of the album, although ‘Follow The River’ nicely wraps things back to the opening track.
All told this is about as interesting an album as I expect I’ll hear all year, brilliantly played and written and (despite the influences) like nothing else on record. He’s proved the master of the concept EP with Free Swim and as The Android Angel he has taken it one step further with an extremely impressive album.
The Android Angel, also known as talented multi-instrumentalist Paul Coltofeanu, draws on a summer of volunteering and travelling throughout Europe on his new LP ‘Lie Back and Think of England’. Taking in incredible experiences from time spent on a farm in the Romanian mountains, on a Water Buffalo reserve in the Ukraine and on the banks of one of Budapest’s most famous lakes, as well as the historical vibrancy of Berlin’s squares and parks, all this combines to create a wide-ranging musical journey that has to be heard to be believed.
Recorded during breaks from his other musical project, the panda-loving Free Swim, the record opens with the 23-second ‘Homes’, an intriguing noise piece that hints at the all-encompassing sound that is to follow. With personal subject matter including lost youth, verrucas and disco beats, it’s a little surprising that ‘Solutions’ has such a folky edge, but when the glockenspiel joins in as the tempo rises, it works as a fitting introduction to the idiosyntric world of The Android Angel. Amongst talk of some of the unforgettable characters he’s met on his travels, Paul asks the listener ‘What’s your solution?’
With subtle female vocals mixing in with Paul’s Gruff Rhys-style drawl, ‘Lie Back and Think of England’ is a gentile but somewhat dark lullaby that seems to be a tale of lost love with lyrics asking ‘How do we sleep?’ before the song evolves and eases into an ocean of refined electronica. The surreal pop atmospherics continue on ‘Distant Star’, a track that opens with distinctly upbeat electric guitar riffs and candid lyrics. A full band sound that is a little unexpected but no less welcome, it comes across as sounding like what would happen if Richard Hawley decided to collaborate with Stephen Malkmus, after a particularly hedonistic night out. It even includes a full-on meltdown as its climax.
The acoustic strums of ‘Foreign Son’ find the album veering directly into singer-songwriter territory, very much in the vein of Willy Mason’s heart-on-the-sleeve anthemics, and clocking in at only 2.38 means the song leaves you wanting so much more. There’s a real emotional depth as Paul again brings up personal experiences and some of the inspirational people he has met on his travels once again. That it’s followed by the distorted and poignant Her Shoulders, a song that captures the spirit of The Antlers, just adds to the warmth you will feel for the album.
Things are somewhat lighter with ‘Chicago John’, the closest the album gets to Free Swim’s more jubilant moments. The 60s-influenced song has some striking keyboards and fun vocals that not only reference Desperate Dan but also reveal how ‘Chicago John has got it going on’. You’ll believe that Dan is a man that Paul has met on his travels, and you’ll want to meet him yourself too. The album closer ‘Follow the River’ has a film soundtrack-style quality to it and is a fitting end to a surprising and somewhat startling journey. This is an album sure to appeal to fans of awkward and surreal pop in the vein of the Voluntary Butler Scheme, The Flaming Lips and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
You can buy ‘Lie Back and Think of England’ from Bandcamp.
"The Android Angel is Paul Coltofeanu, a half-English, half-Romanian multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter from Surrey, whose fourth album Lie Back and Think of England is released today. Written during summer 2011 while volunteering on a farm in the Romanian mountains, on a Water Buffalo reserve in the Ukraine, sat on the banks of Varosliget Lake in Budapest and in the squares and parks of Berlin, Paul spent the following year recording the album in the downtime between writing and touring his first four EPs in his other incarnation as Free Swim. He self-releases all his music through his own label, Sex Farm Records and between the two projects has received airplay on BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2, BBC 6Music and XFM in the UK, and has performed shows in England, Scotland, France, Germany and the United States."