Posts Tagged ‘I Am A Man with a St Tropez Tan’

1st September 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve been listening to and covering Rick Senley’s work for so long now, it feels like forever. In actual fact, on checking, it appears my first encounter with his work was with the eponymous album released under the Music For Voyeurs moniker back in 2010. It feels like a different life. For me, it was, really. I was just wrapping up my PhD, and was yet to become a parent, and was cranking out fifty or sixty reviews a month, because I had time and energy.

The impact of combining home-schooling and full-time working from home is something that is difficult to articulate when it comes to the mental and physical fatigue. The short version is that I’ve slowed in my pace in recent months, and so much music has come to be so much wallpaper. But much as I lack energy, I don’t lack passion – but then, I do find so many acts are just utterly devoid of character.

But however weary of life I become, one thing about Rick Senley is that his work is invigorating in some way. Perhaps much of it is the fact that he’s relentlessly creative, and that his work spans a range of styles. His latest venture is one that resonates, not least of all in the way it emerged. Of course it was a lockdown thing. I found myself reconnecting with people from way back, at least for a time last summer. But crap wi-fi, schools reopening, people being cajoled back to the office and a slow return to ‘normality’ meant that they were often fleeting, one-offs or rare to the point they soon petered out. Life happens, and it gets in the way.

Novy Zembler is a band / collaboration / project that’s emerged out of this very contemporary scenario, as the blurb explains: ‘Novy Zembler are a new band of old friends from Holland and Gloucestershire. With Corona looming, guitarists Rick Senley and Drew Campbell reconnected through lockdown zooms. Hard drinking friends from 1990s Leicester, the pair’s lives had joined, and separated, from addiction to recovery, families and loss. Despite the decades and the distance, their affection for each other had deepened. With his bands Dog on a Stick and Made in Minsk on hold and the ever present threat of depression, Rick needed a new musical output while in Holland, Drew was struggling with homeschooling his boys and training his new puppy. So with a shared love of The Cure, Mogwai, My Bloody Valentine and Joy Division and an escape into music, the idea of creating together seemed inevitable.’

The six-minute opener and tile track ‘Upstairs’ veers between electropop to soaring post-rock, and packs a fair bit in between, with the exception of vocals. ‘Altro’ is perhaps more accessible, a straight-ahead middling rock tune with an 80s feel. It’s no criticism of the likes of Big Country or The Alarm to note that they were among the acts to define that ‘big’ sound that Novy Zembler recreate here – and perhaps it’s in part a response to bot being able to get out to play music, or to witness music played live in an arena that makes listening to this a perhaps disproportionate rush.

The curtain-closer, ‘November’ is a bit of an indie jangler, and there’s a lot going on here. The’s some nice chiming guitar and ripples of field-type recordings in the background.

Over the course of just three compositions, the pair showcase a diverse range, as well as some quality songs. It’s a strong debut, and it would be good to hear more.

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Click on the image to listen.

Novy

Hangman Ho Records – 14th March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Every 18 months or so, I get contact from Rick Senley. This has been happening for a good few years now. I like him, and I like his work. There’s a pattern of sorts. He seemingly hibernates for a while, then emerges with a brace of albums, one each from his main projects, Music for Voyeurs and I Am A Man With A St Tropez Tan. Both different sides of the same coin, they tend to be contrasting but complimentary.

So this latest arrives came as something of a surprise: not an album but a single, and representing a new project. Made in Minks sees Senley return to the fold of a band-orientated project after many years operating in a solo capacity, and the international quintet, which initially coalesced in 2014, they’ve been honing their sound before declaring that ‘now is the time’.

Citing influences from Pixies to The Cure, Kate Bush, Black Sabbath and Aztec Camera, Made in Minsk claim to ‘sculpt a unique sound of psychedelic indie thrash folk’. If that sounds deranged, well, yes, it is.

‘Where the Truth Lies’ starts with darkly atmospheric muttering that calls to mind the Cure’s ‘Pornography’, before breaking out into a muscular riff that builds on a thunking bass throb and insistent rhythm that contains elements of The Fall but combines it with the snaking reverby bleakness of The Cure circa Faith and the fiery goth favours of Skeletal Family. It’s retro as, and it’s all the better for it: whereas so many contemporary acts play post-punk through a post-millennial filter of Interpol and Editors, MIM return to source to deliver something that feels authentic in every way, from the sentiment to the production.

Dark, stark, and angular, it’s also hypnotic and catchy, and a really strong song.

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Made in Minsk

Hangman Ho Records

Christopher Nosnibor

Rick Senley doesn’t do things by halves. Invariably, when I receive mail from him, it contains not one, but two CDs released in close proximity. His two solo musical vehicles, I Am A Man With a St Tropez Tan and musicforvoyeurs reflect quite different facets of his creative bent, and this has never been placed in sharper relief than on his two latest releases. I Am A Man With a St Tropez Tan’s The Tattooed Aunts and Mice on Speed is an abrasive, at times harrowing affair; its counterpart, musicforvoyeurs’ Encounter, which emerged off the back of a film project of the same name for which Senley created the soundtrack, is altogether lighter and softer, and as such, represents an almost polar contrast. That isn’t to say it’s a happy-clappy skip through summer meadows. Encounter explores the spaces between ranging depths of shade in a moving and thought-provoking way.

The eight tracks drift and flow into one another, as brooding strings forge cinematic sonic vistas over which samples pass, creating not so much a narrative, but a sense of meaning, however submerged or allusive. Death provides the primary focus of the snippets of dialogue, and while Encounter is a deeply melancholy work, its tone is ultimately reflective and contemplative rather than dark or depressing.

It begins softly, vaporous ambience washing beneath an extended sample. It concludes dramatically, with a flourish. In between, there is undulating movement and turns of atmosphere.

A humming, thrumming low-end buzz hangs heavy for a time on the second track, before majestic light and choral sweeps cascade forth. The frantic, agitated raised voice which cuts in toward the end changes the perspective and raises the tension, but Senley brings it down with a delicately picked guitar that’s dainty and soothing. Notes ripple and cascade in mellifluous glissandos. But burred edges and rumbling tones lurk just a little way beneath the surface. However pleasant and mellow any given segment of the album is, there is always a nagging reminder of an underlying tension, an insistent sense of doubt that refuses to dissipate or be shaken off. It’s this dynamic which renders Encounter such a compelling album.

musicforvoyeurs – Encounter

Click on the image to hear tracks from Encounter.

5th February 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Sidestepping any comparison of the title to Chocolate Starfish And The Hot Dog Flavored Water and perhaps clocking a nod to Cinema Cinema’s Manic Children and the Slow Aggression, The Tattooed Aunts and Mice on Speed stands not only as one of the most intriguing juxtaposed item album titles I can think of, but is probaby one of the best you’ll hear all year.

It’s been some time in coming, but Rick Senley’s fourth album under the I Am A Man with a St Tropez Tan guise. He has many, including musicforvoyeurs, alongside his work as a photographer, journalist, writer, teacher, actor and guitarist in a number of bands. I Am A Man With a St Tropez Tan is – according to Senley himself – ‘the sound of aggression borne of death, mental health struggles and addiction. It’s also a project centred around one man and his Dictaphone, a magpie-like approach to lifting and combining snippets of sound to create a nasty, messy and quite abrasive collage.

The biographical context to The Tattooed Aunts and Mice on Speed is genuinely harrowing, and I shall quote without abridgement: ‘After the death of his girlfriend and an accident left Rick housebound for months he channelled his rage and despair though electronic sounds and screams – a Chemical Brother nightmare put to sleep by Apex Twin’s downers, a bed-bath by Depeche Mode with Nine Inch Nails glaring through the keyhole and The Prodigy banging on the door.’

It’s a challenging mess of splintered noise, fragmented and disjointed, with pumping technoindustrial beats and dark club-orientated grooves pounding insistently beneath it all.

The whole thing has a nightmarish quality about it. Warped vocal samples taper in the way for a juddering beat and warping bass groove on the first track, ‘Killing Seals’, and thins become only more challenging from hereon in. the second Senley seems prepared to offer an inroad, an accessible structure centred around a solid rhythm and consistent bassline, he tears it to shreds and throws it all up in the air.

Senley pitches the album with the summary ‘Bursts of Burma, Thai ladyboys, Egyptian dogs and kittiwakes from Iceland join forces in equally disturbing measure.’ It’s perhaps a slanted perspective of the actual contents of The Tattooed Aunts, but it does give some indication of the wide-ranging sourcing of material Senley has engaged in in order to formulate this near-Burroughsian cut-up collage of sound. It’s disruptive, disturbing, a soundtrack of dissonance and dislocation. And it very much captures and conveys a mood of a difficult headspace, making for an album that’s at times tough, but ultimately rewarding.

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I Am A Man - Tattooed Aunts