Bobby Wratten’s first band were The Field Mice. They released seven singles and four albums on Sarah Records. When The Field Mice split, Bobby’s new project was Northern Picture Library, involving Annemari Davis and Mark Dobson from the latest Field Mice incarnation. They recorded two singles and an album for Vinyl Japan, and then returned to Sarah for their final two 7”s, Paris and Last September’s Farewell Kiss.
In 1996 Bobby started Trembling Blue Stars, a solo project. He released three records for Shinkansen and, in 2001, Trembling Blue Stars’ fourth album, Alive To Every Smile, with a new line-up with a lot of ex-Sarah Records folks in the ranks: Keris Howard from Brighter, Beth Arzy from Aberdeen and Harvey Williams of Another Sunny Day, as well as The Field Mice themselves. Three other album were made, before the band disbanded.
At the end of 2014 Bobby Wratten was back on the scene with Lightning In A Twilight Hour, this time with the help of Beth Arzy and Michael Hiscock. On November 17th, The Memory Museum was released and the EP Slow Motion arrived in February 2015 and for April of that same year they released their first full-length, Fragments Of A Former Moon.
With 2016’s EP And All The Ships At Sea the project became more and more experimental, connecting the old Wratten’s distinctive sound to ambient and electronic music. In 2017 Quiet Actions was a cassette with only two long ambient composition, which confirmed the shift in Bobby Wratten’s music. A couple of months ago, six years after his last release for Elefant Records, Bobby Wratten’s Lightning In A Twilight Hour returned with a new single produced in association with long term collaborator Ian Catt, The Circling Of The Seasons / Neuchâtel trailer (but do not feature on) the forthcoming second album. This stand-alone single set the scene for Overwintering, the new album, which will be out tomorrow, April 1st, on Elefant Records, a collection of eleven songs overseen in collaboration with Ian Catt. Beth Arzy and Anne Mari Davies and Michael Hiscock from The Field Mice are featured throughout the record.
What Bobby Says: “I’ve thought about what I could write about the new lp but there’s nothing I want to say really.
I put everything I wanted to say into the record. So the best thing is if people just listen. That’s all. I don’t want to pretend there was some plan or make things up after the fact.“
The Revolutionaries – Kunta Kinte Version One (From the album Drum Sound on Pressure Sounds)
Reggae in all its forms is very much part of my listening world. This track was used to brilliant effect in the Lover’s Rock episode of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series of films. It also gives me a chance to represent Pressure Sounds. One of my favourite labels.
Paper Dollhouse – Sparrow (From Empty Rave, Moondome Records)
Astrud Steehouder has gone on to make music as Opal X. This is an earlier work of hers. A beautiful, moody piece of electronic music. I was introduced to her music via The Wire magazine for whom she also used to do a great radio show.
Movietone – The Blossom Filled Streets (Peel session) (From Movietone Peel Sessions 1994-1997, Textile Records)
One of my favourite bands. Just perfect in all senses. This is from a new release of their three Peel sessions. I love how subtle this track is and I love the fact that they are a kind of slow motion band in a world of their own.
Chihei Hatakeyama – Rain Funeral (From Late Spring, Gearbox Records)
A lot of the music I like is instrumental or has very hard to decipher vocals.
I like this removal of a central personality. As Brian Eno said, “taking the figure out of the landscape“. I’m much more interested in the landscape which is why I’m drawn to music like this. Painting a sense of place, travelling through sound.
Grouper – Moon is Sharp (From Alien Observer, Yellow Electric Records)
Liz Harris is my absolute favourite contemporary artist. This track was released approximately around the time I first saw her live. I saw two shows on the Violet Replacement tour and things were genuinely never the same again. I love lots and lots of music but no-one else’s work touches me in quite the same way. It’s a unique experience.
Richard and Linda Thompson – First Light (From First Light, Chrysalis Records)
Richard Thompson is one of my favourite songwriters and guitarists and Linda Thompson is one of my favourite singers. This has a wonderful atmosphere and sense of longing. This is the title track from their comeback record after living in Sufi communes for three years and this record reflects such teachings. I’ve read that Richard Thompson is dissatisfied with the records he made in the late seventies but I think both this song and the recording are incredible.
Flying Saucer Attack – Still Point (From Further, Drag City)
Again, one of my very favourite bands. Everything about Flying Saucer Attack just sits right with me. The vocals on this song are gorgeous. The music is entirely its own thing. I think the Bristol underground scene that gave us both this and Movietone is so special. I’m fascinated by it to this day.
Coil – Amber Rain (From The Ape of Naples, Imprec Records)
I adore Coil. From start to finish, every twist and turn. John Balance is a very important figure for me. I’ve read England’s Hidden Reverse twice and I’m always dipping back into it. I love Altered Balance by Jeremy Read and Karolina Urbaniak. There are passages in that book which are like sacred texts to me.
I guess there’s no such thing as a casual Coil fan. This is from the last album, the vocal is just so well judged. Just beautiful. And the music falls on their pastoral side.
Manja Ristić – Onda Interna (From Kairos and the Dwellers, Forms of Minutiae)
I said earlier about music creating a sense of place and this record is a wonderful illustration of that. Field recordings and soundscapes are so close to my heart. More often than not it’s exactly what I need to hear. All the sounds on this record were recorded on the island of Korćula in Croatia. This is a perfect record for me. One I can listen to over and over. Truly transporting.
Syd Barrett – Dominoes (From Barrett, Harvest Records)
Syd Barrett is another very important figure for me. The ultimate non- careerist. The idea of going over old ground was just of no interest to him. He was an artist and so he was never going to accept the normal pop star path.
There are myths and legends and then there’s Syd Barrett. Like most things in life Julian Cope sums it up best : “Syd is indispensable because he tells you how far you can’t go”….. ” to come back alive is preferred – but not presumed” (Syd Arthur Festival book, 2017).