(Make Me a) TRISTE© Mixtape Episode 89: The Leaf Library

The Leaf Library (©Emily Mary Barnett)

The Leaf Library are formed around the core group of singer Kate Gibson, former Saloon and Singing Adams guitarist Matt Ashton, guitarist SJ Nelson, drummer Lewis Young and bass player Gareth Jones. They have released three studio albums –Daylight Versions, (wiaiwya 2015), About Minerals (Innerspace Travels, 2019) and The World Is A Bell (wiaiwya, 2019)- as well a number of electronic and experimental albums and EPs, remix compilations and long form tracks. They have also released five Monument CDRs; an on-going series of experimental solo and side projects on their Objects Forever imprint (full band discography at theleaflibrary.com). The band have collaborated with musicians as diverse as Alasdair MacLean of The Clientele, singer Ed Dowie, noise group Far Rainbow and string collective Iskra Strings, and have provided music for a number of exhibitions, films and performances. A collaborative album with Japanese artist Teruyuki Kurihara is due in late 2022 on the Mille Plateaux label. An active live group, the more delicate sound world of their records is replaced by a much noisier and intense experience, assisted by the addition of vocalist/percussionist Melinda Bronstein, saxophonist Daniel Fordham (The Drink, Steven Adams and the French Drops) and flugelhorn player Laura Copsey of fellow drone pop travellers Firestations. Library Music: Volume One, which will be out tomorrow, October 28th on wiaiwya, is a sixteen track double LP documenting the North London drone pop band’s 7” singles, one-offs and compilation tracks spanning the first 14 years of the group’s existence.

What They Say: “We wanted to gather all our early, scattered work before we move on to our next album, to remind ourselves (and others) of some of the poppier and less characteristic things we’ve done. We’ve always felt a lot more relaxed and freer making one off things for people – it’s a chance to try things that might otherwise be daunting on a full record. We have been introduced to loads of bands that we love initially through non-album compilations – Broadcast, The Chills, Stereolab, Piano Magic, Flying Saucer Attack amongst others – we wanted to add our own to that (admittedly slightly daunting) lineage.

“Library Music: Volume One is a sixteen track double LP documenting the band’s 7” singles, one-offs and compilation tracks spanning the first 14 years of the group’s existence. It includes synth pop, indie fuzz and moody motorik workouts, alongside pastoral folk sketches, dubby electronics and the occasional drone experiment. More immediate than our stretched out and slow-burning recent album tracks, the music here is taken from limited vinyl releases, album bonus tracks and music for compilations on labels as diverse as Bezirk Tapes, Second Language, Modern Aviation, and Concrete Tapes as well as our home for the last seven years, Where It’s At Is Where You Are”.

Their Mixtape: “Here are some of the inspirations behind a few of the tracks on our new compilation. Certainly in the early days of the group we would find ourselves trying to make something that sounded like another track, failing completely but finding something new in the process. A lack of technical ability has always served us pretty well! While the following weren’t necessarily things we were trying to directly aim for, they were definitely in the air at the time the tracks were being written and recorded.”

ISAN – Gunnera

Losing Places (ISAN remix): The earliest track on the compilation is Losing Places – I remember very clearly writing it, but actually with this one I can’t remember whether there was anything in particular Kate and I were going for. So for this, here’s a wonderful ISAN track that I got into around the time they produced the remix for us. To me it has a similar feel to the remix, and is a great example of how their best work slowly builds and blooms over a long track.

 

Prolapse – Autocade

The Greater Good: This has been a favourite since it came out (I think it’s one of the few CD singles I’ve kept) with a great 90s music video (bagpipes on the sofa – who/what could it mean?). Every now and then I’ll try and write something like it; a driving, melodic banger that’s fun to play live, and The Greater Good was the 2007 version. We didn’t get to record it for several years (and it wasn’t released until a few more after that) – it’s still fun to play live.

 

Yo La Tengo – Deeper Into Movies

Goodbye Four Walls: I don’t think Goodbye Four Walls sounds anything like this track, but there is a certain fuzziness there that we’ve not really done elsewhere (the song was called ‘YLT’ until about five minutes before we recorded the vocals). This was the album that got me into Yo La Tengo, and this was the first song that properly grabbed me from it – it’s kind of heavy whilst being completely un-rock (how many rock songs fade in?) and it would be impossible for anyone else to sound like this, so why try. A song about looking for UFOs from a bedroom window, it still makes me feel like I’m in the autumn suburbs, a big sky at dusk, planes (or UFOs!) just above the horizon.

The Notwist – One With The Freaks

Walking Backwards: I fell in love with The Notwist the moment I heard their 2002 album Neon Golden. On a perfect album, One With The Freaks stood out as something that was perhaps in reach to emulate, a bit more guitar than the others perhaps, quite bright and driving. Walking Backwards started life as a very direct attempt at capturing that bit where everything kicks off and the song takes flight. Of course, it sounds completely different now, fortunately for both parties – no one needs a copy of such a great track. And we ended up with something of our own – moodier, darker. As an aside, I’m both disappointed and glad that The Notwist aren’t as big as Radiohead.

Brian Eno – Another Green World

The Still Point: The Still Point was a bonus track that came with our Daylight Versions album. It doesn’t really sound a lot like Brian Eno, however it’s notable for the fact that it’s built on a synthesised marimba pattern that I recorded in the middle of watching the Arena documentary about him from several years back. I got about half way through the program, thought “I need to record something right this minute!”, and went upstairs and put it down in the time it takes to listen to the track. Another Green World is another all time favourite album – I was listening to it a lot when we were making Daylight Versions and, while there are no other direct lifts from it, I was really into the idea of getting as many chance elements, accidents and collaborations onto the album.

 

Coil – Fire Of The Mind

Architect Of The Moon: I had just read England’s Hidden Reverse (a great book about Coil, Current 93 and Throbbing Gristle by David Keenan) and was grimly fascinated by the sad trajectory of John Balance. We had the opportunity to make a track for Bezirk Tapes and I wanted to try something that I can only describe as existing, not in our usual vernal dusk, but actually in the Middle of The Night. The inspiration from Coil was much less musical, and more from the unsettled, clammy atmospheres they were so good at. Fire Of The Mind is a bit less like that, but it’s my favourite track of theirs – angrily resigned to an inevitable end – from a great album. There’s a bit of a cult element about the group which I find a little uncomfortable, and in today’s world where you pretty much need to be explicitly anti-fascist I find some of how they toyed with, er… easily misinterpreted symbols (black suns etc) a little bit teenage (at charitable best). It’s frustrating and sad that neither of them are around to speak for themselves.

Future Conditional – We Don’t Just Disappear

Agnes In The Square: This was another case of trying to make a version of a song that I had just fallen in love with. It’s hard to keep up with what Glen Johnson has produced over the years – Piano Magic, Textile Ranch and more – and I came to this album quite late. I’ve been a fan of Bobby Wratten (whose wonderful vocals these are) since getting into The Field Mice in the late 90s (again, too late!), and the combination of that and the pristine electro pop of the track completely floored me. Nothing is out of place, every element is super melodic and melancholy. With Agnes In The Square I wanted to make something that had a similar ‘dancing on your own in a European bar’ thing about it, the lyrics about missed connections, closing borders and refugees a hearty fuck you to the Brexit massive. The fact it ended up on one of Glen’s Second Language compilations is purely coincidental. 

Library Music: Volume One will be out tomorrow, October 28th on WIAIWYALook HERE for more information on The Leaf Library.

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