In Elsewhere No.01, published in June 2015, we spoke to the musician Stephen Cracknell about his work and, in particular, the music he releases as The Memory Band, that “imaginary band, built inside a computer and made flesh by the contributions of numerous musicians.” We asked Stephen to be our first interviewee in the pages of Elsewhere not simply because we love the music of The Memory Band, but also because within all the recordings, there is a strong sense of landscape, history and place to be found, alongside the beguiling mix of digital sounds, acoustic instruments and traditional melodies.
The new album – A Fair Field – just released on Static Caravan Records is no exception:
The Memory Band navigate a dream landscape of fading identity, dredging up forgotten histories from old maps, half-filled diaries, government records and lists left inside magazines detailing obsolete television schedules. The music was fed by stories of magical hares and the recollections of ballad sellers bearing placards at the great fairs of times past, the fields of which now lie buried beneath leisure centres, electricity substations, and retail parks. It traces the connection between the headstone of a man killed in Norfolk by the sails of a windmill, the first observations of solar flares, incendiarism, council estates and an old man’s recollection of ploughing the land by starlight in another time.
One of the great appeals of The Memory Band is shear depth of the influences and mix of ingredients that goes into each song. Take The Bold Grenadier, which you can listen to via the link below. This is The Memory Band’s version of a traditional tune that was arranged by Richard Rodney Bennett for the 1967 film Far from the Madding Crowd. In the spoken word introduction, we hear the voice of Vashti Vincent, who was recorded in the village of Sixpenny Handley in Dorset, England, in 1954, in which she tells the story of how her father bought a ballad about a 19th century murder at a Sheep Fair:
Stephen has written about that episode, and more on the creation of A Fair Field and the places that inspired it on Caught by the River. A Fair Field by The Memory Band is available on Static Caravan Records. The interview with Stephen Cracknell appeared in Elsewhere No.01, which you can buy in our online shop here.