Martina Topley Bird
No question about it, Martina Topley Bird's singing holds a key to some classic British pop — hers is the voice of Tricky's masterwork Maxinquaye; she duetted with Roots Manuva on the last Gorillaz; and she currently sings with Massive Attack. Prior to Some Place Simple, her two solo albums are the Mercury-nominated Quixotic, and the critically-acclaimed Danger Mouse production The Blue God. Her collaborators range from Common, to Diplo, to Leila.
Still, whilst Martina might need no such introduction in this context, her debut album for Honest Jon's is a radical departure. Equally, although Some Place Simple presents a kind of songbook, combining brand new compositions with old favourites, everything here sounds fresh. The trip hop stripped away, the music is intimate and alive, uncovered.
'The idea for this record came from Damon Albarn after he saw the live show supporting Massive Attack last September in Brixton. Other friends had encouraged me to make a record in this constellation but he was the first to recognise the validity of including songs that had already been released in a previous incarnation. And that's what makes this unique. A fresh perspective.' MTB
Recorded over one week at Damon's Studio 13 with musical cohort Fergus Gerrand, Some Place Simple is a jewel, a streamlined, spacious record that throws the spotlight exactly where it should be: on Martina’s lovely melodies and fine songwriting, and the voice wrapped round them — warm, limber and totally unmistakeable.
Baby Blue / Phoenix / Lying / DaDaDa / Orchids / Poison / Intro / Snowman / Sandpaper Kisses / All Day / Ilyah / Valentine / Too Tuff To Die / Kiss Kiss Kiss / Harpsichord Kiss
Track by track by Martina
Baby Blue. I stole the chords off some Mexican song at a party. My Mum pitched in with the chorus. Only 3 chords and manages to still sound exotic somehow. I was really influenced by The Beatles.
Phoenix. We were listening to 60's Cambodian music. That influenced the melody. Lyrics were up in the air for about 1.5 years. Then in our final session were influenced by the death of my niece-in-law. Dedicated to her Mom.
Lying. Wrote this in half an hour. Walking back from lunch to the studio with Alex of Amp 9. One question triggered the whole thing. I love this song - its suspended feeling.
DaDaDa. A melody that had been biding its time on my phone for a year or so. Never needed lyrics. Dada-ism.
Orchids. New track, sinister transformation/body snatcher song started with the lyric "out from your eyes you will see, mystify all who knew you before, cos you are no more".
Poison. A classic, gone Yma Sumac. Written during a violent hangover. It arrived pretty much fully formed in about 5 minutes. Hangovers are AMAZING for writing, especially if you’re feeling indignant/vengeful/pissed off/wounded!
Intro. First song I ever recorded on my own at home with my brand new MBox, which I still use. Used to open shows with it. Robert Plant/Alison Krauss NEARLY covered it. Thanks.
Snowman. Wrote this on my wurlitzer at home, during school hols I guess cos my daughter was sat on the couch by me. Broke the rules recording it cos obviously I can't feasibly play wurli and harmonium at the same time live! One of the temptations and revelations of recording at 13. Like being in a candy store!
Sandpaper Kisses. I think it's quite a nice portrayal of feminine intuition at work, subtle cues and hints you pick up, you don't have the facts but you know what's going on and know what lies ahead and you’re frickin exhausted and wish things were more transparent. Stephen Marley covered/sampled it.
All Day. Mantric, gospel, folk. I clung to it cos it seemed to work - this simple melody for verse and chorus.
Ilya. Loop station revelation. I have another version in mind, Dusty Springfield with strings and long pauses in the chorus…
Valentine. Written in LA, first session for Quixotic.
Too Tuff To Die. Written with David Holmes. Really worked on and researched lyrics, was super happy with them. Twilight Singers covered it.
Kiss Kiss Kiss. A little ditty. Wrote it in the autumn and debuted it the same evening at Raffles, up the road from me.
Harpsichord Kiss. Electric harpsichord (another studio 13 detour) with clunky stiff keys. Brian's got a much better one in his studio. I like that it almost sounds like a Brahms or Mozart lullaby, performed by some youngster during their Victorian harpsichord practice.