John Parish once again teams up with his old friend Polly Jean Harvey on his new solo album, "How Animals Move," released Sept. 10 via Thrill Jockey. The Bristol-based multi instrumentalist/producer f
John Parish once again teams up with his old friend Polly Jean Harvey on his new solo album, "How Animals Move," released Sept. 10 via Thrill Jockey. The Bristol-based multi instrumentalist/producer first worked with Harvey in the 1980s with his band Automatic Dlamini and co-produced her seminal "To Bring You My Love" album, as well as co-writing the subsequent "Dance Hall at Louse Point" set with her.
"It would have felt as though a vital member of the family was missing if Polly were absent from this album," Parish says of Harvey's contribution, a gritty re-working of the old blues standard "Airplane Blues." "We recorded this track for inclusion in the art exhibition 'Wingwalkers' by Michelle Henning and Rebecca Goddard. It's an old '40s blues song, originally recorded by Helen Hume -- at least, that's the version I know. Polly's one of the few contemporary singers who could pull something like this off.
"Initially I didn't have this track in the running order, but I found when I got to the end of the album that the overall tone was too somber and I wanted some kind of release," he continues. "I started looking at the various tracks I had lying around and as soon as I tried this one it immediately gave me the feeling I wanted."
"Airplane Blues" is one of only four vocal cuts on the album, which is on the whole dominated by a series of contemplative instrumental mood pieces. Despite being recorded in a variety of locations around the U.K. and the U.S., each share a well-defined cinematic quality.
"Although I think the term 'cinematic' would accurately describe a lot of the music on 'How Animals Move'," says Parish, "none of it was written with specific visual images in mind. However if somebody wanted to use something and I thought it was appropriate, then I'd be quite happy for it to go ahead."
Despite the piecemeal nature of the recording sessions and the motley crew of musicians involved (including Portishead's Adrian Utley, Giant Sand's Howe Gelb, and ex-Captain Beefheart associate Eric Drew Feldman) Parish feels that the album is a cohesive piece of work. "Well, it's certainly not a concept album," he declares. "But although the record was made over a long period of time, and in many different places, the pieces all seem pretty connected to me -- in atmosphere and emotion. Obviously, I'm not trying to create the same atmosphere with each piece, but I think they all flow together sympathetically."
The other vocalists featured on the album are the deliciously-named Does de Wolf, who covers the The's "Shrunken Man," and Dublin-based songwriter David Donohue, who weighs in with "Stable Life" (a sort of Scott Walker-meets-drum'n'bass experiment) and "Bernadette," an enigmatic spoken word tale.
"On the day David showed up I happened to be working on a rather obtuse piece of music," Parish recalls. "He looked understandably worried for most of the day, then launched into the vocal/lyric for 'Stable Life.' I loved it. I ended up re-recording this track for the album, but I missed the unhinged quality that David's performance had, so I just lifted it from the original demo and spun it in."
Parish will be touring Europe with his band in November. Meanwhile, his reputation as a gifted, versatile producer appears to be growing: having worked with the likes of Sparklehorse, eels, Giant Sand, and Goldfrapp in the past, Parish has just finished producing the forthcoming Tracy Chapman album in San Francisco.