Roo & Neil
We are delighted to present our debut album, HOMELANDS, recorded at The Old Schoolhouse in Port Appin in October 2021. This album presents the culmination of over 4 years of improvisation and composition, in six works for accordion and violin.
See below for more information about the compositions and the stories and people behind them.
Stevie Cossar : Engineering, Mixing and Mastering
Karen Gordon : Photography
Axel Borel : Album Design
In the beginning..
Although the music in this album was written mostly from 2018-2021, its roots stretch further back into some of our very first musical creations together. Ever since we met and began playing music together, we have been composing, improvising, and challenging each others musical ideas. This developed over our time at the Juniors Department at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and continued into our undergraduate our degrees in classical music. However, both being busy with other projects and our studies, we often felt that our music together was squeezed into small pockets of time and concentration. Some time in 2019 we committed to really developing out writing together, and it only took 4 years to get to the finished album.
A lot of this time was spent developing a working practice in the way we collaborated and wrote together. Most of our ideas are worked out through improvisation - we will find a musical idea or concept and explore it together, sometimes recording to listen back later. The composition process from there is a combination of transcription of improvised material, refinement and elaboration on that material and a lot on to-ing-and-fro-ing sending scores back and forth to each other.
In the beginning, we didn't approach this music with a particular common theme in mind, but it soon became clear that narrative was very important to us. We wanted to tell a story with our instruments. And the stories that we were drawn to were the people that were important to us, as in the case of the Harty family, or the places that were important to us.
So this album, HOMELANDS, is a reflection of our musical, social and cultural roots - wide and varied as they may be. But on a more personal level, it is a tribute to those roots, the family, friends and sense of place that have grounded us and supported us in our music up until now. We hope that you, the listeners, will find something in this music that makes you smile, or frown, or laugh, or cry. You can hear a bit more about the individual tracks below: (COMING SOON)
Notes from a recording engineer
(and his dug...) by Stevie Cossar
There's a fair few constants for me in my slowly and ever-changing appreciation of existence. To list a few off the top of my head;
- Being in a new place and experiencing anything for the very first time.
- Feeling vulnerable, and yet, feeding from the adrenaline of that vulnerability.
- Sharing and assimilating your own and others' experiences, essentially sending out a unique pattern of blips from your consciousness to reach, merge with and help shape the collective background noise of the planet we inhabit.
- Laughter, wit and the ability to not be tethered by the futility of mortality, but to rejoice in the magical, odds-defying probability of even being born into this world at all.
Yeah, yeah... you get it. Life can be wonderful when we allow ourselves to be consumed by appreciation of these elements and countless others. These are a few of my constants. When I meet people working in music and the greater creative community, the chances of their appreciation of these same fascinations is increased greatly. It makes sense to the point of being taken for granted, and rightly so.
I remember meeting Roo for the first time. It had been a looooong day, possibly 4 long days into a tracking session in a north kelvinside flat. Exhaustion and ear fatigue had set in before he arrived. My self-propulsion fuel at the time was sugar. Evil, evil sugar.
Roo turned up looking like a smiley peace camp drifter/troubadour, giving off strong vibes of manic intelligence and a weird perfectionism for something which I've only occasionally grasped. It became apparent that he was, in my view, something of a musical thrillseeker but I hadn't put my finger on what that was either. With time, I got to work with him on a few projects and developed a funny, rewarding and always interesting engagement with him.
I kept hearing about this guy Neil, who seemed to be a proper modern bard. A storyteller with ridiculous musical chops. I hadn't spent any real time in his company but I had a few messages with him and it was clear he knew what he was all about and had a wicked sense of humour, to boot. My head was blown off its hinges when I discovered that Neil was Owen (crpntr)'s brother but it made perfect sense once I sat down and started work on this collection of tunes.
Russell, my rescue greyhound (he's an angel) and I arrived in port appin and I was able to sit in the kitchen with a panoramic view of the very mountains of 'Mountains' fame. This was a unique and extraordinary experience for me. To sit in front of the view that inspired a piece of music, whilst listening to the piece being played by its composers in the very spot that it was composed?... Forget about it. Unreal goosebumps.
Each time they rolled out another piece for me to hear I was crushed. I try to emotionally detach from the music I help others document, in order to best present THEIR music and not some weird hybrid of what I think their music should be. It doesn't always happen as simply as that. I can still feel that melancholy and excitement and pure love and anxiety etc etc every time I go back to listen to the songs.
The session was simple and live, with omni room mics placed on the floor on their sides making them hemispherical. Half of the recordings were done with the pair of them in the same room and on the other half they were comically separated by a glass door, which they adapted to far better than any of us originally assumed.
There's a fair few constants for me in life. Things that I can point to that make me convinced that life is worth living. They were all evident, shared by both performers and myself, and all were absolutely integral to every minute of this session.
At a time when technology and rampant capitalism are forcing people to retreat into a hermit state, it's good to know that there are people a generation behind me who are actively choosing to engage by giving their story of what being alive in their part of the world feels like.
Power to you both. Love, Stevie x
© Karen Gordon 2022