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Upcoming shows: Memorial... His Lordship... Florry + Memorial... Bad Bad Hats... Dana Gavanski... Caoilfhionn Rose... The Lovely Eggs... James Yorkston... Rain Parade... Matthew and the Atlas... Gratis: Makushin... Lightheaded + Mt. Misery... Jake Xerxes Fussell... Andrew Wasylyk & Tommy Perman... Charlie Parr... Mock Tudors... Dominie Hooper... Ryley Walker... Terry Reid... Chime School... The Courettes... Tusks... Roddy Woomble... Myriam Gendron... Rob Heron & The Tea Pad Orchestra... Kris Drever... Erland Cooper... Pokey LaFarge... Skinny Lister... The Unthanks in Winter... Emily Barker...

When: 7pm on Thursday 20 February 2020
Where: Band on the Wall, 26 Swan Street, Manchester M4 5JZ

We’re delighted to be working with Dutch Uncles’ Robin Richards.

Those already aware of Robin Richards’ band Dutch Uncles will know the eccentric, often off-kilter approach the Manchester multi-instrumentalist takes to his songcraft. However, it’s on the forthcoming Castel, a debut EP release under his own name on PRAH Recordings, that Richards lays his methods bare. A stunning six pieces, Castel draws on everything from Gregorian chanting to Steve Reich-esque minimalism and rhythm-led musique concrète. A compilation of sorts, given tracks were selected from previous residencies and commissions, the EP is bonded together by themes of community, togetherness and folklore.

It’s Richards’ artist in residence role at the Gefail Yr Ynys forge in Caernarfon, North Wales that perhaps bears most influence on Castel. Collaborating with sculptor and mixed-media artist Mike Murray, three of the pieces he produced during his time there are featured – including a track named after its location: Gefail Yr Ynys takes the industrial setting of the residency’s metalworking centre to its logical conclusion, re-configuring recordings of the work being done by a local blacksmith during Richards’ stay, into a heavily rhythmic percussive piece that pops with an urgent energy quite apart from the rest of the EP.

In contrast, Cofi and Llongau Caenarfon are entirely vocal-led, Welsh language songs. ‘Cofi is a piece dedicated to the people of Caernarfon I met during the residency,’ explains Richards. ‘The close vocal harmonies reflect the close community and spread lyrics between the singers’ parts to represent the sharing nature of the Cofis.’ The lyrics ‘Yma wyf finna i fod’ (This is where I belong) and ‘wyf ofalus, a phaham? – o hiraeth am Gaernarfon’ (I am carefree, and why? Because of Caernarfon) are from two of the local phrases carved into the slate on the quay next to the town’s castle. Llongau Caenarfon, which translates as The Ships of Caernarfon, is inspired by the folklore of Caernarfon’s community and the historic shipping industry in the town.

Richards’ other great influence on this record is Arvo Pärt. The track Arvo consists of precisely 1978 beats relating to the year 1978, when the Estonian composer created his seminal piece Spiegel im Spiegel. Richards’ ode consists of a one-take piano part that flutters through suitably minimal string accompaniment. The piece works as a palindrome, whereby it’s the same backwards as forwards and mirrored in the middle. Toompea occupies similar territory but, in a nod to his pop past, expands beyond its intertwining piano and vibraphone to usher in a driving electronic beat that propels the piece upwards. ‘Toompea concentrates further on Arvo Pärt’s life during Estonia’s struggles for independence from the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 80s,’ Richards explains of the track , which is named after an ancient castle in Tallinn.

Amidst all this is B-R, a short piece that in keeping with Richards style uses simple instrumental melodies to delicately build something larger than the sum of its parts. In this case two marimba parts come together; ‘it’s the idea that they work better together than individually,’ the composer, who wrote the piece for his wedding, explains. It’s a particularly poignant moment from an EP that feels particularly personal to a composer who is thriving upon finding his own voice.

As composer, arranger and bassist with Dutch Uncles, he has released five LPs that were consistently championed by BBC 6 Music (among others) and toured the world (with pleasingly incongruous support dates with Paramore and long-time friends Everything Everything). Alongside this though, Richards has been honing his own separate identity – his exploration into neo-classicism and composers such as Arvo Pärt is far flung from the atypical rhythms and 80’s inspired guitar pop of his bandmates, but crucially retains much of the playfulness and sense of wide-eyed exploration of his group compositions.

Since studying under composer and conductor Joe Duddell (New Order, Elbow, and Richard Hawley collaborator), Richards has picked up a number of commissions – notably including composing a new score for famed Hungarian-born director Paul Fejos’ silent comedy-drama Lonesome, as part of Manchester arts centre HOME’s Film and Music Project in collaboration with the Royal Northern College of Music. He also collaborated with visual artist Clara Casian on Birdsong – Stories from Pripyat, a film and original live score project inspired by personal testimonies of those affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Most recently, Richards was commissioned to be the music director and composer for From The Crowd, an event commemorating the 200 year anniversary of the Peterloo massacre in Manchester.

Support comes from Charlie Coxedge.

Tickets are sold as unreserved seating and limited standing.

This is a 10+ show. Under 16s must be accompanied by an adult.

Buy tickets now. Tickets are available from the Band on the Wall box office (no booking fee), Ticketline.co.uk and on 0871 220 0260.

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All shows are 18+ unless otherwise stated.