“Plainsongs” by Blake: Retro Inspired Melodies and Grooves
Introducing Blake, the extraordinary singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from the UK. From his early days in a Joy Division covers band, Blake’s talent soared as he embraced his own songwriting. Inspired by poet William Blake, he adopted the moniker and wowed with his debut album ‘Solomon’s Tump’. Ecto Music, a renowned indie label, quickly noticed and signed Blake’s band Karma Truffle for an E.P. release. Despite the band’s end, Blake persisted, self-releasing albums recorded on a Tascam portastudio. His lockdown-recorded LP ‘1971’ garnered acclaim, leading indie label Subjangle to sign him. With his 2022 release ‘The Book On Love’ praised by International Pop Overthrow, and his song ‘Vinyl Junkie’ featured in ’24 Hours To Live Or Die’, Blake’s musical brilliance shines bright.
Blake has successfully with the captivating album “Plainsongs,” with 11 songs.
The engaging single “Hideaway,” which features amazing guitar work, synths, upbeat beats, and exquisite vocals, serves as the album’s opening track. Adding a nostalgic touch instantly takes you to the pleasing sounds of the sixties, establishing the ideal environment for commencing this musical journey.
The second song, “Time for a Change,” has a happy and summery vibe. It’s a song with a revitalizing vibe, one that makes you want to break free of your mundane routine. With its encouraging words, “It’s time for a change” turns into an anthem that resonates with your yearning for change and fresh starts. The track’s outstanding guitar work shines musically, complemented by the lively presence of tambourines and drums.
You’ll find yourself humming along to the enticing hookline of “Make Love Not Far” in no time. As suggested by its ponderous title, the song has an important message to convey. The fantastic electric guitar taking back to the retro world, energetic drumming, and bassline make the music itself a sensory delight. My favorite section was undoubtedly the buildup to the chorus. You’ll be bopping your head to the beat.
A true powerhouse, “I’m the One” explodes with rampant energy and a full-on rock sound. You can’t help but experience a rise in adrenaline from the time it begins. The persistently driving and cheerful drum sounds will get you fired up, and the guitar performance is absolutely amazing. Blake’s vocals are so intense and passionate that it’s difficult not to get caught up in the moment. The electric guitar journey at 1:51 then hits you like a bolt of lightning. It’s a truly incredible experience. This tune will make your day.
“Siren Song” all of a sudden feels calm after the chaos. You’ll find yourself gently swaying to its soothing melodies, which remind you of a warm Sunday morning. Hold on, though! There is going to be a pleasant surprise. The song’s unusual progression will keep you guessing right up to the very end. Just when you thought you’ve got it figured out, it suddenly shifts from a country vibe to a bright and energetic indie sound. The musical experience “Siren Song” takes you on a calm journey before unexpectedly shifting into an enthusiastic celebration of sound.
The album moves smoothly into “I Wish I Had Never Believed In Love” after “Siren Song.” This song flows at a nice, mid-tempo pace that creates a warm groove that draws you along. The song weaves a tale of introspection and longing, capturing the bittersweet essence of lost love.
Be ready to be taken aback by “Hear Me Jesus/Plainsong’s” fascinating journey. The song’s opening choir tone sets a spiritual tone that tricks you into a calm state. But hold on tight—there’s a dramatic twist coming. The song abruptly transforms into an amazing rock anthem, with Blake’s vocals bursting through with tremendous strength and passion and the electric guitar taking center stage.
“Up” is an inspirational anthem that will help you rise from the ashes like a phoenix.The powerful hook line, “But I got up again,” acts as a persistent reminder of tenacity and strength. The raw emotions of determination and accomplishment are expressed effortlessly by Blake, urging you to never give up.
“Sweet Country Lady” begins with harmonica melody. The retro-inspired music comes alive with zingy energy as the organ, guitar, drums, and vocals join in. The tune strikes a perfect combination of capturing your attention without overpowering the senses. The addition of the tambourine, however, gives a hint as to the ecstatic intensity to come, just when you think it can’t be any better. True to its word, the song quickly ignites into a jovial and contagious rhythm that will have you tapping your feet to its addictive groove.
Blake’s vocals take on a darker tone in “Rainbow’s End,” which is wonderfully accented by the calm strumming of an acoustic guitar in the beginning. Keys and the subtle jingle of a tambourine get introduced as the song goes on, enriching the overall tune. The song has such a calming and soothing effect.
The album’s final track, “Out of Reach,” is a powerful and energetic track. Blake’s vocals are flawless, demonstrating his unparalleled talent and mastery. The guitar work radiates perseverance, while the thumping percussion beats add to the driving rhythm. Every time the song gets to the catchy hookline, “I’m sorry, so so sorry,” the energy peaks. The passion and talent weaved throughout the entire album are reflected in the gripping conclusion, which makes an impression that sticks with you.
We had a chance to interview Blake recently about his latest album and beyond. Read on to know more.
1. Hey Blake! Thanks for joining us today. I must say, your album “Plainsongs” is quite a journey with its eclectic range of musical styles. Let’s dive right in and chat about your music. I read about the recording process on your blog. What was it like capturing the sound on analogue tape at New Cut Studios in Bristol? Any anecdotes or memorable experiences you can share with us?
A: Hey! Great to chat with you. Working with analogue tape makes you much more disciplined in the studio. It’s expensive stuff and you can’t record over it too many times because the sound quality deteriorates. You therefore have to try and nail the takes as quickly as possible. Fortunately, my band and I had been rehearsing a lot before we started the recording sessions. Another thing with working with fifty-year-old equipment is that it tends to break down quite a bit. The eight-track recorder was very temperamental, and Scot the producer would literally give it a kick every now and then to get it to work!
2. “Make Love Not War” had me grooving and smiling throughout. It’s such a feel-good song! What do you hope people take away from this particular track?
A: Thanks! It’s a clichéd message, but, sadly, it’s still as relevant now as it was in the sixties. I think artists need to keep saying this stuff whether it’s fashionable or not. As Bob Dylan said, we live in a political world, and I think it’s daft to ignore that, particularly when music can carry a positive message. ‘Masters of War’ is as powerful now as it was in 1963. I went full on into the sixties vibe on this one because it seemed appropriate.
3. The title track, “Plainsong: Hear Me Jesus,” surprises listeners with its shift from spiritual to raw rock. What led to this creative decision, and what emotions were you aiming to evoke with this powerful transformation?
A: I had written the title track early on and this led to the concept for the album, or for the artwork, at least. I had wanted to record a local church choir singing the plainsong part to imitate the sound of a medieval monastery but it proved logistically too challenging, so I ended up recording it at home with my friend Joe, multi-tracking our voices. I have always enjoyed that cross-over between religious music and rock, whether that be George Harrison, Kula Shaker or the ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ soundtrack LP.
4. The final track on the album, “Out of Reach,” has a really epic feel to it, ending the album on a high note. Did you always know that this would be the closing track, or did it evolve naturally during the recording process?
A: Great question! Well, this one was a last-minute addition to the album. ‘Plainsongs’ was originally going to end with ‘Rainbow’s End’ but I wrote ‘Out of Reach’ about a week before the sessions began and I thought it might be worth having a go at recording it. I was listening to a lot of Steve Albini engineered records at the time and wanted to write something for our drummer, Hugh, to get his teeth stuck into. When we first rehearsed it, he added this off-beat at the beginning which I really love because it’s disorienting for the listener and is a trick Led Zeppelin used.
5. If you had to choose one song from the album that represents the essence of your musical evolution, which one would it be and why?
A: Well, I’m not sure about the answer to that but my favourite song on the album is ‘Time for a Change’ because I was pleased with the structure and it feels like a good three-minute pop song. I really like the solo that my friend Paul played and Joe’s bass playing and backing harmonies are lovely. Hugh suggested the little breaks in the bridge sections, so it’s a collaborative effort.
6. Looking back at the entire album “Plainsongs,” what are you most proud of achieving with this body of work, and how do you hope it resonates with your audience?
A: I am glad to have a finished product that I am happy with because the studio time wasn’t cheap! ‘Plainsongs’ pretty much manifests the vision I had in my head for it when I recorded the demos for the album. The amazing thing about the process was that the arrangements took shape almost immediately we began rehearsing the songs. I’ve been playing in bands with Hugh, Paul and Joe for decades – in fact, Hugh and I formed our first band at school when we were fourteen, together with our friend Rich, who also plays on the album – and so we know each other inside out musically and personally. I think that created a bit of magic in the arrangements and performances.
I just hope that listeners enjoy it. If people like the same kind of music that I do (i.e. old stuff!), then it may appeal.
7. I read that your band, Karma Truffle, was signed to London label Ecto Music and shared bills with the Arctic Monkeys. What was it like being a part of the music scene during that time, and how did it impact your growth as a musician?
A: That was a wild ride but it was over in a flash. We played a lot of gigs around the country but there is nothing glamorous to report – it usually involved ending up completely exhausted at a service station on the M5 at about three in the morning. We actually resigned from the label, which probably sounds like a crazy thing to do, but we just wanted control of what we were doing. It took over a year to record the three songs for the E.P. they released. I write songs all the time and I just wanted to get them out there more quickly. Fortunately, things finally came full circle when one of my home recorded albums got picked up on by Subjangle, the indie label that is releasing Plainsongs and released my three previous efforts.
8. What is from Blake next?
A: Well, I am working on a remixed and remastered release of my first solo album, ‘Solomon’s Tump’, from 2003, which I recorded at home on a Tascam Portastudio and was the catalyst for Karma Truffle getting signed. This will be issued later this year for its twentieth anniversary. I’m not sure where all that tie went! I have, as usual, stockpiled another load of songs, so I may start recording some of these before too long. I have gigs coming up to promote ‘Plainsongs’, including a show at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, so that’s my focus for now. I can’t wait!