Introducing: Talbot Fade

Talbot Fade is the musical project of a guy who is part of the YRZ collective. Describing his music is a challenge as simple words don’t cover the depth of emotion inherent in his tracks. Ambient interludes inspired by periods of heartache and introspection, ghostly pianos sitting over fog-like drones – evocative and resonant of feelings real and imagined. We’re privileged to present to you a long-form work he’s composed for us, entitled November Is So Alive For Better And For Worse, inspired by and composed during the penultimate month of 2013. So wrap up, grab a G&T, turn down the lights and read this compelling interview while you get lost in the heart-breaking tones of this beautiful piece.

First of all, could you tell us as much or as little about yourself as you’d like. “Hello, hi. I sometimes make these sort of sad and quiet tunes under the name Talbot Fade. I think it became a thing about two years ago when I was really fucking hungover one morning and decided the best method of dealing with it would be to make some textures that sound like the wind blowing over some sort of wharf and just have that on loop forever.”

Like many people today you work full time but dabble in a lot of musical spheres (composing, DJing, writing/reviewing) on the side. How important is this outlet to you? “As necessary as having quiet moments to yourself really. This particular pastime is inherently a lot more therapeutic than the others, not just because it’s me trying to make sounds I think are nice in some way, but because I’ll use each track as an opportunity to really explore an idea or memory that makes me feel something. Happy, sad, fearful, regret, grief, love, whatever – something meaningful. It’s almost like flicking through old photos, or re-watching films you liked when you were younger. It’s all a bit introverted and wanky, yeah, but it’s the introverted and wanky things we do that make us not go completely fucking insane, right?”

Tell us about the name Talbot Fade. What does it mean to you? “It stems from a convoluted in-joke my mate Charlie made up about a fictional brand of jeans made in Port Talbot. It was one of those phrases that just sticks with you forever for some reason though, you know? Port Talbot is an odd place too, but wonderful. You can climb this shitting massive hill and look out over the steelworks and the sea and it’s just so bloody grim and beautiful. I guess those things connect to the project – seeing as most of the tracks I’ve made are smothered with field recordings of factory noises, or rain, or waves and all that – but the name ultimately just really fit with the tunes I was making. Then after a year I clocked that William Henry Fox Talbot was related to the family that opened a dock in Port Talbot in 1839 and I almost died. Old, faded photos drive a lot of my creative work so seeing that my adopted name is loosely connected to the bloke who invented the calotype process stokes me out more than is probably healthy. Honestly mate it sent me flying.”

I came across the Talbot Fade album when I mentioned on Twitter that I was looking for some dark, downbeat music to listen to in late autumn/early winter and you shared it with me. You posted it on Bandcamp in April this year, but a note on the page says that “the tunes … were all recorded at various points throughout 2012 while i was laying down, probably hungover and definitely sad”. Can you tell us about that period, if it’s not too painful? “I suppose it was just one of them years. Lot of personal changes, working an office job for just the right amount of time so that any sort of ‘real’ happiness or sense of belonging seemed a distant, probably imagined memory, drinking more than ever, all sorts of gubbins really. This emerged as the best way I could cope with, you know, living. Some people go hiking, raving or get really into bicycles, videogames, photography or something and, well, I do all of that shit too I suppose… but have a bigger attachment to gently automating looped textures that remind me of something on an overheated laptop in my bed for some reason.”

The album comes with a different photo for each track. In a world where many people (myself included) listen to music on their phones, this is a novel approach – not unlike the enhanced podcast option offered by sites like XLR8R. How did you connect photograph to song? “I used to shoot loads of photos while living in Wales and on the rare occasions I got to travel, but I never got round to doing anything with them. Those particular shots, from a lone trip to Tokyo during which I had both the best and worst time of my life, just so happened to fit the image of the tunes I had in my mind already. I love linear notes that you used to get in CDs. Remember Stanley Donwood’s art in old Radiohead albums? I could spend days looking at that shit, listening to the tunes… so I guess the idea of having a photo for each track stemmed from that. I couldn’t afford to do the whole shebang or there’d have been one more poorly selling CD out this year, but doing it digitally was fun. And yeah, the whole listening to stuff on your phone thing – I always add pictures to tunes that don’t have artwork because I fucking hate the little green picture of a note that comes up in that space. It’s just nicer to look at something a bit pretty innit.”

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“I don’t know, there’s something important about a tune’s additional context too. Like, think of something really significant to you and you’ll remember everything your senses went through at that time don’t you? You’ll think of your Nan’s house maybe and maybe then you think of how it smelt like ginger biscuits, how there was this cheap, probably broken organ that sounded sad no matter what you were playing on it, how cold the pavement was outside even in the summer. My favourite tunes are ones you forever associate with what comes with it, or where you heard it – so I guess I was trying to replicate that as best I could.”

Moving forward in time, you’ve sporadically been sharing tunes on your Soundcloud page, with evocative titles such as “Forever, We Weren’t Here” and “The Unending Dark That Comes Before We Live” (both of which feature in the mix, as it happens). What piqued my interest was the fact that both were tagged ‘November’. Can you tell us what this particular month means to you? “November is just that month ain’t it? You tend to, whether you want to or not, reflect on what’s happened during the year, all the good and bad things and then maybe start panicking about sorting all the bad out next year or celebrating all of the good. It’s introverted as all fuck, and a bit sad. It’s like the annual ‘quiet time’ for everyone and I quite like that.”

Stream: Talbot Fade – Forever, We Weren’t Here

When Burial’s second album came out I listened to it a lot but it didn’t really connect with me. But I had an epiphany of sorts when I listened to it the following summer and it just made no sense, but I could feel the previous winter in my mind, and realised that it had been the perfect setting for it. I feel that there’s a certain darkness and an oppressive feeling in the air that makes this kind of sombre, emotional music so appropriate for this time of year. “Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s my favourite time of year because all the tunes I like the most sound even better. That, and it’s fucking cold. Burial’s a shout for this time of year too – when Kindred dropped I loaded it on to my phone and went and locked myself in the goods elevator in my building for a couple hours quietly going bananas, it was absolutely fucking wicked.”

Can you tell us about the experience of making this mix, and about your process in general? “The first tunes I ever made years and years ago were sketches serving as transitional tracks in mixes, so the idea of almost making loads of them but giving them more prominence so that the mix plays more like an album of sketches has always been appealing. Especially if it had a narrative. Nearly all of the tunes on this mix were written during November, and half were written while making the actual mix itself, initially serving as transitions with some evolving into entire ‘tunes’, sort of. I like that the definition of ‘tune’ is ambiguous at the moment. Anyway some of the bits are original pieces, three are remixes of tunes my friends have made while a couple are reworks of tunes by people I’ll probably never know. All of them in some way represent the good and bad reflections I’ve had during the month, which I guess is how all the tunes I’ve made begin really; I’ll think of something or someone or somewhere and try and reduce that idea to a couple of simple sounds or melody or field recording or sample or all of the above, then explore it as much as I feel is necessary. If you think that sounds really shitting pretentious then oh boy, wait till you read the tracklist, hehehehhe.”

How does life in London affect your musical output? Can you imagine what it might be like if you lived in a more rural space? “I think I’m just compelled to make more of it living in London. It’s an escape to a sort of more rural, empty space, even if that imagined emptiness is somewhat sullied with pollution and rain and fog and crying. Living in Wales I made very different tunes because I had other imagined places I needed to escape to, I guess. Who knows now though, I might be equally driven to make some given I’d have the perfect environment to walk around and listen to them in.”

I noticed shades of acts like Global Communication and James Leyland Kirby (as The Caretaker) in the mix. Who inspires you, and what were you listening to as you were putting this together, if anything? “I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve listened to those last two Caretaker albums. I’ll flick through my records and when I reach one of those it’s curtains for the rest mate. So of course he’s an inspiration – those loops are just so fucking sad and wonderful and alive. As for what I was listening during November, probably the same as always… old videogame soundtracks, tunes my friends have made… those are what inspire me the most I think. Anything else would just be great tunes that make me feel a little more all right about being awake.”

Without wanting to be too reductive, your tracks often take the path of a succinct piano melody that anchors the decaying sorrow around it, or else they will have more of a more abstract feel, drifting and wallowing in something less tangible. What determines which direction you’ll go in? “The former happens when you can’t stop thinking about something. The latter is when the fog comes in.”

Do you have any plans in the way of working with a label or releasing music on a wide scale? Or is this project too music of a labour of love for that? “Sort of. I don’t really like sending tunes to people in the direct sense but I like the idea of them being out there for people to stumble across. So there’ll be more things coming out at some point definitely, physical too if I can ever afford it – but they will always be quite small I think. I think I’m just attached to the idea that if you speak quietly the people that choose to listen will really listen, innit?”

In a flip on our usual closing questions, what is your favourite drink to drown your sorrows? “Gin. Unbelievably I only gave it a proper go a couple years ago, but now I think I’ve consumed more gin than I have any other liquid in my entire life.” And when was the last time you cried? “Right now, you bastard – remembering the exact reason behind the last time I cried.”

Talbot Fade – November Is So Alive For Better And For Worse [Truants Exclusive] by TRUANTS

Tracklisting:

Lakeside
A Descent
The Unending Darkness That Comes Before We Live
November Is So Alive For Better And For Worse
The Voice Of The Emptiness Below Us Which Tempts And Lures Us
Somehow We Know The Moments We Live Through Will Carry On Happening Again And Again
Flashlight (Afterimage)
The Pale Tone Of One Year Passing
The Air Retains Your Image, You Haunt Me
February’s Echo
Forever, We Weren’t Here
See You Again, Lily
Her Guidance
The Desire To Fall, Against Which, Terrified, We Defend Ourselves (Reprise)
Thence We Came Forth To Rebehold The Stars
The Sea Of The Longing For Memories
Cracks In The Ocean Blue, Where The Light Gets In

Aidan Hanratty
Aidan Hanratty

Dublin ... @adnhnrt | @Bandcloud

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