After releasing the tracks “How To Recognise A Work Of Art” and “Refugees”, Welsh musician Meilyr Jones (formerly of Race Horses) has announced his debut solo LP 2013, due out March 18th via Moshi Moshi Records. Meilyr Jones has also shared the video “Featured Artist”, which you can watch below.
The track has been described as a gentle dig at Sunday supplement culture, in which there is always another aging star to be reclaimed. “It’s told from the perspective of an old man, kind of like Jacques Brel or Orson Welles,” Jones explains. “And you can imagine someone like that falling out of favor, then being rediscovered towards the end of their life, and people saying ‘We’re going to get you a new audience, and we’re going to get a stylist in and make you wear a cravat.”
“I conceived of the record as a compilation of myself, over the period of a year,” says Meilyr Jones of 2013. “As an anthology, a collection of my songs and of what happened to me in that year.”
The year in question was 2013, a curious time in Jones’ life, when the weeks were scored by loss, pleasure and revelation. And additionally when—after the end of his band, Race Horses, and a relationship—he made a short but transformative trip to Rome, drawn by a fascination with sculpture, Byron and Berlioz, and by a desire “to see something new and different.”
2013 did not begin the way that most albums do. The desire to visit Rome stemmed from a book about sculpture, in which he read about the “resurgence in interest in classical sculpture, beauty and simplicity” in the 18th century, and was struck, in particular, by the story of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, the German art historian “who moved to Rome to see all the sculptures.”
Around the same time he began to read Byron’s “Don Juan” and found it “a complete revelation, because to me it was like early hip hop, in that it was really fun and irreverent but so heroic, and gentle and crude. I got really taken over by the feeling of adventure and passion in Byron, and some of Shelley’s poetry and Keats as well. And they were all people who went to Rome.”
Returning to London, he decided to set about recording. Five of the songs he had conceived as orchestral pieces, and so he assembled a 30-strong orchestra “out of friends, and friends of friends of friends,” he explains. “In the same way that if you were to start a pop band.” There was a saxophonist, a bassoonist, a clarinetist, some classical players, jazz players, brass players from his tuba days and a French harpist. There was Lucy Mercer from Stealing Sheep on drums, Ros Stephen (Robert Wyatt) on violin, multi-instrumentalist Emma Smith (James Yorkston), and Jones’ brother on timpani. For a single day they all gathered at a recording studio in South London, with the producer Iwan Morgan and the engineer Jimmy Robertson.
“I wanted to record it completely live,” Jones explains. “The idea was doing it like a Frank Sinatra session.”
What that means for 2013 is a staggeringly rich array of influences and musical textures. There are flushes of baroque, of recorder and harpsichord, there is a recording of a Japanese accordion player he met in Rome, snatches of karaoke on a mobile phone, lush walls of sound followed by a wisp of David Bowie’s ‘Rebel Rebel’ or an organ recording made in a church in Bristol.
“I wanted to make something that felt right to me and expressed my interests, which are classical music and rock ‘n’ roll music, and films, and nature and karaoke, and tacky stuff,”Jones says. “And I wanted to capture that feeling in Rome of high culture and low-brow stuff all mixed together.”
2013 was borne out of a time when Jones was no longer quite certain of who he was. But this is not, he says, a record that came from pain. “I guess some bits are about loss, and a lot about fear, because I think I’d lost my reason to do things. But I’d gained an openness. I started to listen and appreciate quieter things. The things in between. Not just the strong colors.”
1. How To Recognise A Work Of Art
2. Don Juan
3. Passionate Friend
6. Rain In Rome
7. Strange Emotional
8. Return To Life
11. Featured Artist
12. Be Soft