May 23, 2024

The Wave Pictures – “Brushes With Happiness”    a work of pure unalloyed genius

MOSHI MOSHI RECORDS        22ND June 2018

I was lucky enough to hear many of these songs live in March, in the cellar space of Leeds’ Hyde Park Book Club. Meditative, thoughtful ensemble playing and gentleness allied with scorchingly great guitar solos made it a very special gig. After that trance-like session I was desperate to hear the new material they have tucked away for this year’s releases. Fortunately I received this set not long after and it has been played so many times, sometimes more than once a day, that it is hard to think of it as something separate from my waking thoughts.

Apparently recorded and composed in a day, into the small hours of the night whilst drunk, using only the lyrics Dave Tattershall brought; this is The Wave Pictures’ go at making a Tonight’s The Night. As a piece of on the spot composition and band playing, this is a work of genius and a huge contrast with the polished predecessor, Bamboo Diner. Dave quotes Neil Young; ‘’the more you think, the more you stink!!’’

The Wave Pictures are a remarkable band. A simple three piece, each instrument is distinct yet they play together with such amazing ears that it feels, on sets like this, like jazz. I’m told that this album is an attempt at playing the blues without actually playing the blues and the feelings evoked are definitely late-night angsty ones. Tattersall’s lyrics tend to the stream of consciousness, spinning stories out into ponderings on the nature of things.

For example, The Little Window begins with an account of losing 500 euros in a small blue purse and frames that in a walk round the city, feeling the immanence in losing a lot of money but retaining his balance. Smiling as he wanders, hearing buskers, drinking coffee, watching street vendors, he is focussed by his loss on the wonders contained in the apparently mundane all around him.

The Red Suitcase is simple but not simple. It’s a description of being in a room and turning on the radio and finding Django Reinhardt playing. There is minimalistic description of moods, things Dave Tattersall can see. The lyrics float on a bed of atmospheric ensemble playing, dropping out to just Dave’s voice for the end. It’s a seven minute journey.

A Burnt Match becomes a lesson through observing it. From the image of wet laces on a pair of trainers, a mood of lonely absence is conjured, with bluesy guitar figures in, ahem, Laces. Other songs are less easily decoded. Crow Jane is a gorgeous meander, blessed with a lyrical guitar solo that makes the heart soar.

The title track is a huge standout. Partly a pun on Jonny Helm playing drums with brushes, it plays with the idea of brushes with happiness, moments of joy being the thing that sustains a life. Please don’t think that is preachy or moralising, it is told as one of Dave’s slice of life stories. Volcano wraps things up with a touch of tangled love, snapshotted with vignettes of everyday life (and holidays in a caravan).

Dave Tattersall explains the process of recording Brushes With Happiness; “We recorded this album live in a small room to tape on one night in January, playing music into the wee hours. Listening to the album feels like being in a ceremony. It takes you to that place. This is music that emanates from one group of people in one place in space and time. Listening to it is like being let in on a secret. Lots of bands pretend that they have made their Tonight’s The Night or Astral Weeks, that special album which is recorded in those rare, late-night, pressure-free circumstances; that loose collection of inspired jams. They haven’t done it really. They’ve spent bloody ages working on the thing. They’ve lost their nerve. This is the real thing. A genuine shitfaced improvisation.”

I have to stress that this is NOT the Dave Tattersall show, though I love the lyrical lyrics and the guitar solos. The drums are jazzy miracles and the bass is wrapped so beautifully round the others that the relationship is symbiotic. Few bass players express so much in their playing. It’s hard to find things to criticise The Wave Pictures for and I have failed again. As an exploration of the human spirit it succeeds. As an exercise in melding minds into a relaxed jazz / blues combo, it works. Don’t miss this.

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