Grasscut, the duo of Andrew Phillips and Marcus O’Dair, return in May with Everyone Was A Bird, their third album and first to be released on Lo Recordings. The band’s most live and organic album to date, Everyone Was A Bird sees Grasscut’s cinematic and immersive mix of electronica, post-rock and song augmented by live strings, drums, piano and guitar. It comes with liner notes by Robert Macfarlane, author of Landmarks, Mountains of the Mind, The Wild Places and The Old Ways.
The album is a search for identity and meaning, both through closely observing the places in which we live, and through digging around in the landscapes of our ancestors. Islander is set in the Jersey where Phillips grew up; The Field and Snowdown in the Sussex Downs, close to his current home in Brighton. The other songs are based in and around the Mawddach Estuary in mid Wales where his family comes from, and where he continues to spend much of his time. The album’s title meanwhile comes from the Siegfried Sassoon poem Everyone Sang. It concerns a moment of release in the World War One trenches, in which everyone bursts into song, and also reflects the album’s own journey from the landlocked Islander, via first single Curlews, to the soaring closer Red Kite.
As usual, Grasscut’s Andrew Phillips writes, sings, produces, and contributes guitar, piano, bass, synths and programming. But Everyone Was A Birdis also the band’s most live collection to date, featuring piano and double bass from Grasscut’s Marcus O’Dair, drums from Aram Zarikian (Andreya Triana/ Kathryn De Boer) and violin and viola from Emma Smith and Vince Sipprell (Elysian Quartet/Jon Hopkins/James Yorkston/Hot Chip/Micachu/Imogen Heap). Guests, meanwhile, include vocalists Elisabeth Nygård (LOOP Collective), Adrian Crowley (Chemikal Underground) and Seamus Fogarty (Fence/Lost Map), and renowned ECM reed player John Surman.
The sound of Everyone Was A Bird is heavily influenced by Phillips’ work as a screen composer, notably his string quartet-based score for the award-winning feature documentary Piper Alpha: Fire In The Night. With this album, Grasscut have taken the relationship between their music and visuals a step further by commissioning a series of landscape-based films from director Roger Hyams and photographer Pedr Browne to accompany each track on the album. These will also provide a backdrop to the new live show.
Grasscut’s music has always been deeply rooted in a sense of place, expressed through Phillips’ vocals and also a host of other voices past and present, sampled and live: WG Sebald, Hilaire Belloc, Ezra Pound, Robert Wyatt, James Mason, TS Eliot, Gazelle Twin, Philip Larkin, Kathleen Ferrier. Everyone Was A Bird again features many voices: Phillips is joined not only by Crowley and Nygård but also Hilaire Belloc, Sir Basil Spence and Siegfried Sassoon. Other voices are welcomed too: fans are invited to record their reflections on a landscape or place that is resonant for them, a selection of which will feature on a new Grasscut track.