NEWS: Me Lost Me Album Launch @ Cobalt Studios | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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One of the great joys of frequenting the local circuit over the past 18 months has been to witness the performances of Jayne Dent, and the rapid evolution of her Me Lost Me (I Lost My) project. Whether reshaping old folk tales or showcasing equally gripping originals, Dent’s experiments in sound have proved among the most powerful and beguiling our region has harboured in many a year; expertly coalescing her traditional background and radiant voice with a bewitching mine of loops, drones and ambient textures.

Now, having slimmed the name, honed her catalogue and embarked on a successful crowdfunding campaign, Dent is poised to unveil her eagerly anticipated debut album, which launches with her biggest headline show to date at Newcastle’s Cobalt Studios on Sunday 11th November. From the warm yet foreboding opening of Benjamin Bowmaneer to empowering finale Chamber Bed, Arcana is a record that’ll delight its backers, simultaneously capturing the majesty and minimal aesthetic of her live performances while incorporating lush instrumental and production touches courtesy of collaborators Ceitidh Macleod and Liam Robson.

Ahead of the album’s release, we spoke to Jayne about her inspirations, the writing and recording process and the launch show, which takes place at Cobalt Studios on Sunday 11th November:

Can you give a brief summary of the influences behind Me Lost Me and Arcana?

Me Lost Me is a morphing thing dragging up influences from loads of different places, from traditional folk to experimental noise and back again. It floats along on this spectrum of things I love with common elements being drone, collaged sounds and loops, simple lyrics, melodies with weird progressions, etc. Arcana is definitely more towards the ‘song’ end of the things rather than the arty noise side. It’s basically folk music with big electronica influences; I’ve been listening to a lot of Laurie Anderson, Christine and the Queens, Sylvan Esso, Jenny Hval and Mitski lately.

When did you first become interested in the voice as a storytelling tool?

Ooh, forever! The voice is my main instrument and I’ve always enjoyed playing with it. I suppose it’s everyone’s first instrument really; it’s the simplest way to communicate and can achieve sounds that are way beyond the capabilities of other instruments. Just the simple ability to put words to a pitch is pretty amazing – the combination of being able to convey feelings in both tone and lyrical content. It’s an ongoing fascination, I don’t think I’ll get bored of storytelling in music any time soon!

Youve gathered far more material than that which features on the record. What was your selection process?

In the end I decided I wanted this album to be a collection of songs in a more traditional sense; originally I planned to include all these weird ambient mini tracks and collaged sounds, but I think perhaps they’ll just have to have their own record. When I play things live they are glued together by the atmosphere of the gig, but some of the music I make belongs in another world when it’s recorded and removed from that live setting. This is a collection of stuff which works together as a whole, I think… it’s all convincingly happening on the same planet.

You’ve spoken about how your music has gradually become more folk-oriented. Is there anything you’d attribute this to?

I think it’s very much down to what I’ve been enjoying making the most at any given time, and the tools available to me. I found the process of interpreting traditional songs really enjoyable, maintaining these beautiful melodies but playing with the arrangement in a way that makes them mine. I think that process of experimentation has pushed my recent work into a more folk song-like direction compared to the ambient stuff on the Demo/n EP. I don’t want to restrict myself to a specific genre, though, and I want to keep it fresh for myself as much as the audience. And with some new tools I’ve got access to now I can maybe see it going in a totally different direction again! I want to keep learning and developing and keep it true to what feels right at the time.

What was your approach to recording? Did you want to capture the intimacy and minimalism of your live shows, or create a more studio-oriented sound?

In a way we (the album’s producer Liam Robson and I) were trying to do a bit of both. One feature of the production is that my voice is pretty raw – there’s not much reverb and it sounds kind of odd compared to a lot of studio recordings you hear – but I think that fragility is something really interesting, and I wanted to keep it exposed and intimate like in the live sets, not getting rid of odd vocal sounds like weird breaths and spit and stuff. We also added in a lot of extra arrangement features – beautiful cello from Ceitidh Macleod, bass guitar, midi drums and synth parts – to give the arrangements a bit of something extra. The album is a format and a live show is a format and they require something different because of their context, so we tried to make something that was an artwork of its own, not just a replica of the live shows.

The record features three traditional interpretations. What was it about these particular songs which captured your imagination?

Bows of London was the first song that I made a version of, without thinking too much about it, and it set me off consciously seeking songs to rework and make my own. I fell in love with its creepy story and lush melody, and then tried to find songs with similarly captivating melodies and lyrics that I could play with, and arrived at When You Were Born and Benjamin Bowmaneer. I’d known these songs for years but it was magic to realise I could mess around with them in the same way as Bows of London. They are all surreal and strange, they hit you in the gut.

The record ends with the upbeat and empowering Chamber Bed. What was the inspiration behind this number, and did you feel it was important to end the record on such a note?

I was playing a gig at Cobalt Studios (the same venue as the album launch!) earlier this year which was a celebration of women in music, and I wanted to do a version of a traditional folk song where the woman comes out on top, but I really struggled in my search. In frustration I ended up writing Chamber Bed in response, specifically from the perspective of the woman in the song Willie O Winsbury. This song isn’t the worst offender by a long shot – she doesn’t die at least, and happily marries the father of her child in the end – but she is still just passed around between men, from father to husband. Chamber Bed comes from years of listening to and loving folk music, and wanting to make something where a woman says ‘no, this narrative isn’t for me, I want to make my own now.’

It felt right to end the album on this song and I tend to end my live sets with it too – it’s the most poppy song I’ve made and though it has lots of overlaps with the other tracks, it stands slightly outside of the other stuff which is more subdued and eerie. I want people to go on this journey with me through the album and it probably sounds a bit cheesy but I want to leave them on a high note!

Did the successful crowdfunding campaign affect the way you approached the record? Did you feel any added pressure?

Oh god, yes! I had to keep reminding myself that people contributed because they trust me and like what I do, and let that give me confidence rather than nerves! I’m super critical of myself and I think I was guilty of lots of ‘but what if so and so doesn’t like it? Maybe it should be more like x?’ when I should have been thinking about what I wanted the album to be and trust that people will get on board with it. In the end I think I did that and I’m really pleased with the result! I hope people enjoy it!

Do you have anything special planned for the album launch?

Well, I have some lush guests – Cath & Phil Tyler and Katie Oswell – I’m really excited to hear their sets! I’ve also been working on a video projection to add a visual element to the performance, made from a collage of footage I’ve filmed over the past few years and short clips from the Chamber Bed music video. I’ve also just got my hands on an Akai MPC live, which has allowed me to rejig some fresh arrangements of old songs as well as write some new material that I’ll be playing too!

Me Lost Me’s debut album, Arcana, is released on Friday 9th November. The album launch – with support from Cath & Phil Tyler and Katie Oswell – takes place at Cobalt Studios on Sunday 11th November.

 

 
 

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