Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Ten from Ten = the End

The final album release from Paul Foster and I as Cwtch, Ten from Ten is a retrospective of ten track highlights from our ten years of making music between Wales and Australia.


The story of Cwtch as I have found it...

One night in April 2007, I was bored out of my brain in a bedroom in Brisbane, Australia, and found myself dispiritedly connecting to the internet via a snail-paced dial-up modem. I was looking to find some new music that might settle my raging restlessness.

After spending some time doing searches, I stumbled on a music site called Last.fm. It was free to join and offered free streaming and some downloading of eclectic sounds, from mainstream to DIY of various kinds. I've always loved music, with a taste that spans an eccentric range of styles, but had previously never been able to afford to own a substantial collection, and so I signed up. Over some hours that night, with growing excitement, I discovered an encyclopedic musical wonderland beyond my wildest imaginings. It was the start of a big shift in my life.

Cut to a few months later. By this time I had gathered from Last.fm a large and growing collection of free mp3 downloads, mostly electronic and independently-made. In addition, I had met and been in regular contact with many of the independent musicians who, like me, now called Last.fm their virtual home.

It was around this time that I met on the site a musician in Cardiff by the name of Paul Foster, also known as Dementio13. While I was happily being a fan-girl to the many independent artists I'd encountered at Last.fm, Paul was prolifically releasing in digital form his sophisticated, original sounds, elusive of fixed genres, or mixing them up with aplomb. It was also around this time that I realised many of the musicians I knew were sorely lacking vocalists. Since childhood, singing had been a big part of my life, and so I decided to make available some self-recorded vocalising, to pretty much anyone who wanted it. Paul was quick to take me up.

When he sent over his first track with my vocals, Pixiegraf, I almost fainted with joy at the sound of it. Trying desperately to be cool in a way I've never been, I 'casually' suggested I'd like to make another track with him. To this he responded that he wanted to make many more tracks with me. Thus, a music duo was formed. We called it Cwtch.

Over the next decade we released in digital form three albums, five EPs and three singles of the multi-genre music that had naturally arisen from the meeting of our creative selves. The way the music happened over the net between Australia and Wales was surprisingly simple. I recorded vocals, all improvised, often with words straight out of my head to the audio file, sometimes around the words of poems. Then, mostly without discussion, Paul would build songs around the vocal parts I sent him, and send back to me completed tracks, EPs or albums. We'd then upload them to Bandcamp and other sites, offer them on a pay-as-you-like basis, and voilĂ , new music publicly released.

I am making this sound quite a bit easier than it could possibly have been. Paul still had to invent and produce his original music around the voice files I sent him, a special kind of challenge compared to the more usual other way around. I still had to discover and edit the fragmented melodies from my improvisations, sing expressively and mostly in tune, and in most cases find the words. This was all a joy. Paul was usually involved in re-arranging the lyrics directly from the voice-audio files, mostly phrase-by-phrase, almost always doing a much better job of it than I. We also had some longer, more personal communications over the years, getting to know each other as kind-of-close but far-distant friends via the collaborations. But in essence the music itself arose almost wordlessly between us. For me there has been something rare and pure about this near-silent musical language we found. It couldn't have happened any other way than online.

Last.fm was originally an independent start-up and it was then that the site was at its best. Its massive success led to it being bought by big corporate interests. From then on, as I saw it, rapid deterioration ensued. I deleted my account there long ago. Still, I will always remember it fondly as the place that launched my biggest musical adventure.

Receiving Paul's finished tracks was always a surprise, and so many times an emotional experience. It is emotional for me now that this meaningful project we've shared is coming to its end. A bittersweet collection of feelings is upon me. But in my world, film-making has been the primary creative focus all of my adult life, with the exception of these years singing for independent musicians. Film-making has once again come to the fore over recent years and is increasingly wanting more time than I can fit in my personal clock. Paul's reasons relate to time demands as well. His main and ongoing musical project has always been solo, and he works days in an increasingly demanding senior teaching job. We haven't released anything as Cwtch for two years, meanwhile continuing to contribute to each other's individual projects all the way to now.

We fully intend to keep on collaborating on our other projects in music and film, but the time has come to complete the circle on Cwtch, giving ourselves and listeners a sense of closure. So here it is, our final release, Ten from Ten, a retrospective of ten tracks from the many, highlights from our ten years as Cwtch.

Huge thanks to the writers who have been part of the ride. Ten from Ten includes lyrics adapted from original pieces by Travis Cooper, Lynne DeSilva-Johnson, Juanita Alvarez and James Brush. Other writers who have contributed their words to our music include Nigel Wells, Neil McCann, Adrian Carter, Reconsiderate and Gunda G. The remix artists who have created wonderfully different takes on our sound are so much appreciated as well. Further thanks to Matt Hetherington for the interest he expressed in hearing a collection of our best tracks, which inspired the creation of this album.

Above all, my endless thanks to Paul, beyond what words can say, for the profound musical meeting I have found with him, one of the great creative experiences of my life. I await with keen anticipation what we might do together next on our other projects.

Finally, as I see it, the cycle of music creation is not complete without an audience listening, possibly the greatest art of all. Deepest gratitude to all who have appreciated and responded to the songs we have created over the years as Cwtch*.



* Cwtch (sounding something like 'kutch'), is a Welsh word with no literal English translation. It might approximately be understood to mean a hug, or a safe place.