Friday, July 25, 2014

EP Corner: Of The Night

Welcome to EP Corner. This is something I plan to do every once in a while - a solid EP can be just as satisfying as a full-length album if it's done well, and to demonstrate this, I'd like to share some of my favourite four- or five-trackers with you lot.

For my first exemplary EP, I'd like to discuss Of The Night by the Guillemots. This four-track platter was served up back in 2006, and it's notable because each song was helmed by a different band member. Here's what it says in the CD case:
  1. She's Evil (featuring Monstro)  // (written by MC Lord Magrão + Monstro)
  2. The Rising Tide // (written by Fyfe Dangerfield)
  3. Bad Boyfriend // (original concept + loops by Greig Stewart, expanded on by Guillemots)
  4. By The Water // (written by Aristazabel Hawkes)
For reference, Hawkes is the bassist, Stewart is the drummer, Dangerfield is the singer/pianist, and Magrão was the guitarist until he left the band last year.

From left: Greig Stewart, Fyfe Dangerfield, Aristazabel Hawkes, and The Man Who Broke a Thousand Hearts.

Now, the Guillemots have never released anything that could be described as 'pedestrian', but Of The Night is a weird one even by their standards - in a family of black sheep, this EP is the blackest of the lot. The biggest source of strangeness is Bad Boyfriend, Greig Stewart's contribution to the pot. Here are some choice cuts from the lyric sheet:

"Welcome to the jazz cave! Tonight we have: double bass [bass solo], drums [drum solo], guitar [guitar solo], piano [piano solo] and saxophone for your pleasure! [sax solo]"

"My name is Fyfe, and I...don't have a very interesting life."

"I like sex, I like sex more than you like sex, I like sex in forests, I bet you I like sex more than you!"

Guillemots played at the BBC's Electric Proms in October 2006 and Bad Boyfriend was a bonkers highlight; everyone wore animal masks, and the BBC Concert Orchestra (who were landing a hand that evening) lent a farcical epicness to the "I like sex" bit. The video seems to have been taken down from YouTube, and that's a shame because it really is something to behold.

Still, Of The Night isn't just about experimentation - there are moments of rich beauty here, too. Aristazabel's By The Water was a big part of the band's live set for quite a while, and the bassist's vocals are underpinned by some lovely night-timey piano. And then there's Fyfe's song, The Rising Tide, which is probably the closest thing this EP has to a straightforward pop song:

Of The Night is great, because it's just a little musical space that the band cordoned off for the purpose of doing whatever the hell they wanted. The EP was released on their own label, and it's overcome stiff competition to remain the oddest thing in their catalogue, even now.

So there's one exemplary use of the EP format: experimentation. Pushing boundaries that wouldn't hold for the duration of a full album. More bands should do this sort of thing.

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