James Blackshaw / Rough Fields
James Blackshaw is highly regarded for his pieces for solo 12-string guitar, nylon-string classical guitar and piano. Strongly inspired by the 60’s Takoma school of guitarists, minimalist composers and European classical music, Blackshaw employs fingerpicking techniques to create drones, overtones and repeating patterns, alongside a strong inclination for melody, to create instrumental music that is both intelligent, hypnotic and emotional.
Born in London in 1981, Blackshaw has so far released ten solo studio albums, one EP, two live recordings and has also appeared on numerous compilations since 2003, receiving praise and earning places on Best of Year lists from online and printed publications such as Pitchfork, Billboard, The Wire, The Observer, The Times, Uncut, The New York Times, Rolling Stone Magazine, The Onion, Magnet and Acoustic Guitar Magazine among others.
Blackshaw has collaborated with Lubomyr Melnyk, performed and recorded as a member of Current 93 and with Jozef Van Wissem as Brethren of The Free Spirit and toured and played shows with artists such as Swans (whose Michael Gira signed Blackshaw to his Young God label to release two albums in 2009 and 2010), Grails, Meg Baird (Espers), Mountains, Glenn Jones, Sir Richard Bishop, Jose Gonzales, Peter Walker, Alex De Grassi and Hauschka. He has toured extensively in the US, Europe and Japan, playing such institutions as the ICA, the Barbican and Merkin Hall, NYC as part of the New York Guitar Festival, 2010. Matt Groening, creator of ‘The Simpsons’, invited Blackshaw to perform at All Tomorrow’s Parties, May 2010. His music has been featured multiple times on National Public Radio in the US, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 4 and and has been used both on TV and in one feature length film, ‘Sebbe’.
Remarkably Blackshaw's tenth studio album - ‘Summoning Suns’ - is the first to feature his voice and lyrics. Drawing inspiration from 60’s and 70’s singer-songwriters, baroque/orchestral pop and folk music, while still sounding contemporary, 'Summoning Suns’ is Blackshaw’s foray into more traditional forms of songcraft.
Blackshaw sings in a gentle but assured voice while his words combine his personal experiences, neuroses and fantasy through many layers of abstraction, poeticism and dark humour.
While the deft fingerpicking acoustic guitar style of Blackshaw’s previous recordings is still a prominent part of the sound, the songs are lushly and intricately arranged for drums, bass, piano, violin, flute and pedal steel guitar and features contributions from Simon Scott (Slowdive), Annie Nilsson and Japanese musicians Mori Wa Ikiteiru and Kaoru Noda (with whom he duets in Japanese on one song).
Rough Fields is the solo project of UK-based electro-acoustic composerJames Birchall. Began in 2011 with a series of epic lo-fi cassettes on theBomb Shop label, the Rough Fields project progressed through expansive song forms on debut album Edge of the Firelight, and surreal, dreamy pop on 2013's High Time EP.
After spending a year producing the first ever composer-approved solo recording of Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians, Birchall shifted focus on the field recordings which had previously formed a backdrop to his instrumental work. The Wessenden Suite album formed the first recorded instance of Birchall's new working process, whereby field recordings from a specific location are played back, overlayed, and manipulated using a series of resonant filters which pull individual tones from the environmental sound.
The current form of the Rough Fields live show - which has recently featured on bills alongside Tara Jane O'Neil, Steve Hauschildt (Emeralds) and a sold-out show at Cafe Oto alongside Jozef Van Wissem - involves field recordings taken from the venue area earlier in the day being played back through this manipulative process to form vast soundscapes of noise, texture and harmony.