With more than a decade’s worth of music trailing behind him, Aqualung – real name Matt Hales – comes equipped with no small measure of baggage.
Thankfully, the producer has come up with a solution: cut it off. New album ’10 Futures’ is facing forwards, with Aqualung recruiting some special guests for material which continually surprises, cajoles and intrigues the listener.
Out today (January 19th) it opens with the quasi-R&B of ‘Tape 2 Tape’ before plunging into the piano balladeering of ‘Seventeens’ or even Jose Salvat’s frisky Prince salute ‘Shame On Me’.
A diverse, broad-ranging collection, ’10 Futures’ is both playful and openly emotive. Finishing with ‘To The Wonder’, Hales openly admits that the track was inspired by camping alongside his son – staring at the stars, they soaked up the infinite depths of the night sky together.
The first new LP from Aqualung in five years, ’10 Futures’ finds the producer refreshed and invigorated, working on some of the most surprising material of his career.
Clash is able to bring you the album stream, alongside a track-by-track guide from Matt Hales.
1. Tape To Tape
Cassette was the format of my musical youth. From Dad's dictaphone to Mum's Big Silver Sanyo to The unbelievable glamour of the friend of a friends 4-track. Blank tapes - sometimes got for free from the petrol station if you
gathered enough vouchers - the excitement of opening the wrapper - the squeaky plastic case and the new, empty, rattly cassette waiting inside ready for our 13 yr old selves to receive our latest sub Howard Jones masterpiece. Tapes! So I found some cassette sounds and made a song all about it.
By various magical occurrences I found myself with 4 beautiful bars made for me by Guy and Howard, that perfectly suited a thoughtful piano thing I had just found whilst singing about metaphorical eggshells in the rhythm of
'another one bites the dust'... Then Lianne came over with her guitar and this curious but lovely thing came into the world.
3. Be Beautiful
I've been trying to do something with that string riff for years. I kept giving up and putting it away and it kept tapping on my shoulder so I'd get it out and look at it again. I guess it was just waiting for this record to come and collect it. for a while the lyric was 'we could be beautiful' in a sort of "let's get back together" sorta way, but then the verses took a philosophical turn and it became more of a rallying cry. Look around, look up, look in the mirror. We really can and must act. We have so much more to offer. So it changed to "should" and I got Luke to sing on it because he is a thoughtful man with an inspiring voice.
One day I'll get over the whole sad robot thing. But until then, here's another meditation on loss and longing in the cloud age.
5. New Low
Sometimes I get low. I feel like my center of gravity literally settles lower in my body and it's hard to move. I wrote the words from inside one of those heavy days, then found myself singing them over this Talking Heads divided by LCD Soundsystem wonky disco track I was making. Seemed appropriate somehow.
I wrote this with my oldest friend after a conversation that we really needed to have. Thank goodness for new starts and clear air! I was singing it but then I heard Tim's band Sweet Billy Pilgrim and I knew his sorrowful cello would take our tender prayer to a higher place. I was right.
7. Hearts (Spin Wheel Oscillate)
So Mikky Ekko came over and we got talking about Xenakis and Cornelius so we recorded a tom-tom and some birdsong and he sang a beautiful tune and went home. Later I lashed some Depeche Mode to it which got me thinking about Lewis and Stewart (now called Prides) who had also come round a few months before and we'd talked about The Blue Nile and Cornelius. So I sent it to them. Then Kandace Springs came around and we got talking about Stevie and Shuggie and Cornelius and so we made a choir each and then I mashed it all together and now look.
8. Shame On Me
Halfway through making this with Josef I started plotting how to steal it from his record and have it on mine. I considered various underhand means. But in the end I just asked. It's amazing what can happen if you just ask.
Someone had sent me SOHN's early stuff and I really liked the way he used his voice and his sad robot thing. So when his people suggested we get together I was excited to do it, thinking we would make some chilly and pent
up science music and compare sad robots. But of course we did the opposite. For a while I thought this was only half done. Then I fell in love with it's inconclusive-ness and declared it finished. It's a mumble, but there's something lovely in there if you give it a moment.
10. To The Wonder
'Halfway To The Bottom'
These are the last songs on my previous albums as Aqualung. I think a lot about the last songs. They are important. They are the last flavour in the meal, the last joke at the dinner party, the last scene of the movie. They are where the album is taking the listener, the last stop. To the wonder is one of several songs inspired by a camping trip I took with my son. We slept far out in the desert under the most incredible night sky I've ever seen. We opened the tent up so we could see the stars from our sleeping bags. So many very un-awesome things get described as awesome and you can forget what a big and brilliant word it is. But that was truly an awesome sight and a magical night and hopefully a good place for an album to leave you.
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'10 Futures' is out now.