(Alex Neilson of Trembling Bells)
announces new album, Otterburn
and April tour
Alex Neilson of the Trembling Bells announces the release of his second solo album Otterburn (under the moniker Alex Rex) out 29th March on Tin Angel Records. Otterburn is the follow up to his debut solo album Vermillion (April 2017).
With the announcement of the album release, are
Alex Neilson says, “Master…this song was written as a letter from an exiled submissive to his darling dom. The language is that of cruelty, emotional sleight-of-hand, fetishized regret and haunted accusation. I wanted it to sound like the aural equivalent of a Victorian medical device.
The video is presented as a series of postcards from an unspecified love triangle. The relationships unknown and melancholy. It is set in the past and future simultaneously- a future that is already ruined. It was photographed by Tom Chick in Kirkstall Abbey, The Abbey pub, Leeds & Liverpool canal, Harrogate Valley Gardens and my grandad’s house.”
It’s impossible to describe Otterburn without first addressing the cataclysmic event that led up to it. On the 29th of April 2017, Alex’s brother Alastair died peacefully and unexpectedly in his sleep on his canal boat in Leeds. The youngest of three boys, Alastair embodied all his family’s best qualities and was a charming and spontaneous friend to anyone lucky enough to cross his path.
The trope that heartbreak yields an artist’s best work is a tired one, but what of bereavement? Grief is a complex monster. For those skilled at building songs, it can provide a new set of tools and floor plans. Would this album have been the same without the trauma Alex experienced? Undoubtedly not. Otterburn heaves with despair, but brings with it too an idiosyncratic sense of the comic. Gallows humour seems too mild a term when Neilson croons: “The clouds disperse / Without priority or care / He’s gone they seem to say / But knock once if you’re still there”.
But there are other kinds of sorrow here too.
The Frankenstein’s child of Roots-era Everly Brothers and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, “Amy, May I?” is a genre-bending paean to masochistic love. It foregrounds some supremely wigged-out guitar from Stevie Jackson (Belle & Sebastian), while Neilson eschews his signature breathy, meanderingvocal style for something altogether more strapping, barking the line: “You came on like a nervous reaction / My teeth get hard and my dick starts chattering…”. Other highlights include the title track (a bucolic elegy to Alastair’s canal boat), “The Cruel Rule” (Diazepam Dylan), “Master” (a dirge-like waltz that’s the lyrical equivalent of a game of musical chairs on the Titanic), and the heartrending album closer “Smoke and Memory”.
Otterburn reunites Alex with a couple of his Trembling Bells band mates; Lavinia Blackwall – her voice as true as church bells – and Mike Hastings – who is reaching Brian Jones levels of multi-instrumentalist brilliance. But this is a very different beast to the Bells. Otterburn has an ad-hoc intimacy and ability to make the epic seem small and the small seem epic that pitches it closer to Desire-era Dylan than Folk Rock aristocracy. The rest of the assembled company (Alasdair Roberts, Dave McGowan, Rory Haye et al) are among Scotland’s finest.
Forged in pain and made in Glasgow, making a very decent case for the old adage about the cream rising to the top. Lap it up.
UK Tour Dates:
02/04 Glasgow – Blue Arrow
03/04 Edinburgh – Sneaky Pete’s
06/04 Bristol – The Cube
07/04 Bath – The Bell
08/04 Leicester – The Musician
09/04 Brighton – The Rose Hill
10/04 London – SET
11/04 Birmingham – Hare & Hounds
13/04 Todmorden – Golden Lion
14/04 Sheffield – Bishop’s House
Pre-order Otterburn – https://alexrex.bandcamp.com/album/otterburn