Despite tailing a long and hungover drive; Ed is as affable and eccentric as could be expected of a man whose studio entrance is guarded by a giant rabbit mask and a taxidermic Boar’s head.
‘I have this image of an Astronaut floating through space, and he sees Earth and all of its beauty just before it explodes’… He tells us excitedly queuing up the next sneak listen of his new material before pausing suddenly – ‘It’s gonna sound like people fucking at the end of the world’. And with a mission statement like that he’s done well to team up with legendary producer, ‘Flood’, (NIN, Sigur Ros, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds), a man who’s no stranger to soundtracking the apocalypse… The partnership has evidently beckoned out of the shadows the eery, haunting undercurrent that’s lurked in Ed’s previous works. The result is a bass absorbed and sinister sound, full of Ed’s familiar Poe tinted rhetoric. Everything in the tiny studio vibrates from the low rumble, and a wooden miniature skeleton clinks gently above my head.
But before the apocalypse there’s ‘Time of Dust’, Harcourt’s most recent release – where his macabre inclination is more a human shaped plight, rather than all-out interstellar oblivion. In these six tracks, Harcourt is well at home building a creeping, hypnotic and simultaneously lively listening experience that plays out like the soundtrack to some gothic piece of theatre.
Instruments, rare and intricate, surround Ed; tools and toys searched for and acquired with all the intrepidness of a Trophy Hunter. These trophies are fittingly interspersed or sometimes decorated with mounted animals and other exotic oddities he’s managed to collect. The studio is a functioning museum exhibit; a Marxophone sits on top of the Dulcetone that inspired and recorded melodies for ‘The Beautiful Lie’. A wooden monkey mask hangs from the grip of a Samurai sword, opposite a painting of a Ginger Tom that stares longingly towards an Optigan. In fact, any description of Harcourt’s studio and the items within it, ends up sounding like a Tom Waits lyric, and with the growling troubadour being a major influence it’s all very apt. Tom’s style of musical storytelling is very present in Ed’s work, and his image amongst other thematic inspirations stare at each other from opposing walls – Bukowski, Bulgakov, Chet Baker and Houdini.
In a moment of welcome procrastination, Ed gives us an example performance of the bizarre Opitgan, a rare and wonderful keyboard that provides its own accompaniment on optical disk, all whilst explaining how he had it shipped to London from a Massachusetts Ebayer.
All procrastinating aside; we’re here to film a session performance of the mini albums’s third track; ‘The Saddest Orchestra (It only plays for you)’ – an ode to those forever out of luck, who indulge in their misfortune and revel in their rainclouds. In a room full of instruments, Ed’s weapon of choice is his faithful piano – an open faced Dutch Geyer Upright with the hammers exposed, stripped down and raw – not unlike the powerful performance that Ed supplied –
Words – Greg Barnes @clingfilms
Photography – Roo Lewis
For more Ed Harcourt head to his website –http://edharcourt.com/
And buy his new single, ‘In My Time Of Dust’, including new track, ‘Sweet Malaise’, here – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/in-my-time-of-dust-single/id869338899