The 8 Headed Monster That is Thom Carter

Editor’s Note:  This story originally appeared at Workerbee Record’s blog, Staring At The Walls, as an 8 part series that, for some dumb reason, took me 4 months to write.  Within these parts, several free downloads of works from Thom Carter are available.  And that is where I left them.  If you dig what you read here, please head over to Staring At The Walls to pick them up.  And, of course, you can visit thomcarter.co.uk to hear everything he has to offer!

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INTRODUCTION

Thom Carter

 

Thom Carter has been developing beautiful tunes for years under several different monikers.  Much like your favorite multi personality villain or hero from the literary or visual world, Carter has a personality for each sort of expression he might choose to show this week.  And with about 30 albums released through a multitude of independent labels, to include all his latest released on his very own Verlaine Records, there is a massive amount of Thom Carter to be overindulged in.

Perhaps his most popular moniker is, depending on who you are speaking with at the moment, might be his folk oriented Menhirs Of Er Grah.  But, it would not be right to profile Thom without mentioning the likes of Minimal States, Needleleaf, March Rosetta, Cave Lions, Filmforests, Son Clair, and for the purposes of singularity…..Black Crown.

PART I:  BLACK CROWN

Thom Carter a.k.a. Black Crown

 

What sets Black Crown apart from the others?  What personality is being skewed about within Thom’s head on this project?  Well, in the simplest of definitions:  This is Thom’s piano work.  But, it is obviously so much more than that.  This is the man pouring his soul out from his chest and letting it spread across your living room floor.  Black Crown is a perfect blend of experimental piano goodness and an approach to old school, Lou Rawls-esque soul and rhythm and blues.  Last month, Carter released his 5th album under Black Crown entitled Sea Of Cloud.  And as cliché’ as it might be to say so, it is by far the best.

Black Crown has always been a project that runs along the border of obscurity and a delicate sensibility for the recognizably comforting.  And it rarely skews across said border.  And on Sea Of Cloud, Thom finally knocks the proverbial ball out of the park.  He has his echoes in line, and he has his jazz influenced rings and bells twirling about as though his piano were the sparkling wand on a hot July night lighting the only things that mattered

Thom is the sort of man who works tirelessly at creating his art.  Whether it’s recording the ocean to capture its beauty, or writing a pretty like folk song about a pretty girl on a sunny day, or even funky bits of indie pop for a Mercedes Benz mixtape, Carter has something for your own personal taste.  Whether he’s releasing free digital albums or he’s breaking out the big guns with limited releases he handcrafts to perfection, the man is always creating.  This is a monster of modern music that cannot be contained.  He’s personal.  He’s intellectual.  He’s master of the musical note even beyond his own right.

PART II:  MARCH ROSETTA

Thom Carter a.k.a. March Rosetta

 

Every legacy has a beginning.  At times, the initially creation of art may not be a direct reflection of self, due to an estranged and completely understandable yearning to please an audience.  But sometimes, just sometimes, an artist knows exactly what they want to say right from the beginning.  And way back in 2005, a young man from Oxford defied all reason and responsibility, and became a musical genius right from the beginning.

I find myself wondering if Thom Carter foresaw the artist he would become when he released Beaches Of Snowover half a decade ago under the surname March Rosetta.  He must have known that dabbling in a soulful Radiohead-esque sort of indie rock fashion would not be the only thing that pleases him.  Although March Rosetta is one of his finest experiences in music, as well as one of his widely known, the experimentations of the latter years prove pretty wisely that Thom was meant to move beyond his comfort zone.

The raw power of March Rosetta is simply undeniable.  After taking a brief hiatus from the surname for over a year, Thom did return to the classic pattern in October of last year with his 10th release as March Rosetta entitledconformity Is Rebellion.  On this album, we see a sort of accumulation of all things learned.  We seem to have been blessed with a collection of all 8 personas on one disc.  What is the greatest factor of it all, though?  I don’t think he even realized he did such a thing.  And such is the beauty of this lovely prisoner of his own genius.

March Rosetta is not only a milestone for simply being the kick starting project for Thom Carter.  It also seems to be a consistent shadow of all things past.  Other projects he does like Menhirs Of Er Grah and Black Crown might not have anything in common.  But everything Mr. Carter releases has a touch of his O.G. persona known as March Rosetta.

So, the idea that initial creations are generally weak and unworthy of note proves to be completely false in the case of this maestro to the choir of the beloved.  Although our hero may use 8 different names to describe his work.  But only one remains throughout everything he has done, or ever will do.  And that my friends, is March Rosetta.

PART III:  SON CLAIR

Thom Carter a.k.a. Son Clair

 

Thom’s latest adventures in recording, Son Clair, might very well be the man’s most eccentric project to date.  He goes beyond the noise-making experimental songs you might have heard from him in the past, and is definitely on near as pop-infused or folky as the rest of his projects.  In fact, this isn’t really even music.  That is by all technical definitions.  But, for those of us who don’t buy into that crap, it is beautiful sounds nonetheless!

But, still a project as eccentric as this is hard to explain as an outsider looking in.  So, I think I will let the man himself explain what exactly you will be hearing:

‘The Night Sea’ is just that – 25 minutes and 46 seconds of immaculately recorded environmental sound captured at night along the coastline of Hastings and St Leonard’s-on-Sea.Opportunities to record the very singular sound of the sea are seldom in the daytime with the background noises of cars and people, but at night, when the wind is low and the streets empty, the true magic of the endlessly moving body of water that is the English Channel come alive to the ears.

Taking a small portable field-recorder with me down to the water’s edge each night in the summer months of 2010, I was able to gather a catalogue of sounds that stretched to over 20 hours of recordings in its original form. Editing the bulk of the recordings down to only the most pure and representative moments, the result is an album of the sea at its most tranquil and beautiful.
– Thom Carter on the Son Clair Bandcamp Page

Everybody knows the standard clichés about the ocean.  It’s endless.  Transparent.  Mystical even.  But, have you ever really sat and listen to the transparent and mystical powers that the ocean can provide?

PART IV:  FILMFORRESTS

Thom Carter a.k.a. Filmforrests

 

Thom Carter has rightfully shown that he is a master of every instrument short of the kazoo (which can neither be confirmed or denied that he is a genius at as well).  Throughout his eight monikers you hear folk, experimental, soul, ocean sounds, transparent andquite the delicatessen.  But what about voice?  Yes, he does sing, quite a bit at that.  But, what if you took the idea of using your voice and made it into an instrument that is both strenuous and beautiful.  How about an entire album featuring no mechanics beyond simply using the power of the human voice in an almost spiritual essence that creates a hemisphere for the damned to repent to no God, but to thy own self?

Enter Filmforests and the debut album Shapes In Clouds.  As if Thomhadn’t concurred everything already, our star decided to weave the sounds of the human spirit on a sequencer in the traditional spirit of tonal music.   Through a vi rage of diatonic phrases, Filmforests shows the true spirit of a man who finds himself as such an individual in a world of creativity that he must create  a name for each and every separate project he creates.  This is the reason that Filmforests should receive it’s place directly in the center of the eight headed monster.  And on this head, the eyes shall be closed, and the mouth open as wide as possible to where you can literally see his souls desperately seeking to escape and, in an almost 3D fashion, yearning to become conjoined with your soul as well.

Yes, Bjork did this once about 7 years ago.  But, in a funny but true sort of way, I think the FOX animated sitcom Family Guy got her exactly right:  she sort of sounds like Bobcat Goldwaith (yes, a Family Guy references, sue me!).  We can’t deny that she is a talented woman, but sometimes she is a bit extreme in a way that is non-negotiability pretentious and demeaning.  And that is the beauty of Thom Carter and a project like Filmforests.  Instead of sensing one artist’s perspective on different forms of music, you get a sense of one artist’s perspective on targeted areas of love and existence.  Rather than hearing one man’s consideration of art, with Thom you hear one man’s declaration of love and what it really means to present your self through creation.

And I believe it is imperative to note that, with this release, Thom Carter is most definitely not “spreading his ideas a bit thin” as one critic may have mentioned.  I couldn’t imagine a release like this sounding any more realistic, and necessary for Thom to release his inner workings.  To call Thom’s choice of technologies “outdated” is of no real importance.  Sometimes the judgement of an artist not only needs to be respected and not necessarily understood, but truly appreciated.  And Filmforests is a project that needs to definitely be respected.  But more importantly, appreciated.

PART V:  MINIMAL STATES

Thom Carter a.k.a. Minimal States

In late 2009, Thom created Minimal States in coordination with the University of Iceland by remixing, rearranging, and basically redefining an original recording of the classic Icelandic drinking song “Krusarlogur Kveikir Bogur” for the net label Digital Kunstrasen.  Carter managed to turn Helgi Einarsson’s subtle rendition of the track into a  state of minimalist dream-scape.

And it would be on from there.  He would test the waters a of Minimal States once again via Digital Kunstrasen with the debut album City of Buffalo.  But the real creative pay off was soon to come.  Joining forces with the Test Tube net label, we would see a brilliant trilogy of works of ambient and experimental music that combine field recordings, generative synthesis, self-written software and self-made instruments alongside conventional analogue and digital synthesizers.  From October 2009 to August 2010,  the trilogy of Like a PhotographLiberty Hoax, and Interiors was sent out into the digital havens thanks to the Test Tube net label.  Each album would have it’s own personality, and essentially it’s own breathing process. Like A Photograph kicks everything into gear with 2 tracks lasting exactly 15 minutes each and introduces us to what would be Minimal States.  But,  while Liberty Hoax was sort of an experimental stab at the off-putting sense of political nonsense we tend to endure, the final chapter Interiors leaves the material world altogether, and is concerned only with the internal spiritual paths of the mind.  So as you can see, Thom’s admiration for the estranged and contemporary became very personal and more than just a collection of sounds.

The pinnacle of Minimal States would come directly after the release of his second break away albumTrans/Post/Pan(a nice continuation of what we saw on the Test Tube trilogy that we got to see released on Carter’s very own Verlaine Records) and the end of the aforementioned trilogy in mid 2010.  Less than a year after debuting Minimal States, Thom found his groove (literally) for this project with the October 2010 release of Physical Constant.  Here we find our hero moving into a sleeker, almost danceable sort of experimentation.  This is the culmination of everything Thom had worked so entirely hard for over the last year.  Much like the 7 other projects Thom Carter devotes his life to, he found his way with this project in a major way.

PART VI:  NEEDLELEAF

Thom Carter a.k.a. Needleleaf

 

There aren’t very many mediums that Thom Carter hasn’t tapped into.  And with Needleleaf, he pretty much dives right into the origin of pretty much everything he has ever created.  One of the most beloved instruments in the world has been completely reinvented as Thom puts on his Needleaf hat, and sits down to, yes, the piano!

For three albums, including his latest effort, Open Window, Needleleaf has been a stunning showcase of Thom’s superior craftsmanship around the beloved keys.  There is something very riveting about hearing this man assemble these absolutely beautiful pieces of virtuoso inspired classical goodness.  And the moniker he has created for this project could not be anymore spot on.  Our man has taken the insanity of our indoor existence and wonderfully spliced a bit of naturalistic emotion within it’s almost limitless boundaries of sound.  This is simply amazing stuff.

With Needleleaf, Thom Carter proves that there isn’t a spectrum he can’t invade with perfect precision.   And he has also proven himself quite the work horse, as he always is, by putting out three stunning selections of  his solo piano work in just six short months.  To listen to all three of his albums as Needleleaf, check out his BandcampPage!  Limited edition physical copies of the album can be purchased, as well as instant digital downloads.

PART VII:  CAVE LIONS

Thom Carter a.k.a. Cave Lions

 

After a while, it seemed as though Thom Carter was simply going to melt into a world of obscurity and divide his time between noise and “found art”.  And then he kicks you right in the ear with spiked boots.  He shows us, once again, that his versatility is unbelievable.  There is something strangely confident and intriguing about this head of the monster.  This is Cave Lions.  This is the god damned blues!  Carter breaks out the amplified madness and serenades us with beautifully sad songs that will definitely chill you to the bone!

In a review I did for his debut album as Cave Lions, The First Time , I raved about how Carter attacks bears and sends musical mating calls to our brains.  All metaphysically and ironical of course.  The point is, listening to this album now, it sounds completely new and fresh.  Just as the first time I heard those sexy blues chords bob and weave similar to the likes of Kenny Wayne Sheppard in the 90′s, but with a smooth/rough set of vocal chords spewing out pain and innocence with every ounce of energy the man can give.  And when he breaks down on the piano with a ragtime effect from time to time, he simply solidifies his excellence.

Of course, the Chicago like blues references are ever-present, but there are break down elements of folk and classical madness as well.  Accordions blare, triangles whistle softly, the air of the night is entirely captivating through everything Thom creates as the mystically usual and perpetually tamed music ion known as Cave Lions.

If you have yet to be persuaded to check out all things Thom Carter, you definitely do not want to miss this one.  And the next one.  For those of you rarely dabble in obscurity when it comes to their love life or music, this is the stuff you need to hear.  As well as the eight installment to come.  These are the lovely calm, coffee filled housings of Thom’s music that made me fall in love with his music many moons ago.

PART VIII:  MENHIRS OF ER GRAH

Thom Carter a.k.a. Menhirs of Er Grah

 

I believe in one of the corniest phrase every spoken or written:  “and now the best for last!!”.  While “best” is completely up for interpretation, I might freely use the term “favorite” is something so perpendicular had to be stated.  No matter, Menhirs of Er Grah has been a very important part of my life for some time now.  It was well over two year tears ago that I first stumbled upon a free digital EP (when I was first learning what these were) entitled Mourning Doves by Menhirs Of Er Grah.  The title itself spoke to me.  And after hearing “Whitening Light” just once, I was hooked.  His melodic British folk blend of melody and prose was undeniably perfect.  Exactly what I had been searching for, without even realizing it.

It goes without saying, that I think the world of Thom Carter, and I feel he can absolutely do no wrong.  All of his work is excellent and special in it’s own right.  He makes a little bit of something for everyone, and yet only does what is in his heart.  His desire to use so many monikers is deeply rooted in the idea of honesty.  These are all different styles.  Let’s not call it multiple personalities of one artist, let’s call them what they are – individualistic remedies of the musical consciousness.  And that being said, Menhirs of Er Grah speaks to me the most!

in 2010, Carter released two of his finest works to date as Menhirs of Er Grah.  Billy Cross’s Daughter and From Here To You.  Both of these albums, which could have easily been one giant long ass double album, were so packed with emotion it was almost unfathomable how one man could pack so much love, betrayal, and honesty into a couple dozen tracks.  If I was fan during the year before when he put out the EP’s Different World and Mourning Doves, I must have turned straight into a stalking and craze based psychopath for his work.  Because, I absolutely adored his latest work.  All four records have their own spirit, but they all basically crave two very important things from a listener – love and attentiveness.

No matter what you want to call Thom Carter (you have several names to choose from!), you can not deny his genius.  His ability to take every prospective sound, and turn it into music is unimaginably entertaining and truthful.  Long live you Mr. Carter.  Long live your spirit, and your ability to bring out the best and worst of all us with the glory of sound.  For those who have heard you spill your guts, we are left touch.  For those who are still waiting to hear, all we can do is let me know, that they will soon be overpower as well.

Long live Thom Carter!!
To hear the power of Menhirs of Er Grah, visit thomcarter.co.uk

Author’s Note:  Within the 4 months or so it took me to finally get all 8 heads out from beneath the surface, Thom Carter released three more albums, under three different monikers.  Head on over to his website to learn about Last Days of Shortwave, The Torres Strait, and, finally……Thom Carter.

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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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