Music Features, Spotlights

Black Hearted Brother – Stars Are Our Home

Black Hearted Brother Neil Halstead, solo artist with three albums to his name and founder member of Slowdive and Mojave 3, is now part of a new trio.

Black Hearted Brother also stars Halstead’s long-time music companion Nick Holton, of Coley Park and Holton’s Opulent Oog, and Mark Van Hoen, of Seefeel. Their debut album Stars Are Our Home (reviewed here) is out this week through Sonic Cathedral.

As part of what we’re steadying ourselves to call musicOMH’s first site artist ‘takeover’ (with further related content to follow), alongside the full album stream is an exclusive track-by-track unedited preview of Stars Are Our Home put together by the band. It features words such as ‘Wurlitzer’, ‘harmonium’, ‘Rhodes’, ‘Oberheim’ and ‘sex machine’…

Stars Are Our Home
Probably the first track we made. A live recording in part at Farm 2 in Cornwall. A really heavy, hypnotic instrumental that keeps working on you, building and building, that we worryingly discovered makes you drive faster and faster. We always saw this as the opening track as it sums up the album in our minds. Features Oberheim synth, Wurlitzer and harmonium amongst others on this ear socket attack.

(I Don’t Mean to) Wonder
Started as completely different song, then transformed into a long slow psychedelic builder & then finally into this slab of space rock. We had made the three-part harmony for the closing heavy part and it was a late idea to put the end at the beginning and lastly put the heavy, beautiful MBV-type guitars down in four straight takes. Mark mixed this in his newly built studio in Woodstock (USA).

This Is How It Feels
Started this by stealing the best parts from an old song that Neil and Nick had worked on a few years back. Started in this guise at the “Oaki Room”, Nick’s old oak built studio in Hambleden. Paul Blewett and Nick put down the bass, the last vocal part and few other ideas there. Neil cut up the song creating the trippy structure the words were written and sung together back in Cornwall. The idea was to have the chorus massive with many backing vocals and guitars. It is like our “Good Vibrations”, it keeps changing and evolving and booby trapping your expectations.

Black Hearted Brother Got Your Love
Got Your Love track is really the poppiest song on the album – big floor drum, three big guitars, Mark’s bass synth and Neil’s catchy melody. This became a long song clocking in at about eight minutes with Mark’s epic intro and outro.

If I Was Here To Change Your Mind
This track too was mixed in Woodstock. A floaty but heavy space rock track. Nick sang the part in a first take and without having pre-planned the words in a stream of consciousness, something he had done before but the results were a perfect fit here. This track features our long term collaborator and friend Ian “The Beard” McCutcheon who we all help with his music and in turn he with our music. It is lovely to have him here with us again.

Based on a story about middle-aged Hilary and her friend reminiscing in The Sun newspaper when they were abducted by aliens in Shrewsbury as teenagers. An upbeat track, loud guitars, Rhodes, spacey keys and big harmonies.

Time In The Machine
Started by a loop from Neil’s foot pedal and then jammed over with drums and bass. Out of tune keyboards and guitars fill the rest of this almost instrumental. Sadly the last ever outing for Neil’s beloved Roland RS09 which died during the take. The result is another good slice of space rock to add to the pie.

Oh Crust
Planned to call it “Serpents In The Blood” rather than “Oh Crust” which was a kind comment or exclamation on how long we’d been working on this album – “Oh Crust We Are Nearly There!” Ironically the fastest track to write, record and mix in just a few days. Our homage to the Silver Apples, or at least the idea of that great band – no bass, massive energy, big drums and loads of keyboards.

Black Hearted Brother Take Heart
A massive almost polished production with some beautiful ‘Pygmalion’ type guitars by Neil. Mostly recorded at Farm 2 which was an airbase in the war with all these old concrete buildings all about (including a cinema). The track started with a tiny Casio PT-80 Nick had and then locked down with Neil’s hypnotic keyboard line. This is the only song which is lyric led. A love song with both partners heard in the narrative about the calm and peace that can bring.

My Baby Just Sailed Away
Last track to be written, recorded and mixed was very quick to complete. My Baby Just Sailed Away is the most sunny song on the album, coloured by Mark’s “Sex Machine” guitars and Neil’s synths. We had a bit of fun with the monstrous ending featuring distorted guitars and vocal noises through a dear old Melos delay unit.

I’m Back
Nick took a loop from This Is How It Feels and grabbed a few random noises from some other unused material. Sung a first take vocal and sent off into the void that is the internet. Arriving with Mark who replaced the loop with backwards guitars, looped hats and Oberheim bass.

Look Out Here They Come
Paul Blewett and Nick started this track from a sketchy demo Nick had done with Neil. Paul’s playful bass sets the tone that we put down to the Casio PT-80 beat. The Casio deserves a special mention at this point as it features on many of the tracks and helped us write them. Mark added his Orchestron and Caroline Banks, a good friend of ours who plays on half a dozen drum tracks on the album, put her part down in Cornwall. Look Out Here They Come rounds off the record well with Neil and Nick both singing a sort of BHB pop anthem that takes you back to the UFO element if you read the lyrics that way.

Black Hearted Brother’s album Stars Are Our Home is out now through Sonic Cathedral.

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Black Hearted Brother – Stars Are Our Home

Black Hearted Brother – Stars Are Our Home