The Earth (Ex Super Furry Animals & Catatonia) On Tour
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The Earth (Ex Super Furry Animals & Catatonia) On Tour

Tuesday 30th September at Surya, London
Wednesday 01st October at The Flapper, Birmingham
Thursday 02nd at The Eagle Inn, Manchester
Friday 03rd October at The Old Bookshop, Bristol

Glasswerk is proud to present The Earth this autumn. Featuring members of Super Furry Animals and Catatonia, plus the beautiful and alluring voice of Dionne Bennett, their soulful psychedelic rock vibe can be heard on recent EP release Liberty Roads. They are touring this September and October to promote debut album Keltic Voodoo Boogaloo.

In 2008, drummer, producer and songwriter Dafydd Ieuan was busy taking a detour from the sonic experimentation of Super Furry Animals by collaborating with his old friend Rhys Ifans on the gonzo, rock ‘n’ roll hedonism of their then new band The Peth. A new track, Sunset Veranda, called for a female vocal to heighten its rambunctious energy. Up stepped friend-of-a-friend Dionne Bennett.

Everyone kept telling me she had an amazing voice, but fucking hell, she was amazing! She outshone everyone,” says Ieuan as if again reliving the moment for the first time. “It was a mystery that she hadn’t been discovered before.

Fast-forward to 2013 when Ieuan and Bennett were reunited by a chance meeting in a Cardiff pub. A week later, Ieuan ran into another old friend, Mark Roberts, at his sister’s birthday party. Way back when, Roberts and Ieuan had been in an early incarnation of Catatonia together: Ieuan left to form the critically adored Super Furrys while Roberts’ pop nous helped Catatonia go stratospheric.

The trio reconvened every Wednesday at Strangetown, the “guerrilla-style recording studio / middle-aged youth club” in Tiger Bay, Cardiff that Ieuan runs with his younger brother and SFA compatriot Cian Ciarán. What started out as a project to allow Bennett’s vocal gift to shine became a full-band project when Ieuan and Roberts craved their old fix of playing shows. Bassist Tristan Marley, a friend of Roberts’ and a “Beatles freak with perfect pitch” completed the line-up. A test-the-waters debut album, Off On One, was issued in September 2013.

Their Wednesday sessions continued regardless with a revolving cast of passing friends: if they could play an instrument and weren’t too wasted, laughs Ieuan, the chances are that he’d record them. Somehow this laidback approach began to pay dividends: the songs were stronger than ever and Bennett – already a secret weapon – particularly excelled.

Cardiff-born and raised in Deptford before she later returned to the Welsh capital, Bennett cuts an imposing 6’ 1” figure. Her voice amplifies the music’s themes of loss, longing and utter defiance with an innate instinct to convey emotions with a crescendo of power or cracked vulnerability.

The result is The Earth’s new album Keltic Voodoo Boogaloo. It’s Motown meets Northern Soul for a new age; it’s urban blues with an undercurrent of analog synth chaos; it’s rabble-rousing R&B with fiery attitude. It runs a gamut of styles, genres and emotions which are united by an almost old-fangled production which favours warmth over sheer compression. Guests include Ciarán noodling on the Pro One analog synth, backing vocals courtesy of Vanity Johnson from Strangetown label-mates Baby Queens, and the late Yusef Mohammed who engineered on the first day of the album’s recording. He died just two days later, but his memory has been preserved as some of his demo guitar parts are featured on the finished album.

It takes less than a minute to fall under the intoxicating spell of this wondrous, invigorating album when Bennett’s belting upper-punch of a vocal ignites the first hook of the debt-payin’ anthem and opening track Liberty Rd. It sets a standard that doesn’t drop throughout the remainder of the album with highlights including the first single Baby Bones, a hazy, slow-burning old school R&B vibe that laments a “cul-de-sac of pain”; the torch-song-turned-wall-of-sound that flows throughout I Don’t Fit In; and the swirling psyche rock of Rear View Mirror which surges with the exuberant abandon of punk.

They’re resolutely personal songs which revolve around lamentation and occasionally pulsate with anger. It’s a change of subject matter from Ieuan’s work with SFA which would often blend political undercurrents into its surreal lyrical imagery. He’s not party political, he affirms, “but I think growing up in Wales in the Eighties, it’s hard not to be political. I’m a Thatcher’s child; I was a teenager in the Eighties. If you haven’t got any money and you haven’t got a job, it affects your personal life as well.

It’s a stance best encapsulated with the album’s closing track, The Earth Beats The Machine: a thematic juxtaposition of the organic and the industrial. “It’s definitely a defiant ‘we’ll show them!’ kind of song. It’s about not giving a shit what people say, and proving them wrong against all odds.” Ieuan and Roberts are firmly placed to shine once more, while the time has come for the world to finally discover the talents of Dionne Bennett.

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