“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today’s guest is an enigmatic renaissance man and elegant chamber pop writer whose nom de plume Louis Philippe is his nighttime cover for a day-job as Philippe Auclair, long time acclaimed football journalist and podcaster. His easy style and honeyed voice are as soothing a start to a year as you could hope given the absolute nuttiness outside the door.
Frenchman but long-time Londoner Louis has been a prolific musical sideman (The High Llamas, Towa Tei, Big Big Train to name a few), but ventures bearing his name (or at least that of his alter-ego) had been few and far between – a thirteen year gap between “solo” albums no less. That was until last year’s absolute sleeper hit with Young Marble Giants eminence grise Stuart Moxham “The Devil Laughs” (on the ever brilliant Tiny Global Productions).
Hot on its well-appointed heels comes the album “Thunderclouds” on Tapete Records, this time a collaboration with the band The Night Mail and it’s a late night treat, as more-ish as an After Eight mint but one whose taste will persist well after the Christmas hangover. He’s a class act, with some top tunes under his belt, and a brilliant song choice for us in his locker, it’s a warm bienvenue to the prodigiously talented piano prestidigitator Louis Philippe!
The Night Mail, a three man band made up of musician/journalist Robert Rotifer on guitar, former Acid Jazz artiste and Weller band member Andy Lewis on bass and ex-member of Thrashing Doves and Death in Vegas Ian Button on drums, first formed when they accompanied John Howard on his 2015 album “John Howard & The Night Mail” (also on Hamburg’s Tapete Records). In 2017, at Tapete’s anniversary bash at London’s Lexington they backed up Louis Philippe and an instant understanding was forged.
Despite Rotifer and Philippe being friends for many years, drawn even closer as horrified/bemused ex-pat observers of Britain’s self-flagellation/division over the last four years, the appropriately named “Thunderclouds” took three years from agreeing to make it to its final gestation. In the end it was the escalation of the pandemic mixed with the maelstrom of Brexit that forced them to admit it was now or never. Philippe had been amassing musical sketches the whole time and given the absolute gems of the album it was a wonder he was able to sit on them the whole time, such is their gusset busting beauty. Careful, understated, complex of construction but with simplicity at heart, it’s an absolute gentle pleasure, timeless and illusorily effortless.
Given his musical pedigree not to mention his wealth of worldly wisdom ranging from smoky after hours jazz dives to marquee football clubs, I was intrigued to discover M. Philippe’s choice of tune for our feature, and it turns out it’s related to another band with whom he’s penned an album “The Ocean Tango” with Tesbild! (2010)…so without further ado, here’s Louis Philippe’s “song for ewe”…
“Elegance is a rare quality in music. But it is the elegance of Petter Herbertsson’s music which first struck me when I discovered the work of his main band, Testbild!, in the late 2000s (albums like “Une Teinte Intense” and “Aquatint”). He achieves simplicity despite often choosing to tightrope-walk on unexpected (and delicious) melodic leaps and harmonic shifts. That’s what I think of as musical elegance. Sobriety. Impeccable tailoring. And not a frill too many.
In this regard, this song, “Dim City Raincoat”, is quintessential Herbertsson, at his seductive best. It’s also quintessential Herbertsson because hardly anyone has heard it, as hardly anyone is aware of the album it’s taken from, “Statues Asleep”, for which he assumed yet another identity – Sternpost. I only came across it last month – and it was released four years ago. And I consider myself a fan. He lives in the shadows. Yet he composes the most solar of music, which is what I desperately need right now. This was the first song I listened to this morning, it’ll be the last one I listen to at night.”
THANKS TO LOUIS AND TO SEAN NEWSHAM
“Thunderclouds” is out now on Tapete Records