“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 a half of Vancouver’s Horde of Two, normally it’s a case of two’s company, three’s a crowd, but in this case the sonic adventurism is such that two’s a horde! Wendy Atkinson is usually a solo experimental bassist, but in this formation she’s symbiotically linked with her IRL significant other, David Lester, guitarist for proto riot grrrl duo Mecca Normal and graphic novelist. And the Mecca Normal links don’t stop there, with the cover of Horde of Two’s most excellent second album “I Knew I Was A Rebel Then” (out now on California’s Shrimper Records) featuring a distinctive Jean Smith painting.
The instrumental album is epic. Sometimes it’s super serious in the case of its nexus the 20-minute “Durruti: A Life in 8 Parts”, other times like the comparatively succinct “If I Can’t Dance” it literally breaks down into uncontrollable giggles between our two protagonists, whilst the mixture of spoken word samples, found sounds/field recordings, and at the album’s end a spontaneous ripple of applause always keeps “I Knew I Was A Rebel Then” very much present, in-the-room. It’s never background, it’s never boring, it just feels right.
And it is totally righteous that Wendy joins us here to pick an intelligent, esoteric song for our long-running series. It’s an honour. A rambunctious welcome to VS, Wendy Atkinson!
(first check out this trailer to the album)
The aforementioned “Durruti: A Life in 8 Parts” was written as a musing on the rise of international tyranny based on historical Spanish anti-fascist rebel Durruti, it’s sprawling but never over-whelming. Although it’s 20+ minutes it’s no rock opera, it’s a taut and sinewy piece that with each listen highlights a new poise (reminiscent of Slint’s “Good Morning, Captain” at times), a new piece of menace, a new sun-dappled sprinkling of optimism to break us on through to the other side to the finger snaps, stand up bass and laughter bursts of “If I Can’t Dance”. It’s a song that begins with the malevolence of “Jaws”, or the backstreet romps of Gallon Drunk but ends with pure mischief.
There’s electric bass loops and hooks aplenty to “No One Owned Anyone”, not to mention an interloping ukelele, and on “The Third Rail” a Toronto subway field recording shifts the mood to melancholic, if never not melodic.
Trains it seem are often part of their train of thought – see this from the first Horde of Two album (with it’s Ronseal-esque title) “Guitar And Bass Actions”.
With it’s absolute panoply of variety of styles, I was keen to find out what music drives Wendy, and it’s been a revelation. Without further ado, here’s Wendy Atkinson’s “song for ewe”…
“I have been listening to “Fleur Persane” by the group Perseides, which is a duo of Jean Félix Mailloux and Amir Amiri. Here is a link to a live performance:
I picked this song because, as a bass player, I love hearing bass combined with different types of instruments, in this case the Irani santur, a 72-string instrument dating from approximately 500 BCE. I love the combination of urgency and melancholy I hear in this song.
I was lucky enough to see this group live in Montreal a few years ago. It was an intimate show in a heritage house with warm acoustics and a few rows of chairs set up in what was once a dining room. I got there late after getting lost on the way and running up a huge hill. Frazzled and sweaty, I wasn’t in the best mood when I arrived but the music drew me in right away.
Hearing this song now reminds me of the pleasure of discovering new music in a different city, which makes me long to travel again.”
You can purchase “I Knew I Was A Rebel Then” on the Bandcamp link below…
And here’s some of Wendy Atkinson’s solo work:
And here’s David Lester’s “song for ewe” pick from a way back…