Palm Skin Productions – AKA versatile musician and producer Simon Richmond (whose CV includes Mo’ Wax, Depeche Mode, REM, Pulp, Neneh Cherry, and The Bays) – announces a new album ‘A Swarm In July’ a proverbial inspired record.
‘A Swarm In July’ is a concept record that offers an alternative set of hacked proverbs to mirror the movement of the music and its path from ambience to rhythm, from harmony to noise, from its closed-in intimacies to its soaring expansions. The album looks at what happens when you choose to shift the crop – when you find the story within the story. As Simon eloquently puts it:
“A proverb. A phrase. A saying. A Say-ing – the performance of that which has been said. A maxim. A truism. True-ism – the ideology or the myth of truth? Whose truth? Who puts you in the picture? What is the crop, the edit? When can you trust a truism in the world of deep fake? If every story is dependent on its beginning and end, how many stories are there, dormant, within the prescribed boundaries? Pre-Scribed – already written – typeset for us.”
‘A Swarm In July’ is a masterclass on how to frame and evolve stories and sound, created and recorded far and wide, while static and on the move. The title itself is taken from the proverbial bee-keepers saying, “A swarm in July is not worth a fly”, meaning that the later in the year it is, the less time there will be for bees to collect pollen from the flowers in blossom. Simon instead recontextualises this within the framework of the politically manufactured UK migrant crisis, dissecting the language used to dehumanise refugees: “When does a group become a swarm? When is a swarm valuable, and to whom? A swarm of bees to the beekeeper? A swarm of people to the forces of repression and hate?”
Lead-single ‘Them That Help’, an orchestral, almost neo-classical, texturised soundscape featuring the transcendent viola of John Metcalfe (Duke Quartet/The Durutti Column), is taken from the false proverb “the Lord helps them that help themselves”, a phrase that originated in ancient Greece as “the Gods help those who help themselves” but has since been weaponised to accelerate neo-liberal agendas. Palm Skin Productions subverts the fictitious biblical reference, turning heresy into class critique:
“Take a set of scales. At one end put the gold-plated pomp of high religion. The acquisition of wealth and people. The colonising forces that helped themselves to vast swathes of the world. At the other end of the scale are the carers, the helpers, the friends. The people. The heavyweights.”
Elsewhere on the record, ‘Need Is A Friend’, partially recorded on headphones in Ralph Lawson’s (20/20 Vision label boss) front room in Leeds, hanging out before a gig, is a play on “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” Simon adds: “How often do we tell a story of obligation to make us feel better? Are these needs, or are they choices? Are these needs the friends we rely on as our alibis? With friends like needs, who needs enemies?”. For ‘We Stand, Divided’, a take on “Together we stand, divided we fall”, Simon contextualises again through the prism of the toxic UK immigration debate, fuelled by the fires of the Brexit referendum: “So many are taught to fear difference, to harden community into a dividing wall, but our strength is in our beautiful variation. Puppets stand in homogenous herds, moulded to a single malleable unit. We stand in celebratory disarray.”
‘I Say Not As I’ harnesses the language of the great British playwright Harold Pinter, a personal hero to Simon: “He can make the most mundane phrase bristle with menace. Ordinary objects and actions become sinister in his hands, just as the forces of oppression and torture get portrayed within the familiarity of cliché and monotony.” Album closer ‘Far From The Tree’ is in memory of Simon’s father who passed away while he was making this record: “It was important for me to finish the record with a piece of music for him that also has something of him in it. I’m so glad the finished piece – ‘Far From The Tree’ – is something that I think adequately fills the space I had in my mind but also makes sense in terms of the rest of the record.”