In spite of the lavish praise afforded to 2013’s Long Mind Hotel, English singer-songwriter Jack Cheshire is not one for resting on his laurels, and so he decided to tackle the writing process for his fourth album somewhat differently:
“I put myself in isolation for a few weeks. I approached songwriting as a job and kept certain hours. Got up at half eight, started work at half nine, and finished around seven. I didn't see or speak to anyone for this period.”
“I had the nucleus of an album but the music was in a state of flux, and we David Pearson (guitar), Andrea Di Biase (double bass) and Jon Scott (drums) drafted, redrafted and lived with different versions of the songs.”
Far from constraining Cheshire’s creativity, this renewed discipline (writing and recording took place over 11 months in 2014-15) led to the widescreen joy that is Black Light Theatre, an album which retains all of the warm psychedelia that he has become known for while adding new colour and depth to his palette.
Cheshire cites a diverse set of influences for the album’s textures and arrangements, including Can, Grizzly Bear and Television. Yet equally important to him was David Foster Wallace’s dystopian novel Infinite Jest, whose themes of addiction, mental health, drugs and gratification resonated greatly with a songwriter unafraid to experiment: “I try and turn off any filters in my mind and let things out. My songs are about the human condition as it relates to the static in my head.”
The results of such varied sources are writ large in an album which sees songs veer effortlessly from one idea to another. Produced by PJ Harvey/Bat for Lashes cohort Rob Ellis, Black Light Theatre is a nuanced, experimental album which blends the playful with the occasionally disconcerting; the cinematic with the intimate.
Songs take seemingly incongruous turns, and make them sound effortless. Idler opens with moody Eastern-tinged atmospherics before seamlessly mutating into a shimmering, almost playful groove. The title track, meanwhile, begins as a pretty, slow-paced shuffle and gradually builds into a glorious, up tempo outro which showcases the band’s innate chemistry.
In fact, the only constant in an ever-shifting album is Cheshire’s vocal delivery, which somehow straddles the hitherto unheard common ground between Ian McCulloch and Bjork!
The opening line to the winsome Join the Dots sees Cheshire claim that “young minds are elastic, but mine is a stone.” This is one of the very few things he gets wrong, as Black Light Theatre showcases a mind as open as you are likely to find.
released April 7, 2017
Recorded at Black Box Studios, Noyant-la-Gravoyère, France, June 2015
Engineered & mixed by Peter Deimel
Additional Recording at Cornetto 2, London Engineered by Cee
Jack Cheshire: Lead Vocals, Electric Guitar, Backing Vocals
Dave Pearson: Electric Guitars
Andrea Di Biase: Double Bass, Synthesiser, Cello
Jon Scott: Drums, Percussion
Rob Ellis: Synthesisers, Glockenspiel, Piano, Vibraphone, Violin
'Elegant, emotive, psychedelic' **** Mojo '...gorgeous and mind-bending...' Lauren Laverne, BBC 6 Music 'Spooky,
pointillist, strings-driven pastoralia: beautiful stuff…' The Sunday Times '…a curious, idiosyncratic piece of artful pop. Psychedelic in a very English way, it's a literate return, one imbued with remarkable depth.' Clash...more