Late last year, we shared the trailer for Dungeness, the new album from Trembling Bells. Today, they revealed the video (by Tom Chick) for their first single, “Christ’s Entry Into Govan’…it’s also our Song of the Day
The album takes its name from the Kent headland which made a distinct impression on Alex Neilson. He shared the following with us back in November:
“The place left a big impression on me when I visited it for the first time in 2015. The rest of my band hated it for the same reasons that I was thrilled by it. We drove for a long time along the East Sussex coast road to get there. All the while the landscape seemed to be getting more parched and flatter. The air heavier. It felt like if you looked out of the window of the right-hand side of the van then the land wouldn’t actually be there anymore. Just a Void. It was pretty terrifying and we all felt it at the same time. When we arrived at Dungeness it felt like the end of the earth. Like the power station was the physical manifestation of the apocalyptic reality of the place. The vegetation there is unique and beautiful. It felt like England dreaming of itself. And then there’s Derek Jarman’s hut….”
Many of the tracks on Dungeness feel like the end of the earth too, their folk-rock sensibility acquiring a sweeping, apocalyptic grandness – both in sound and lyrics. Though it hearkens back to the ‘70s psychedelic heyday of Fairport Convention and Trees, it’s also, as comedian Stewart Lee puts it in his sleeve notes, “heroically now”. Indeed, it’s hard not to hear the lyrics of album highlight “I’m Coming” – when Lavinia sings, “There’s a price to be paid for these abuses of power” – without connecting it to what’s happening in the world right now.
The influences that seeped into Dungeness are perhaps not what you’d expect. “I’ve never studied music for fear it would kill my interest, or at least railroad my sense of what was creatively possible,” says Alex, which perhaps explains the beautifully elusive metaphors he uses when describing his own music. “Instead, my musical activity has always been nourished by an interest in other things” “Christ’s Entry Into Govan” was inspired by Flemish Expressionist James Ensor’s painting Christ’s Entry Into Brussels. “My Father Was A Collapsing Star” takes lyrical cues from Ted Hughes and W.B Yeats, while “Knocking On The Coffin” was influenced by Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal.
Dungeness also finds the band at their most musically accomplished. “Knockin’ On The Coffin”, like most of the songs on the album was recorded in one take, with Lavinia singing live with the band. It is a song, says Alex, “that sparks the two jump leads of my mind; self-destruction and desire”. But you don’t need to know the details of Alex’s past or present to appreciate Dungeness. His hopes for what listeners gain from the album are modest: “that it appeals to their sense of human frailty as much as their pelvis”.
01. Big Nothing
02. Knocking’ On The Coffin
03. My Father Was A Collapsing Star
04. Death Knocked At My Door
05. Christ’s Entry Into Govan
06. The Prophet
07. Devil In Dungeness
08. This Is How The World Will End
09. I’m Coming
10. Rebecca, Dressed As A Waterfall