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Nicky Crewe examines the not-to-be-missed latest album from Sheffield’s Big Eyes Family, which was first released in the Covid chaos of November 2020.
Big Eyes Family were formerly known as both Big Eyes and Big Eyes Family Players. They have been a significant part of the Sheffield music scene for around fifteen years and this is their eighth album. The five piece band includes James Green (guitar, backing vocals and synthesisers) and Heather Ditch (vocals, flute, zither). They share the songwriting. The rest of the Family are Guy Whitaker (drums), Neal Heppleston (bass guitar and double bass) and James Street (organ, synthesisers).
Past projects and collaborations have included working with James Yorkston, Alasdair Roberts and Rachel Grimes. James Green and Alasdair Roberts’ 'Plaint of a Lapwing' was a favourite of much missed Pennyblackmusic writer Keith How.
They have played festivals far and wide including Green Man, Cloudspotting and closer to home the Folk Forest at Sheffield’s Tramlines Festival. Their music has been described as a mix of folk and contemporary classical in the past, but with their 2016 album 'Oh!' they shifted into the realm of psychedelic pop. They are in good company. There’s something reminiscent of vintage Pentangle, Trembling Bells and recent Jane Weaver in their sound. It’s the combination of ethereal and beautiful vocals with spacey instrumental arrangements. It has been described as music to accompany Alan Garner’s stories and there is definitely a hint of magical realism about it. One of the tracks is even called 'Modern Witchery'.
Sonido Polofonico is a Sheffield based record label specialising in beautifully presented limited edition lathe cut recordings, accompanied by uniquely produced art work. This attention to detail is perfect for the Big Eyes Family approach. There are two physical editions. 100 copies include a screenprint by James Green who is also an artist and printmaker, a 7” lathe cut bonus single and a handmade ceramic token. A further 150 copies are on vinyl. Both include download codes.
There’s something other worldly about these songs. 'Cassini’s Regret' celebrates the fate of a lost satellite orbiting Saturn. 'The Disappointed Chair' relates to Edie Bouvier Beale, Jacqueline Kennedy’s cousin, and the documentary film made about her and her mother, Grey Gardens.. The lovely 'Sing Me Your Saddest Song' opens the album. With a vinyl album it is worth remembering that there is an intention behind the track listings.
'Blue Light' is a siren song in both senses of the word with its soaring ethereal vocals. There’s a wonderful cover of a Dusty Springfield song from the 1960s, 'Summer Is Over', that beautifully captures melancholic psychedelia. 'From The Corner Of My Eye', with its sung and spoken out of synch vocal arrangement creates an unsettling and surreal mood. 'For Grace', the final track, takes you on a trip to another dimension.
The move from guitars on 'Oh! 'to synthesisers and organ on this new album creates a haunting and experimental collection of songs.
The opportunity to celebrate the launch and release of this new album has been lost in the complications of 2020’s restrictions and there seems to be little chance to tour and play festivals this year.
Marry Waterson, folk musician and animator, created the original video for 'Cassini’s Regret' while Lee Mondo made the video for 'Sing Me Your Saddest Song'.
There’s a remix of 'Modern Witchery,' by Pefkin, an artist who is also on Paul Cross’s Sonido Polifonico label. The remix of 'Cassini’s Regret' by Dean Honer (Kosmik Isolation) is now accompanied by a new video.
Big Eyes Family are making music worth discovering. You won’t be disappointed.
Sing Me Your Saddest Song
Summer Is Over
From The Corner Of My Eye
The Disappointed Chair
Play in YouTube:-