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Tuesday 30 June 2020

Second Time Around For Fair Mothers With Forthcoming Album Of Affecting & Ghostly Modern Masterpieces

Of all the formative experiences Stonehaven musician Fair Mothers, AKA Kevin Allan, had while growing up, reading The Stranger, by Albert Camus, stands out.

'In Monochrome' Artwork

Allan says of the experience: 

"After I finished that book and experiencing insomnia and hallucinations, I reached this total clarity where I knew that I was a separate entity from my body and this immediately blew quite a few fuses in me.

"I disappeared - and when I came back I knew that everything was connected, was really one thing, but at the same time was nothing and didn't really exist separate from me. 

"I didn't know how this could be, or what I was, and above all, how could a boy from Fife possibly have this Zen experience?"

The episode launched Allan on numerous paths – not least of which was a PhD in Psychology – but it has also heavily informed his songs, a rich, ramshackle stew of haunting piano lines, timeless melodies, and sweet acoustic strumming. 

They are, says Glasgow-based US artist Faith Eliott, one of Allan's frequent collaborators, "beautifully understated… perfectly formed tokens of melancholy." As a description of brand new record In Monochrome, that's hard to beat.

Like its predecessor, the critically acclaimed Separate Lives which was released earlier this year on Valentine's Day – In Monochrome draws its eight songs from sessions at Edinburgh's Happiness Hotel studio with producer and Song, By Toad label boss Matthew Young. 

Thematically linked, both records explore isolation – from the world, from those you love, from yourself – how that feels, and how one might escape it. 

"'In Monochrome' really signals a search to regain contact with feeling," says Allan.

Working with others is, Allan believes, key to unlocking the heart of his songs, and on In Monochrome he has a host of collaborators, both from the fertile Scottish DIY scene and further afield. 

"Pete Harvey's cello, particularly the plucked string work, has helped open my eyes to the potential in my music," Allan says, adding that the addition of other voices – particularly women"s voices – give his work emotional depth and resonance.

Having recorded with Katheryn Joseph in the past, In Monochrome features vocals from Eliott and Canadian artist Dana Gavanski alongside Harvey, harpist Esther Swift, and even a brief cameo from Lost Map's Johnny "Pictish Trail" Lynch. 

As well as gaining inspiration from this stellar line-up of talent, Allan's other influences also loom large; Neil Young, Wilco, Pixies, Stephen Malkmus and Russian composers such as Rimsky-Korsakoff, Prokofiev, and Stravinsky all add to the record's affecting, ghostly mood.

The heart of In Monochrome is the title track, an unflinching look back at a turning point in Allan's marriage and the commitment long-term relationships require.

It is also Allan's personal favourite: 

"The lyrics are the most honest of all on the record," he says

Recounting "the fiercest argument I had with my wife, where we had to face the potential ruin of our life together," the tale is brutally stark. 

"We let cold winds into our home / They say days spent in separate lives", Allan sings, his voice almost breaking. "They disappear."

As the track gently swells, Faith Eliott adds warm "Sha la la la's", an idea taken from Baby It's You, a Burt Bacharach song by The Shirelles. 

The effect is, quite simply, breathtakingly gorgeous. 

"Matthew put together the various elements and built them into the most beautiful ending," says Allan

"I like songs which change and get more beautiful as they go on, surprising and rewarding you the longer you listen. 'Monochrome' does that more successfully than any of my other songs."

Rewarding, enchanting, wistful; In Monochrome is all these and more. The culmination of two years' work, it stands as Allan's masterpiece. 

Released in August 2020 via Song, By Toad, 'In Monochrome' is available to pre-order by CLICKING HERE.

by: Mike Cobley


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