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Ivo Neame
Glimpses Of Truth

by Howard Lawes




Ivo Neame Glimpses Of Truth



In present-day society anyone can use the media, social or otherwise, to influence others and anyone could be persuaded to believe something masquerading as a truth.  This is the so-called post-truth society where just a glimpse of truth might convince enough people to buy a product or vote yes or no in a referendum.  Ivo Neame's new album is his interpretation of this social phenomenon along with some reaction to the Coronavirus pandemic, while the creation of the album itself highlights the inventiveness and resilience of Ivo Neame in particular, but also the music industry in general.




The first track on the album, which was nominated for a prestigious Ivors Composer Award, is called The Rise Of The Lizard People. 'Lizard People' are the illogical creation of conspiracy theorist Davis Icke; half-human, half-alien beings who, he believes, seek world domination. Interviewed by Andrew Neil on the BBC programme This Week (after 4'02"), David Icke said he believed the British royal family are "shape-shifting lizards". 

The title of the award winning album by Sons of Kemet, Your Queen Is A Reptile, is also a reference to Icke's theory. In the press release for his album, and in reaction to a newspaper headline stating that as many as 12 million Americans believe in the Lizard People theory, Neame says that he "wanted to write a tune that would encourage people to wake up and question their beliefs".  In answer to further questions, he goes on to say: "The title of this tune is tongue-in-cheek - it sounds like a second-rate pulp science fiction book title! The serious message behind it though is that I’m very surprised at the traction some conspiracy theories have these days and how seemingly rational people can end up being sucked in by them."




The next track on Ivo's album is called La Strega, Italian for 'witch', and the message is that people can become bewitched, beguiled or otherwise charmed into doing something.  The track features the trumpet of Ingrid Jensen, but as well as piano, Neame also turns his hand to clarinet and saxophone as can be seen on this video of La Strega:



Also clear from the video are the mechanics of how Neame has achieved a really big sound which he calls his 'Covid-19 Big Band', using less musicians than you might imagine.  Noel Langley plays four different trumpet parts, Trevor Mires four different trombone parts and there are two drummers, James Maddren and Jon Scott.  Ivo Neame explains: "I wanted to make a big band record but the pandemic hit so it looked completely impossible. I wanted to carry on with my work despite the setbacks caused as a result of the pandemic. The reason there aren’t individual players for each instrument on this album is really practical - I wanted to treat the musicians involved on this recording on a professional basis. Also I wanted to keep logistics simple - so recording all horns with Noel, Trevor and myself was more efficient than exchanging audio and video files for 7 different tunes with 12 different musicians. The album was recorded during a difficult time with all employment opportunities for musicians having evaporated. I was very grateful to receive funding from Help Musicians and the Arts Council to make this record - all of this money went to the musicians and engineers who worked on this record and I didn’t keep any for myself. Using less players helped me to break even on the recording costs".

The third track, Broken Brains, refers to the despair that many musicians must have felt as their livelihood was suddenly removed by the pandemic.  The tune is slow and melodic, featuring George Crowley on tenor saxophone and it gives the listener an opportunity to think about their own situation.  The next track, Phasing Song, was inspired by the music of Steve Reich and John Adams - interestingly John Adams, a Ivo Neamecomposer himself, wrote of Steve Reich's music: "Music is perhaps the most stubborn of the arts for which to find words, and simple music, be it Schubert or Mozart or a Negro spiritual, defies explanation altogether. It “simply” eludes apology. This is the case with Reich’s music. One covers the technical grounds, the canons, the phasing procedures, the manipulation of timbres, and the unique approach to text, and then either the music speaks to you, or it doesn’t".  Ivo Neame, in answer to a question asking about the message in his music makes a very similar point and says: "My reason for playing original music is that it is a ‘real’ expression - I try to create something to transport people away from the horrors of this world. I feel that that is a reward in itself - it is hugely gratifying when my music communicates to strangers. Perhaps it will change the way people think too, who knows".

The next two tracks, Persevere Part 1 and Persevere Part 2 are rallying calls, urging those who are up against it to carry on and perhaps try something new and different.  In Neame's case, he had plans before the pandemic to form and record a big band but this became impossible due to restrictions on travel and association.  He says " I was about to approach a band to record this music. I wanted to record this music live with everyone playing at the same time. This album was really a case of setting myself a massive challenge and a way of making good use of the time off during lockdown. I’m really pleased with it and also feel that I learnt a lot of production and recording techniques in the process. It definitely contributed to my development as a musician - I’m pleased to say there were many positive aspects to the lockdown for me".  The tunes give the impression of the composer trying different things, different tempos and combinations of instruments until a satisfactory conclusion is reached, the second part, which features vibraphonist Jim Hart, is particularly free but as Neame says "you don't need to be in the same room at the same time to achieve something spontaneous and interactive". 


Here's a video of Persevere Part 1.




The last track, Ghostly Figure, combines some splendid trombone with synthesiser; one can imagine Ivo Neame, alone in his studio with disembodied music playing or as displayed in the videos, musicians playing together but all separated from each other.  Bringing it all together as Neame has done, with the help of technicians he has credited, must have been not only an incredible feat of organisation but also quite a spiritual experience.


Listen to Ghostly Figure:




Ivo Neame's achievement in creating this album during a global pandemic seems incredible. To compose and arrange music of this quality for a big band is laudable, to gather together great musicians and have them play as an ensemble when in reality they are all apart and then to mix and produce their performances into a work of art is simply sensational.   Ivo Neame's music has at times been inspired by literature, religion and philosophy, he is clearly a person who thinks deeply about the world we live in. As John Adams said about the music of Steve Reich, ".... either the music speaks to you, or it doesn’t"; Ivo Neame's music certainly has a message and it is one well worth listening to.

Click here for details and samples of the album. The price on Bandcamp is shown in dollars but you can see it in other currencies if you click on 'Buy ....' and then 'convert', before you purchase.


Ivo Neame Lizard People



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Other pages you might find of interest :

Ivo Neame - Looking Back From Moksha
Kate Williams and Georgia Mancio - Finding Home
Video Juke Box
The Story Is Told

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