The songs that would ultimately form ‘Machines He Made’, the second album from James Edge and The Mindstep, had their beginnings in the band’s 2013 tour. With a slimmed down gigging lineup featuring just acoustic guitar, double bass and drums, frontman James Edge was obsessively writing songs and complex pieces of music geared specifically to the ensemble, playing to the musicians’ strengths and allowing the excellent players space to improvise and put their stamp on the music. With seven songs finished, the trio started recording ‘Machines He Made’ in 2014. Over a five day period everything was tracked live and only the backing vocals overdubbed. With half the album not even fully written at the start of the sessions, the songs were largely unrehearsed, band members and additional session players mostly having not heard the pieces before.
This spontaneous hodgepodge has resulted in some of the most whimsical and deeply experimental music to come out of the capital in a while, a relentless landslide of musical and lyrical invention. Once more James Edge and the Mindstep have crafted something of unquestionable beauty, something which challenges our possibly-stale notions of what acoustic music can be.
‘Machines He Made’ was recorded at Tom Aitkenhead’s Milk Studios in Limehouse and will be released on CD, vinyl and download on 9th December 2016. It features the singles ‘On A Red Horse’ and ‘Four Two Four’.
James Edge is already a studious musical maestro and a top drawer composer. The Kent-raised musician studied composition to master’s degree level under Joe Duddell – arranger for the likes of Elbow and New Order. After moving to London and starting to gig in 2006, he formed James Edge and the Mindstep to record 2010 debut album ‘In The Hills, The Cities’. The working relationships he built around this time would provide him with some dependable collaborators, including regular engineer and occasional co-producer Tom Aitkenhead, best known for his work with Laura Marling and Bloc Party. From touring the debut album, a core jazz-folk trio of Edge, double bassist Andy Waterworth and drummer Avvon Chambers materialised. The eerie acoustics of Nick Drake inform the atmospherics of much of James’s songwriting, but his sheer compositional nous – which draws on aspects of jazz, modern classical music and punk rock and roll – elevates songs like ‘On A Red Horse’, ‘Four Two Four’ and ‘Strange and Charm’ to a place far above any glib and generic categorisation.
This year has seen the praise surrounding Edge get more fervent. A collaboration with excellent independant label Folkstock Records saw a double a-side single and compilation EP released this year. ‘Where We’re Going To’ has been played by Alex Lester on Radio 2 while ‘Becoming’, the flipside on that AA single release, was premiered and selected as Song of the Day on Folk Radio UK. The ‘On A Red Horse’ EP also received glowing reviews from R2 with the lead track’s nightmarish video due to receive international screenings at film festivals next year. Any praise Edge gets is well deserved. He is a modern day Zappa, channelling his eccentric art through folk arrangements to create something deeply surprising, raw, and unnerving.