This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… Ultramarine. October 24, 2009Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
We’re still linked to prog, however tenuously, for here is Ultramarine. Lovely is an odd word to use, but really, how else to describe a ‘pastoral electronica’ or ‘ambient house’ band, consisting of Paul Hammond and Ian Cooper from (natch) Canterbury, that merged with folk (and prog by extension) by having Robert Wyatt sing for them on a number of tracks on “United Kingdoms”, that had keyboards and effects that burbled along, that were technolike in places but then weren’t in others? Loads of samples, 1993 written all over them and really, what more can one say?
Now some will probably be more familiar with their album “Every Man and Woman is a Star”, which is pretty great, but “United Kingdoms” for me has the edge. It’s probably my liking for genre crossing, but this I think works remarkably well.
And there was a strong political edge on their album United Kingdoms…as discogs notes:
The booklet features the lyrics to tracks 2 and 5. The lyrics to Kingdom were adapted from The Song Of The Lower Classes by Ernest Jones (c. 1848) while the lyrics to Happy Land were adapted from a parody of a popular patriotic Victorian song of the same name.
(lyrics adapted from ‘The Song Of The Lower Classes’ by Ernest Jones)
We’re low – we’re low – mere rabble, we know But, at our plastic power, The mould at the lording’s feet will grow Into palace and church and tower Then prostrate fall – in the rich man’s hall, And cringe at the rich man’s door; We’re not too low to build the wall, But too low to tread the floor.
Down, down we go – we’re so very low, To the hell of the deep sunk mines, But we gather the proudest gems that glow, When the crown of a despot shines. And whenever he lacks – upon our backs Fresh loads he designs to lay; We’re far too low to vote the tax, But not too low to pay.
We’re low – we’re low – we’re very very low, Yet from our fingers glide The silken flow – and the robes that glow Round the limbs of the sons of pride. And what we get – and what we give - We know, and we know our share; We’re not too low the cloth to weave, But too low the cloth to wear!
(Lyrics adapted from a parody of a popular patriotic Victorian song)
Happy land! happy land! Thy fame resounds shore to shore Happy land! where ’tis a crime, they tell us, to be poor. If you shelter cannot find, of you they’ll soon take care: Most likely send you to grind wind – For sleeping in the air.
Happy land! happy land! To praise thee, who will cease? To guard us, pray, now ain’t we got a precious New Police? A passport we shall soon require, which by them must be scanned, If we to take a walk desire – Oh, ain’t this happy land?
Happy land! happy land! Ne’er from thee I will stray, The soldier cries, because, y’see, he cannot get away. For nothing flogged, with grief he sighs, while probably the band, Strike up to drown the wretch’s cries – To the tune of ‘Happy Land!’
Happy land! happy land! is now the chant in every street. Happy land! happy land! Sings everyone you meet. The ballad-singer, minus clothes; shirtless, coatless, And with buckets none to shield his toes – He warbles ‘Happy land!’
I’ve taken these from the Robert Wyatt site, I hope that appropriation isn’t inappropriate (so to speak).
As one comment on YouTube puts it, the lyrics are still as pertinent today as when written. I still get a chill down my spine listening to the interplay of Wyatt’s voice and the music. Somehow the electronic setting adds rather than detracts from it.
Not sure what if anything they’ve done in the 2000s. I’ve a couple of their later albums from the 1990s which are also good but don’t delve into the folk area.
Happy Land (w. Robert Wyatt)
Kingdom (w. Robert Wyatt)
Queen of the Moon