Recently, I’ve noticed that there’s been a shortage of quality new music. At one point, it looked like the well had almost run dry. While the first couple of months of the year are always quiet, this year was worst than most. That’s apart from a few European labels, who continually, manage to release innovative music. Granted the reissue market was still vibrant. Nostalgia it seems, is the future for the music industry. Then over the last couple of weeks, things started to change. Gradually, the music industry was beginning to awake from its slumber. More and more new albums were starting to hit the shelves of record shops. Even better, some of the best music was coming out of Scotland.

This included Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat’s The Most Important Place In The World, Errors Lease Of Life and The Phantom Band’s Fears Trending. They were they of the best albums of 2015, so far. Newcomer David Knowles had just released his debut album Footsteps. It showcased one Scotland’s rising stars. David Knowles however, isn’t Scotland’s only rising star.

Far from it. Two more rising stars of Scotland’s vibrant music scene are Henry and Fleetwood, who will release their On The Forest Floor E.P. on Glasgow’s Olive Grove Records, on 13th April 2015. The One The Forest Floor E.P. is the first collaboration between Martin John Henry of De Rosa and Gillian Fleetwood of the State Broadcasters.

Martin and Gillian first met when Martin was the opening act for Danish songwriter Agnes Obel. Gillian was playing the harp for Agnes Obel. During the tour, they Martin and Gillian bonded over their shared love and appreciation of Hamish Imlach, Michael Marra and The Blue Nile’s music. Soon, the pair were playing live together.

They didn’t waste any time. Realising they shared a lot in common musically, they made their debut at none other than Cirque Royal in Brussels. That’s where they covered Elliott Smith’s Between the Bars. This was just the start of their musical relationship.

Originally, Gillian Fleetwood, who was born and brought up in Inverness, grew up playing traditional Scottish music. This resulted in Gillian pursuing a career in music. 

Since then, Gillian has released two albums, including Aventine, which was released on the Play It Again Sam label on 2013. Gillian has also also toured the world, playing in Europe, USA, Mexico and Brazil with the Scottish harp duo The Duplets. That’s not the only band Gillian has been a member of.

Somehow, Gillian has found the time to record two critically acclaimed albums with the Glasgow based folk-pop band, State Broadcasters. Their debut album was The Ship and The Iceberg, which was released in 2009. Three years later, and the State Broadcasters returned with Ghosts We Must Carry in 2012. Since then, Gillian’s been developing her skills as a composer. 

Gillian was part of the Distil programme, which helped her to hone her skills as a composer. She proved a natural, and in 2015, was a featured composer by Mr McFall’s chamber at Glasgow’s prestigious Celtic Connections festival. Not long after that, Gillian and Martin John Fleetwood recorded their On The Forest Floor E.P.

For those unfamiliar with Martin John Henry’s work, he’s a songwriter who hails from Bellshill, in Lanarkshire. Bellshill has previously produced many musicians, including members of the Teenage Fanclub, Soup Dragons and BMX Bandits. Martin is just the latest graduate of Bellshill.

Previously, Martin was the lead singer of De Rosa. They released three albums. Their debut was Mend, released on Chemikal Underground in 2006. Two years later, in 2008, De Rosa self released their sophomore album Appendices 2008. However, a years later, and De Rosa were back on Chemikal Underground, where they released what was their swan-song, Prevention. After that, Martin embarked upon a solo career.

Two years after De Rosa released their final album, Martin released his debut The Other Half Of Everything. It had been funded by Creative Scotland, and was released on Gargleblast Records in 2011. Since then, Martin has collaborated with other Scottish musicians, including Malcolm Middleton, King Creosote. Malcolm has also worked with author Michel Faber, and had his music featured in the movie The Great Hip Hop Hoax. His latest coloration is with Gillian Fleetwood.

Following the tour with Danish songwriter Agnes Obel, Gillian and Martin headed into Gargleblast Studios to record their debut E.P. On The Forest Floor. It features four tracks, where Gillian and Martin explore themes like birth, wildness, partnership and solitude. To do this, they combine Gillian’s harp with a guitar and synths. The result was the On The Forest Floor E.P.

Opening the On The Forest Floor E.P. is The Forest Floor. A guitar is strummed insistently, a harp is plucked and Martin delivers a needy, hopeful vocal. Invitingly he sings: “so you found the rest of me at chapel door, come and find the best of me on the Forest Floor.” As Martin lays bare his soul, flourishes of an elegiac harp, keyboards and ethereal harmonies accompany him. Later, a searing electric guitar cuts through the arrangement. Then a droning synths and harmonies close It plays a part  in an song that’s beautiful, dramatic, emotive and haunting song.

Forestry has a sparse, understated arrangement. Just a slow, broody bass and crystalline guitar accompany Martin’s tender, emotive vocal. So, do harmonies and crispy drums. Gillian’s harp adds another contrasting and disparate sound. Meanwhile, Martin delivers an impassioned vocal, about living life in the wilderness. By now, elements of folk, pop and rock are combining seamlessly. Together, they create another track where drama, beauty are omnipresent. Its success is down to the genre melting backdrop, and Martin’s ability to bring the lyrics to life.

Urgently synths beep and squeak on Timber. Strings sweep. They’re joined by short, sharp, swathes of ethereal harmonies. Gillian plucks her harp, while drums provide the heartbeat and guitars help drive the arrangement along. Joining them are melancholy strings and those ethereal harmonies. Together, they combine elements of Scottish traditional music, folk, prog rock and rock. It’s a potent and irresistible fusion, where music’s past and present combine. 

Closing  the On The Forest Floor E.P is A Perfect Mess. It’s quite different from the previous track, but a very beautiful song. Martin’s vocal veers between despairing and hopeful. Accompanying him, are swells of strings, washes of synths and harmonies. Later, drums are added. Slowly, they add a thoughtful backdrop. Then Gillian’s elegiac harp and a searing guitar are added just at the right time. Everything just seems to fall into place, resulting in the perfect way to close the On The Forest Floor E.P. 

As P.T. Barnum once said, leave them wanting more. That’s what Henry and Fleetwood do. The four tracks on the On The Forest Floor E.P. whet your appetite. You’re left wanting to hear more of from this unlikely partnership.

Martin John Henry and Gillian Fleetwood might seem like unlikely collaborators. After all, John was part of De Rosa, an indie rock band, while Gillian was a member of Scottish harp duo The Duplets. However, Gillian was also a member of folk-pop band State Broadcasters. However, it was over their mutual love and appreciation of The Blue Nile, Hamish Imlach and Michael Marra they bonded. 

These three artists have one thing in common, they’re hugely talented songwriters and storytellers. Almost seamlessly, they bring lyrics to life. So does Martin. His worldweary voice sounds as if he’s lived several lives. He brings life and meaning to the lyrics. Meanwhile, Gillian contributes to the ethereal harmonies and plays harp. Both of Gillian’s contributions are part of innovative, genre-melting soundscapes.

Over the four tracks on the On The Forest Floor E.P., Martin and Gillian combine disparate musical genres. There’s everything from elements of classical, electronica, folk, pop, prog rock, rock, soul and Scottish traditional music on On The Forest Floor E.P. Seamlessly, these musical genres melt into one, and play their part in four flawless and innovative tracks, which will be released on Glasgow’s Olive Grove Records, on 13th April 2015 as Henry and Fleetwood’s debut E.P.On The Forest Floor E.P.

The release of Henry and Fleetwood’s On The Forest Floor E.P. is the first of what’s hopefully, many collaborations between Henry and Fleetwood. It’ll also whet your appetite for, Henry and Fleetwood’s debut album which will be released on Olive Grove Records later in 2015. If Henry and Fleetwood’s debut album is as good as their On The Forest Floor E.P., it’ll find them rubbing shoulders with the great and good of Scottish music when the award are handed out at the end of 2015.


EP Cover

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