On Thursday, 14th January 2021, Jamie WhatsApped me with a private Soundcloud link and message that read, “Very sneak peek at Pete’s solo record. Just finished producing and mixing last night”. I was doing something, probably footering about with the Air Fryer I got for Christmas, so I didn’t listen to it. I didn’t listen to it the next day either. Or the day after. 3 days it lay in my phone, falling down the WhatsApp chat list with every new message that came in. Then I remembered, and stuck it on.
It is – and I’m not being excessive – fucking extraordinary, and it made me sad. As I listened, I flicked through Twitter and saw Jamie had posted, “Sometimes I hesitate to finish work because I don’t want to face the complete confidence-destroying misery of releasing it and watching it disappear into media purgatory. I think this year will be the last year I’ll crack away at this.” And that made me sadder still.
So who are Jamie and Pete? Well, that’s kind of my point. In my very humble opinion, Jamie Thompson and Pete Devlin are two of the most talented music makers we have on this island. I’ve toyed with writing a piece a few times, but for various reasons (not written anything before, I’m not a writer, I’ve a very limited knowledge, fear of coming across like Jed Maxwell from I’m Alan Partridge) it’s taken me until now. But here I am.
Want some of the swooniest pop around? Have some Ex-Isles. How about some techno, fit for bursting with ideas? Super_Tidal. Want a choral and electronics work of modern lamentations? A Constellation of Bargained Parts. How about a revolving collective of artists, musicians, and technical specialists who collaborate on larger scale projects? You’ll want The Night Guild and their first release Devil, Repent! Opera work? Classical writing? Experimental work? Yip, yip, yip, and so on and so on. All their work, and all of it sickeningly good. It’s just sitting there waiting for ears.
It’s a huge problem, and this could be about plenty of musicians, but the music Jamie and Pete create effects me like little else. Their ideas and the execution of those ideas is comparable with anything out there. So much skill, care and effort go into everything they do. It’s high concept, highly enjoyable, boundary-pushing, yet never pretentious. Unreal.
So, what is this I’m writing? I don’t know. It’s partly that thing where you know something is great and you desperately want others to know it too. But more than that, it’s to acknowledge the absolute slog that goes into making music, only for it to disappear into the ether. I messaged Jamie and Pete and we chatted about the record. Underlying everything was an acceptance that, once released, it’s highly likely it’ll go nowhere. You could argue it’s their fault. They change about too much, they don’t play the game well enough (I don’t think Pete even has an internet presence). But that game, if played the way it’s been designed to be played, takes more time, effort and energy than any music-maker serious about their craft, has left in the tank.
Also, the game is pretty rotten.
It’s a terrible thing when musicians are the bottom feeders of the music industry. Unfortunately, that’s the case more often than not. Write the music, learn the music, pay for the record, market the music, perform for next-to-nothing to next-to-nobody, then it’s on to the next thing. Musicians are burdened with such a heavy workload it’s criminal and help is few and far between. Of course, there are organisations and people doing their very best, but it’s melting ice caps and we all know it. For some reason power was handed to algorithmic overlords who pillage our artists for clicks, pay them buttons, then we invite them to talk at our conferences. Don’t play the game and that minute chance of progress, becomes no chance at all. It’s dire.
So all this is, is an acknowledgment to musicians for their continued output; all the time, but especially now. I honestly don’t know how you do it. You deserve so much better.
If you’ve a Pete and Jamie in your life, or if you want a Pete and Jamie in your life, there are plenty of them out there. Buy their music, tell your friends, use fairer platforms, let them know you’re a fan and please go to their gigs when this is all over. Michael Bonner
The Night Guild’s ‘The Ark of My Carriage’ is released on Friday, February 5th 2021