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"Pumajaw: Favourites"

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Source: The List (Issue 629)
Date: 14 May 2009
Written by: Claire Sawers
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Sounding like the whole thing was recorded in some mist-shrouded graveyard by night, the eerie, atmospheric Favourites is a round-up of Pinkie Maclure and John Wills, aka Pumajaw’s, favourite songs from their own back catalogue. Tracks like ‘Buttons’ showcase Maclure’s sliding, liquid vocals, howling and whining up and down the scale, twisting themselves around spooky storytelling like a female Nick Cave or Tom Waits. There’s a melodrama to her avant-cabaret, creepy showtune style, and the pair enjoy playing around with eccentric sounds including concertinas, psychedelic guitars, and crystal clear glockenspiels. The ideal soundtrack for a torchlit Pagan party in the woods.
Claire Sawers - The List

"Pumajaw - Featherdown Quilt"

The latest offering from the now Fife-based enigmas is a far cry from the neo-folk scene they have been so uncomfortably shoehorned into by baffled listeners. On this single, available to download with 25 per cent of the cost donated to Love Music Hate Racism, they prove as fantastically uncategorisable as ever. Pinkie McLure’s otherworldly vocals float high and low, like a cross between Antony Hegarty and Nina Simone, over an ’80s industrial backdrop. Any newfound Fence influence is only apparent in the song’s rejection of convention; this is another unique and beautifully unsettling torch song from Pumajaw. - The Skinny

"Pumajaw - Jacky Daw"

For many, the term 'folk' will always evoke scenes of cardigan-clad hippies, perhaps explaining the propensity for critics to regularly weld on a prefix and announce a new 'movement'. Freak-folk, neo-folk, anti-folk, psych-folk, counter-folk (for folk's sake - Ed) - and as the divisions multiply, soon everyone with a mandolin will be appointed a peerless practitioner of their own genre. Luckily, Pinkie Maclure and John Wills are more than capable of sustaining the pumajaw-folk subset: part mantric incantation, part Gothic Kate Bush, Jacky Daw pitches Maclure's remarkable voice over rhythmic instrumentation to create an oneiric sound that loops and swells with eerie intensity. Forget the token folk suffix, this is mesmerising. [Chris Buckle] - The Skinny

"Pumajaw Jacky Daw"

I stumbled upon Pumajaw (mysp) after one of those serendipitous strolls down electronic avenues, and what a lucky coincidence this was. Strange too, because I would rather have expected to find a thing such as this roaming free through the darkest recess of the powerful woods, or at the summit of a craggy Scottish mountain, the abandoned throne of an old giant king. Jacky Daw gives us goosebumps: A fateful krautrock riddim over which Pinkie McClure voice soars like a white tailed eagle, the sun surely trapped in its claws. Imagine if Can had produced the soundtrack for the Wicker Man, imagine. Yes, that’s good. - 20 Jazz Funk Greats

"Pumajaw Classic Grand, Glasgow"

FRIDAY night's concert at the Classic Grand, a great little venue perched atop a former cinema, raised the bar for the rest of the festival. Support came in the shape of one-time indie darlings Shelleyan Orphan, whose performance proved they are more than a footnote to the genre, with plaintive stylings underpinned by the startling vocals of Caroline Crawley.

However, Pumajaw were a more beguiling proposition, comprised of vocalist Pinkie Maclure and guitarist John Wills. While last year's album Curiosity Box was outstanding in its sense of tradition despite its experimentation, their songs are best appreciated live, and if there is a Celtic equivalent to Nico then Maclure is it. Sometimes growling, other times hauntingly angelic, her voice was always utterly engaging.

Wills is a highly accomplished player and his use of loops and samples created a wall of sound that a full-blown band might struggle to craft. Their work together is occasionally reminiscent of early Velvet Underground in terms of narrative and sonic wig-outs. Think John Cale on The Gift and you're getting close.

Maclure is quite an enigma and Pumajaw's effect was heightened by the theatricality of her performance, pacing the mini-proscenium and, witch-like, seducing her audience into a weird and even scary world. And the way she handles the concertina would make the knees of grown men tremble
- The Glasgow Herald

"Join-the-dots magic"

The bewitching Pumajaw are one of the Scottish music scene's most exotic animals, drawing influences from eerie folk fables and spectral sea shanties.

Instrumentalist John Wills built a heady soundtrack by looping effects-laden acoustic guitar and beats, but all eyes were on the engrossing Pinkie Maclure, who dresses like a glamorous flapper girl and sings like a siren while accompanying herself on creaking concertina.

The effect was equally deadly and alluring.

- The Scotsman

"Folk like us - Pumajaw interview"

Pumajaw are determined to mix it up – so careful with the F-word, says DAVID POLLOCK
"I NEVER WANTED US TO BE CATE-gorised as a folk band," says John Wills, one half of Perthshire-based duo Pumajaw. "That's not really what we are. I mean, we certainly take folk elements and sing folk songs, but I was worried people would just dismiss us if we said we were a folk band. Besides, you don't really have to belong to a genre these days, do you?"

Does he protest too much? Perhaps describing yourself as part of a "scene" is more in vogue now. It was the duo's affiliation with the Fence Collective's enclave in Fife's East Neuk that probably first linked them to the F-word. Before they became Pumajaw, they were already familiar to local audiences under the title Pinkie Maclure and John Wills, the moniker they initially used following their move to Scotland from London in 2001. The new name, says Maclure, is more evocative and dynamic.

Wills and Maclure are a couple – which is irrelevant to the music, Maclure gently asserts – who met in London in 1994 when he produced her solo album. It seems to have been Wills who had the most trepidation about moving north to produce a more pastoral form of music together.

Maclure, who is originally from Banff, had a much more transferable musical style and had already upped roots several times before moving to London, having spent time in Balloch, Edinburgh and Paris. Wells, by contrast, was a born-and-bred Londoner whose influences included the distinctly urban Krautrock sound of Can. His earlier bands, Loop and The Hair, and Skin Trading Company, were rooted in this style.

"We did have a lot of common interests, though," says Maclure, who sings the praises of male vocalists like Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave. "We both like atmospheric, looping, mesmeric music, and using found sounds from various strange sources. It's just a shared curiosity about different kinds of music, about being as creative and inventive with that as we possibly can.

"I didn't take much of an interest in folk music myself until I moved back to Scotland with John. Having lived in England for quite a while, and viewed the Scottish folk scene from outside, it just seemed really academic to me, so then when we moved up it felt like a real challenge to give some of these weird old songs new buttons, to do them in a really instinctive style and let the colours glow again. John did have his doubts, but he got into it after a while."

Wills elaborates: "I really like folk music. I like the music which came out on Elektra in the 1960s and '70s, including works by the Incredible String Band, amongst others, and the storytelling aspect of it. It wasn't that I had a problem with folk, it's more that I worried what people's opinion of us would be if we were making it. But I guess I was just ignorant of all that was going on in the genre, that you can make folk music which retains a strong production element.

"There were lots of reasons to get out of London, of course. It was getting too expensive, and impossible to take advantage of everything that was on our doorstep. Plus, we record at home, and you can't get the space to do that down there. We were moving to Cellardyke at first, and I put the words 'Cellardyke music scene' into a search engine, just for a laugh. The Fence Collective's name came up right away, so we were in touch with them before we even moved up here."

There is a certain prestige to any association with Fence these days, and Maclure and Wills will probably benefit from that for some time to come, despite Fence having released only one of their records (2005's Cat's Cradle) and a smattering of compilation tracks. Their new album, Curiosity Box, the second for current label Fire, falls largely into the category of psychedelic pop, which Maclure assigns to it, although it also features three rekindled folk standards and cameo appearances from two giants of the scene in Scotland, James Yorkston and Alasdair Roberts.

The record pitches and yaws between a rustic, ethereal sensibility and music that is almost summery. Behind Wills's various instruments and Maclure's small accordion, Maclure's voice rings out deep but sweet, in a style that draws upon a range of European chansonniers, Fairport Convention's Sandy Denny and even Cohen and Cave .

"We don't want to overstate the folk thing too much," she reiterates. "On the album before this we covered Jacques Brel, and we're always pursuing new things, new sounds which are exciting, unusual, quirky." With Fire also set to re-release everything the pair have written to date, Pumajaw are likely to attract many more admirers.

- The Scotsman

"Pumajaw @ The Cube Bristol"

Pumajaw were bloody superb, coming at the genre of folk music sideways - with a kind of aesthetic that pulsed vitality, the combination of Pinkie's undeniable operatics (boy her vocal range was just bewildering) and John's foot tapping series of tight guitar loops and textures really throbbed with life dispelling any historical dowdiness.

Pinkie's squeezebox sensibilities were great too, her body swaying minx-like to the rhythm. A lot of the current album was showcased, and what a pleasing selection it was… liked the addition of a neat electronic drum pad that chucked really pointed percussive echoes through the fabric of some of the tracks. The set crackled and simmered with confidence, and it was refreshing to see two 40(ish) musicians who's creative lights were still burning so brightly.

Older material crept in too and their live version of ‘the long way round' was such a giddy delight that teetered on toppling into an abstract fuzz but thankfully never did. Always liked Pinkie (ever since the mid 80's) and this latest incarnation is well worth checking out - simply marvellous …
Rottenmeats - Rotten Meats



There's a timeless feel to Cat's Cradle, in terms of mood, sonics and the repetative quality of the verse structures. "Slowly, Slowly The Water Flows" is typical, with its combination of Wills' percussion, plangent acoustic guitar and lyre, and Maclure's miniature concertina and bells. Their instrumental sound twinkles with light casting the shadows in which Maclure's gasps, exhalations and vocal melismas can be found.
Once the drummer in Loop, Wills was also a multi-instrumentalist in The Hair And Skin Trading Company, while Maclure is no stranger to torch songs and avant cabaret styles. But the bluesy grounding of her extraordinary voice keeps it free from histrionics, sliding effortlessly from a sensual throatiness up to its higher register. This is demonstrated on the title track, on which Wills' drums mark out time with a ritual severity.
Cat's Cradle is the product of a potent musical chemistry. "Good Luck Look Upon You" is built on the sort of steady toiling figures that evoke Mazzy Star's "So Tonight That I Might See", with Wills' E-bow guitar drones looming out of the background. The mood is largely contemplative throughout but it all opens up beautifully on "Over And Over And Over", Maclure's lyrics are filled with elemental images, but are often inward looking, tapping into feelings of sorrow or disquiet. Here the song's melancholy is lifted by sights of marine horizons and the space above, into which her voice gracefully soars - Mojo Magazine

"Pinkie Maclure Songs for remembering"

The Wire
bites piece
Pinkie Maclure
Songs for remembering
Pinkie Maclure's 'From Memorial Crossing' sets the spine tingling. From the opening vocals of 'Sorcery', London based Maclure's voice is assured, measured, unhurried and mature,naturally warm and rich, it moves rapidly from husky depths to sublime heights where it cuts like ice on a frosted morning. "I sang a lot as a child, then became self conscious about it as a teenager," says Maclure reflecting on the development of her voice. When I rediscovered it I found that I had quite a good range, different tones." She listened widely, taking in a lot of improvised music including New York singer Shelley Hirsch. " I liked the freedom and I wanted to reach for that with my voice. In the end the singers that I really love are Juliette Gréco and June Tabor."

In the avant slugcore of Maclure's early 90s group, The Puritans, her vocal extremities were cathartic releases for anger. "With the songs that we do now, every time that I sing them it's the most fantastic spiritual release," she says." And I do think that it has much more of an effect on the audience. It's the art of restraint." Now, rather that parading her remarkable range of vocal abilities she lets the material dictate what's needed."The most important thing is to create an atmosphere or a mood and to say something as well."

On From Memorial Crossing, scratchy loops frequently set up an atmosphere that are tasteful and uncluttered. The pervading mood is uncannily paralleled in the ghostly sepia tones of its cover photo: a piano with its strings snapped, spilling its wire guts in the dust. A still beauty pervades, and a melancholy tone presides over lyrical themes of success and failure in love and life. Recently she toured as part of the PJ Harvey/Rob Ellis project Spleen, performing material that Harvey had originally sung, (She also appears on Spleen's second album Little Scratches.) Despite her unique talent, there is a sense that a promising career has been held back and that she's never achieved the success that she's deserved - something explored on the new album's title track: "You open the doors/They spring back in your face/You clamber the stairs?And you're sliding back down/Are our best years just spent wishing?"

The new album is the result of a collaboration with multi-instrumentalist John Wills, which started in 1995 - it's a partnership that extends into the rest of their lives. Wills plays guitar and is responsible for the recording and much of the final arrangements and production. His current work is a marked change in direction. He was previously drummer with, and founder of, experimental rock outfits Loop and Hair And Skin Trading Company. As far as songwriting goes, "We both really do everything. One of us will throw something in the pot, then it will grow until eventually it's finished."

One of the keys to the album's success is the fact that it was recorded at home, and in a nearby cavernous school hall in Tottenham, North London. As Wills points out,it's also enabled them to find a way of recording Maclure's voice that adequately captures her extreme dynamics.

"In the end" concludes Maclure, " the things that last and that people remember are things in their pure form - that are purely spontaneous and from the heart".
Phil England

- The Wire

"From Memorial Crossing"

From Memorial Crossing
The Scottish songstress with the disarmingly beautiful voice - a kind of anglophone Juliette Gréco -- is back with this superb set. But Maclure's songwriting style is redolent with folk and jazz, as well as industrial harshness.

John Wills' eerie production and covers of songs by David Lynch and Tom Waits let you know she is in touch with her dark side, and on tracks such as Frozen in Sleep she positively bewitches with her haunting sincerity.

Maclure has light and shade in her voice and manages to tell a story without resorting to theatrical cheapshots.
Kevin Le Gendre - Marie Claire



From Memorial Crossing (Pinkie Maclure)
This Day & Age (Lumen)
Cat's Cradle (Pinkie Maclure & John Wills)
Becoming Pumajaw (Pumajaw)
Curiosity Box (Pumajaw)

In a Broken Dream
Jacky Daw (BBC6Music airplay)
Spangler (BBC Radio airplay, BBC6Music airplay)
Buds (BBC6Music airplay)
Billy Rose (BBCRadio 1 Scotland airplay)
Featherdown Quilt (BBCRadio 1 Scotland & 6Music airplay)
Mask (out April 2011) (current Amazing Radio airplay)



Recently described as 'Scotland's best kept secret' by the Scotsman, Pumajaw work relentlessly to combine great songwriting with imaginative and ambitious arrangements. Intense live performers, they fit into no easy mould or genre, yet have made lifelong fans right across the musical spectrum, from pop to folk to jazz. Influences include John Barry, Kate Bush, Nina Simone, Krautrock, musique concrete and French pop.
Previous festival appearances include:
South by Southwest Festival, Austin, Texas USA
Celtic Connections, Glasgow UK
Edinburgh Festival (for live broadcast BBC Radio 3 Late Junction) UK
International Book Festival, Moscow, Russia
Off Festival, Katowice, Poland
The Big Chill Festival, Herefordshire UK
The newly-completed 3rd album, due out early in 2011, moves away from their previous folk influences and moves up a gear, burning with a new, electrical intensity.
'‘Wills is a highly accomplished player and his use of loops and samples creates a wall of sound that a full-blown band might struggle to craft. Sometimes growling, other times hauntingly angelic, Maclure’s voice is always utterly engaging and the way she handles the concertina would make the knees of grown men tremble.’ David Prater The Glasgow Herald ****
‘Pumajaw links Loop’s hypnotics with trance-like beats, held together by Maclure's disarmingly seductive voice.' Uncut****
‘The bewitching Pumajaw raised the bar for the rest of the festival........ one of the Scottish music scene's most exotic animals,’ Fiona Shepherd The Scotsman ****