The Johnny Parry Trio
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The Johnny Parry Trio

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Jan
20
The Johnny Parry Trio @ The Luminiare

London, Not Applicable, United Kingdom

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Sorry. Couldn't help it. This album inspires me. And it very well might be the result of either of those fantasies. String and brass sections, piano and subtle drums arc over tortured, eerily elegant vocals. The lyrics concern, almost exclusively, death, evil, and love. Blues and Americana make brief and disturbing appearances. Fast tracks start out queasy and end beautiful. Down-tempo songs start out beautiful, swing through nightmarish, and end masterful. The slow swells in "Little Prayer No. 5," "Sweet Nothings," and "If I Was a Killer" work to moving effect. The chorus of "Little Prayer No. 6," which hinges on the phrase "I'll take you to my bloody grave," breaks my heart and really ought to break yours too - now THIS is a love song.

Actually, the album ends with a love song called "A Love Song," and it's no let down. In fact, it kind of ups the ante on the whole idea of a love song. It doesn't discuss, say, a woman. Instead, we hear about the sum of Parry's love, ALL the love he has to share. It turns out this twisted character loves the same things as any retarded hippy, but you've got my word that he's earned it. Also, "A Love Song" is, by the end of this album, kind of adorable. Kind of ideal, as an ending, like that happy tune at the end of Springsteen's Nebraska, only better.

Other than Parry's vocals, this album is not exactly revolutionary. Beats? No. Crazy advanced production? Nope. I mean...electric guitar? Very, very little. Might even be acoustic, or a harp or some shit. But this record really reminds me why you don't have to change the rulebook to rule. These songs are simply better written - better composed - than almost anything out there. And his voice... well, yeah, okay, it's weird as fuck. Takes some getting used to. So, to those who only love music with weirdness-/newness-value, I can still heartily recommend Songs Without a Purpose.

So what would I change? Because I'm not trying to blow my 10.0 load until an album convinces me to run for president and tricks people into voting for me. Not the lyrics - they're uncomfortably beautiful; even, occasionally, tenderly funny (Especially "A Love Song"). Not the subtle instrumental work. I guess I would take a little more of the genuinely skilled composition and a little less of the vaudeville-style silliness. "You Who Braved the Storm," as a mid-album energy boost, creeps more than it does jump. And that one song with the old guy talking - "Excerpt from Mr. Tozer the Clown" - why no real vocals, Johnny? But these are small points. This guy is about as unknown as can be, at least stateside. But in Songs Without a Purpose, only his second album (and who had even heard of the first?), Parry sounds thoroughly himself. This album makes light out of some genuine darkness, and art out of some real songcraft.

Written by Gluck - Scene Point Blank


Seldom as a reviewer do you receive an album from a band or artist of whom you have never heard, which then proceeds to prove itself a classic. This is what happened to me when I listened to 'Songs Without a Purpose'.

Now, I'll let you in to a little secret, readers: The Mag's big bosses like to send me lots of CD's to review at once. By lots, I mean 10 at a time. Frankly, it's frightening receiving the envelope in the post. Why do I tell you this? Well, my point is this: I had this record waiting in my "to do" pile for an extremely long time, not really sure when I was going to get round to it, and not really keen to give it the time of day. And then... and then, I stuck it in and immediately felt pangs of regret that this album, and this artist, had not been a part of my listening spectrum earlier.

This is a classic record. Built on the hushed, foreboding rasp of Johnny Parry's vocals, enunciating tales of regret, loss and pain, in the main, with some beautiful string and piano work and relaxed percussion augmentation. The opening epic 'If I Was a Killer' sets the tone, equal parts beautiful and disturbing. 'Hotel Floor' continues the mood and it's not until we get to waltz of 'You Who Braved the Storm' that the mood lightens, if only in a musical sense. Fear not however, the track which follows it, 'Sigfried and Eileen', as well as the majority of the rest of the album, returns us to the comfortable envelopment of melancholy.

What's so great about this album is the fact that it is built upon a fairly limited scope of instrumentation. No kitchen-sink production here, just everything in its right place, whether that's flourishes of brass or beautifully sweeping cello, while the songs don't always do what you expect them to, they are all intensely satisfying.

Parry's voice is something of an acquired taste, but stick with it, and the album, long enough to give it a chance and you'll find an album that, were there any justice in the music industry, it would be the top choice of middle-aged mothers shopping for the "cool music" in Tesco (as well as all the indie pretty boys Britain can muster). Please buy this record. You can thank me later.

9/10

Written By: Haydon S - The Mag Review


Johhny Parry's debut, the in 2003 brought out album Break Your Little Heart, was already a successful presentation of this dreamy and romantic singer-songwriter, with his troubling melancholy on display, and he raised quite some suspicions that he was just starting out, and that he would soon become one of the greats. This second album only proves us right. He withdrew himself for 2 years in a secluded part of the extensive British country to give form to his ideas. He manipulated these ideas into workable tracks in his little Lost Boys studio, somewhere on a lonely farm in Bedforshire. Parry usually works in a threesome, resulting in the Johnny Parry Band, consisting of piano, bass and percussion, but this time he added the Omi Mushka string quartet and the Jazzuits Brass Section. Parry has a rather strange, whispering voice, a bit like the early Tom Waits, which is just perfect for this musical environment. His main themes are death and love, macabre romance, lingering about the dark side of life and mind. His lyrics work well in this mysterious, theatrical frame, with opera-like singing in the background. However, don't be alarmed by the dark and depressive mood of this album, you won't get lost in it thanks to some contrasting tracks like You Who Braved The Storm and The Getaway Hearse. And If I Was A Killer and Sweet Nothings simply take your breath away, it is so beautiful. The sometimes rather complex, up to 10 minutes long, filled with brass and strings, soundscape makes you dream off to visual enlightments of Peter Greenaway. True romance, without the pathos.
(Patrick Bruneel)
(transl. Alexandra Vermote) - Gonzo Circus


Every once in a good while you
come across a record so unique,
you have to 'ingest' it ; cursory spins
not allowed.
Johnny parry has a voice like nobody
else on earth. It is an acquired taste,but
if you put in the little bit of work,I think
you'll find yourself muy captivated with
'Songs Without A Purpose'. These piano
and string-led tunes are nothing short
of beautiful (and expertly played),while
Parry sings his heart out ,with lyrics so
bold and disturbing........You just have
to dig this! I'm loathe to cite specific tracks,
as I believe the album just IS..it's own
piece of poetry. Bizarre? Definitely. beautiful?
Absolutely.

Mile Pearlstien - Big Takeover


Willie's comments: My sister-in-law recently discovered that a surefire way to get her infant son to calm down and go to sleep is to put Tom Waits's Rain Dogs on the stereo. I expressed some surprise at this, and she said to me, "You don't think Rain Dogs is sort of soothing?" I said sure, in a way, but it just struck me as so wonderfully odd that a baby would intuitively be into Tom Waits, whose music I've always considered a taste that requires a conscious effort to acquire. Count me amazed, then, to realize that a UK gentleman named Johnny Parry has, in fact, released a rather Waitsian album that is not only a stirring, intelligent treat, but is instantly gratifying. Though Parry's voice makes it difficult to shake the Waits comparisons throughout- what other reference point is there for someone who rasps as though he smokes cigarettes that are not only unfiltered but somehow rusty?- the ambitious piano-and-string-based arrangements are absorbing and memorable enough to make such comparisons benign. Songs Without a Purpose sounds like what might have been if Waits had devoted his career to honing his Small Change-era balladry rather than exploring weirder terrain. (Or, if you prefer, somewhat like Antony and the Johnsons without the distracting simpering.) The album closer "A Love Song," for example, might have been nothing more than a carbon copy of such, except it transcends its influences by simply building and building and building to a climax that's truly grand. However nice that is, though, there's more to the album than well-done homage. For example, "Little Prayer No. 5" shows off Parry and his band as particularly adept at navigating whirlpools of musical themes: over ten minutes, the strings stomp and gush, choral voices swoon like theramins, and the melody of the piece ranges from Johnny's literal whispers to sweeping, precisely notated orchestral drama that would bring an opera house to its feet. That's probably the song that's the farthest from any sort of pop/rock touchpoint on Songs Without a Purpose, mind you, but Parry's cinematic instincts serve him well from start to finish. These instincts extend to his (fine) lyrics, which tend toward sentimental noir imagery, but mostly they're on display in the way these songs unfold on an epic scale, regardless of whether Parry is backed by what sounds like an entire orchestra or by minimal, Explosions in the Sky-style ambience ("Hotel Floor"). It's the sort of record you can get lost in, that's rich enough to reward repeat visits with new discoveries, and that's ultimately surprisingly uplifting. Inotherwords, it's what you want out of a Tom Waits album, but put together by a man who is himself a singular talent. Watch him. Grade: A-
http://www.disclaimerband.com/p.html - Disclaimer


Daily Vault Review 02/2007

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/09/2007

Singer/songwriter Johnny Parry might be the best thing to come out of the UK since Coldplay or even Radiohead. Yes, he is that good.

Parry's music has a very simple mantra: honest love songs. For all you lovers of singer-songwriters who are ashamed by the genre because of a certain artist with the initials James Blunt, Parry is a healing force. He doesn't let crooning or puppy-dog whining get the better of his songs. He is a poet and an excellent musician who lets nothing but his creativity to do the job.

As a matter of fact, with a voice like his, the love-for-pity trick would go against him. Imagine Tom Waits impersonating Leonard Cohen while smoking a cigar. That is what Parry sounds like when he is smoking a cigar and singing at the same time. This might not be so great when it comes to singing love ballads, but it seems perfect for his music, which could be compared to Cohen or Waits or even to Tindersticks, than to any of the stereotypical Brit alt-rockers.

Songs Without A Purpose is one of the most beautiful records ever made. The lush pastoral violin arrangements, a characteristic of Parry's music, create an atmosphere that forms a heavenly canvas on which Parry paints majestic pictures that are blessed with details, may it be his wonderful play with words (his articulate usage of the self-invented expression "demon spawn" on three different cuts, "If I Was A Killer," "Sweet Nothings" and "A Love Song"); the subtle whispers in his breathy laryngitic singing; the nearly indiscernible muted guitar strumming that is still as significant as the distinct piano sound, which is the heart of "Little Prayer No.6;" or the piano that itself is muted and barely makes its presence known but is so important to the build up of the dreamy strings on "Hotel Floor."

The beauty of folk music lies in its simplicity: its frugality with elaborate musical compositions but opulence in poetry. Parry inherits the rusticism of folk music, with words that often wander into strange poetry with disturbing images, whose complexity runs much deeper than what they say on the surface: "I'll embrace you to burn / then I'll sleep with your body" on "Hotel Floor;" "I'll feed you and beat you to a pulp / lock up your lovers in the ocean…Hurl your bones to the dogs with glee / and open your sinful little mouth" on "Sweet Nothings;" and "I'll take you to my bloody grave / seal these bones all around your name" on "Little Prayer No.6."

Parry's music is as uncompromising as his words. His brand of folk music is about textured layers that reach musical complexities far beyond what's conventional in this genre. Abstaining from the use of any electrical guitars or keyboards, Parry keeps his music chaste, but makes it lavish and indulgent without foregoing every little element that is played to perfection and has a meaning in the complex web.

Parry strictly follows all the ground rules of folk music but takes them to a whole new level. Without appearing poppy or sophisticated, his music brims with such beauty, elegance and bountifulness that it is impossible not to look at him as a poetic and musical genius. Could Johnny Parry be England's best export in recent years? Hell, yes! Just give Songs Without A Purpose a spin and you'll know why.
Rating: A - Daily Vault


Babysue review, 01/07

Johnny Parry - Songs Without A Purpose (CD, Lost Toys, Progressive pop)

We had to listen to this album several times before coming to conclusions about it. Britain's Johnny Parry isn't making music bound by the normal rules of pop music. What will strike most listeners first are the vocals. Sounding something like an ailing Leonard Cohen on sedatives, Parry's hushed voice is unique and takes some getting used to. But over time his vocals become more and more intriguing...eventually becoming the true focal point of the music. The tracks on Songs Without A Purpose are soft and pensive, intuitively orchestrated with strings and keyboards that are not unlike some of the tracks on John Cale's Paris 1919 album. This beautifully packaged CD (which includes a well-designed lyric booklet) is a real underground gem. Eleven smooth, unusual tracks here including "If I Was A Killer," "Hotel Floor" (our favorite), "Sweet Nothings," and "A Love Song." Beautiful music created with acute attention to detail. We love this one. (Rating: 5++)

Babysue.com - Babysue


I was going to leave after Sams set but luckily didn't. The three piece (drums, bass and electric piano) that followed were fantastic and played some stunningly beautiful music. The vocalist and pianist had a very Tom Waits-esque voice backed by slow delicate melodies that created a great contrast. They used a number of orchestral backing tracks as well that gave their music a huge melodic grandeur in the vein of Sigur Ros. They also had a visual element in the form of a screen behind them. To begin with it simply showed a picture of a mountain covered with snow. As their set continued videos were projected behind them. A woman slowly dancing in front of a window overlooking a city shifting to fast paced city scenes. Medieval soldiers having a battle followed by a crowd of rock fans moshing again in contrast to the ethereal dark mantras slowly building to a climax before burning away. Almost childlike melodies with a spacial backing. I'd love to find out some more about this band because I was very impressed and moved.

http://www.moles.co.uk

Ed Cesar - Moles Review


Dark lyrics that are spoken almost as much as they’re sung with Parry’s raspy voice offering a very unique taste. “Songs Without a Purpose” fulfill a function of indie pop orchestration that many singer/songwriters would relish. Coveting eclectic arrangements, Parry’s music is built on piano, bass, and drums—and there’s no coincidence that each are essentially rhythm instruments. Whispered vocals hush the eerie mood that the Omi-mushka string quartet, brass sections, and sincere songwriting layer on each song. A modern pop opera that demands your fullest attention—you’ll be depressed to find out that Johnny Parry is a Londoner so you might have to wait a while to see him perform these majestic epics live, but experience his music as soon as possible regardless of format. - Smoother


Theatrical, poetic, experimental,
The Johnny Parry Trio take Vicky Addinall
on an exciting journey into new musical
realms....

It’s a typical, soaking wet, July evening
in Kilburn, North West London, the pub
doorways along the high street are
crowded with florid old men sheltering
their fags from the downpour (it’s the
day after the ban)...but apart from that
nothing seems a miss in this rather drab
part of the capital.
That is until I hear an angelic operatic
voice drift down the dark, stale beer
polluted stairwell of The Luminaire. Now
I’ve seen a lot of things in the Luminaire,
Glaswegian punk, Norwegian nu-wave.
You name it, it’s graced the stage. But
opera? This is a first.
The reason for this sound bite of
culture?
No, not Char and her baby bump,
but Soprano Donna Loomans warming up
for The Johnny Parry Trio gig – kicking off
a night of what can only be described as
really ‘good’ music.
Intimate love songs to sweeping
cinematic arrangements, The JP Trio
are a hard band to pin down. They
themselves admit that they do not exist to
be boxed into one of the music industry’s
‘conveniently formed boxes’. But it’s hard
to describe the way they glide between
moments of comedic light heartedness
and deep dark intensity. Without making
them to sound rather wanky that is - that,
they definitely aren’t.
The Johnny Parry Trio are Ben Milway
(drums/percussion), Dave Lynch (bass)
and um...Johnny Parry (vocals and keys),
three boys from Bedfordshire that have a
steadfast ambition to play the music
game without bowing to commercial
venture.
“We don’t want to bow to the record
labels,” says Johnny, “too much of that
goes on already, it stunts creativity.”
The JP Trio are nothing if not creative!
Tonight’s gig is actually the unofficial
launch of the band’s first album together
Songs Without Purpose. Johnny himself
made his own debut with Break Your Little
Heart in 2004, an album he put together
on his own in Toronto. When he returned,
Parry recruited the talents of old friends
Ben and Dave and they started work
on trio’s debut, a painstakingly intricate
album that took them months to put
together.
“It’s been a labour of love,” says Ben,
“it was a year for all of us, probably longer
for Johnny. We decided we wanted to
give everything to it and do it properly.”
What started as hundreds of pages
of handwritten manuscript (that took
JP two years to write) sitting in a studio
in the middle of the Bedfordshire
countryside became a masterful record
compromising the talents of the trio, a
small chamber orchestra and layers of
operatic backing vocals. But thankfully not
the sound of Johnny’s £100 quid Skoda.
JP: “Yeah, that was probably one of
my more stupid ideas.”
Dave Lynch: “It sounded bloody
awful!”
JP: “But the door made a great
sound!”
BM: “Debatable.”
JP: “One day I thought it would be a
fun idea to try and capture the sound of
my rusty old Skoda’s door in the studio. This
ended up with us hanging a microphone
out of the window in front of the car.
To cut a long story short it took ages,
sounded shit and didn’t make it on the
album. But at least I tried!”
Recording for the trio was, not
surprisingly, a long process. Three guys
with a very grand idea, no money but a
brilliant score of music.
“It was a learning curve for us,” says
Johnny, “we didn’t quite know how to
approach such a mammoth project.
So we just started chipping away.”
And, for the JP Trio, chipping away
really is chipping away. With the music
layered as it is there were several parts
to record for each song. They had tables
of instruments on the wall of their studio
and ticked them off as they’d recorded
the part.
“The musicians on the album, like
Donna our soprano were so patient with
us. Making any silly noise we asked them
to and recorded sections repeatedly to
get them right. This album took a lot of
dedication from everyone,” says Johnny.
“There were days when it felt never-
ending but it feels pretty good now it’s
done,” continues Dave.
“Is this a good time to mention that
our album Songs Without Purpose is
available exclusively through our website
(www.johnnyparry.com) which means
we don’t have to give all our money to
Amazon?” says Ben. “It gives us hope that
one day we might make enough money
to cover the cost of the album.”

Talking to the band in a pub in the
back end of Kings Cross is actually very
refreshing despite the less than refreshing
beer. It’s not often a band comes across
as quite so dedicated. For most, at the
end of the day, it’s about the money,
the fame, the image, the girls. Not for
the JP Trio, there is a freakish amount of
passion, musicality and creativity oozing
out of them.
To reinterpret the multi-layered
almost orchestral album for live shows in
dingy London venues like the Luminaire
the band have a standard line up of
themselves, a trusty laptop and some
entertaining visuals.
“For our live shows we do slightly
different versions of the tracks to make
them more jazzy and fun,” says Dave.
“Some of the tracks on the album have
quite long instrumental passages which
wouldn’t work so well at a gig.’
It’s true some of the band’s music
would almost be more suited to a recital
than a gig which is probably why there is
the visual element to their shows as well.
The Trio work closely with Andy Holden, an
up and coming young artist (and Johnny’s
‘bezza’ mate from school).
Andy, described as “the fourth
member of the trio”, by Johnny, has
made short films to accompany each
of the tracks on Songs Without Purpose.
During the gig at the Luminaire the
projections and music worked together
seamlessly. The audience were transfixed,
and who wouldn’t be, music and film for
the price of one....genius!
Which begs the question....what
comes first, the visuals or the music?
JP: “Most of the time Andy works with
the music but one track on the album,
‘If I Was A Killer’, was a piece I wrote to
go with a short film of his. So it can work
both ways.”
BM: “We work in quite an unorganised
way. We just go with the flow. When we
were recording if something didn’t work
it was scrapped. If we had a crazy idea,
we tried it. Which is probably why it took so
long.”
Having only seen the band live once
leaves me curious to know what kind of
a reaction they have live. With their artsy
visuals and operatic vocals, what kind of
crowd do they pull?
DL: “All sorts actually you’d be
surprised.”
JP: “We’re the first to admit you’ll
probably either love or hate our music.
We know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
But then we don’t want it to be. We don’t
want to be a conventional pop band.”
BM: “Belgium love us!”
JP: “That’s true they’re more into their
art rock than their conventional pop.”
BM: “It’s an incredible place. We’ve
played a few gigs around Belgium. We’d
drive round for most of the day looking
for a town, finally arrive and get slightly
disconcerted when we did not see
anyone under the age of 50 all afternoon.
But come night time this youth appear out
of nowhere and the venues are packed!”
The Trio really are making waves in
Belgium Songs Without Purpose was
listed as one of the best albums of 2006
by Radio 1 Belgium and described as
“extremely beautiful and dark” – I wouldn’t
disagree. Although it’s not as serious as it
sounds. A subtle irony often creeps into
their music revealing the band’s lighter,
humorous side.
Now the mammoth project of the
album is done and dusted and they
can’t play with Skodas and microphones
anymore, what on earth do the band
have planned....
JP: “The next stage.”
BM: “Performing the album and
shamelessly self-promoting it...”
DL: “We’ve all been working hard over
the summer, have a bit of money in our
pockets...”
BM: “....although none of us have
kidneys....”
JP: “True but we’re ready...”
And with that the Trio are off into the
industrialised smog of a sunset to fulfil
their mission to make their own music, the
way they want to and the way they like it.
In their own words, ironic, sincere and full
of contradictions....welcome to the the
world of John Parry and his trio.
A few extra snippets:
Favourite tipple... Red wine.
The best thing about Belgium... Obscure
rock bands.
If you were reincarnated what would you
be? Snails.
Inspired by... Deus, Moondog Jr/Zita
Swoon, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waites,
Sigur Ros, Nick Cave, The Bad Plus, Ennio
Moriconne, Shostakovich...
Finally, is it ok to throw bananas at girls?
No absolutely not, softer fruit maybe,
grapes perhaps, but only for health
purposes, and not bananas.
Bearded FFP. B Features
The Johnny Parry Trio 24 Bearded FFP. B FeaturesThe Johnny Parry Trio 25
Words
Vicky Addinall
Photography
R Cooper
Illustration
Kenn Goodall
www.bykenn.com - Bearded Magazine


Discography

Little Prayers 1-8 EP - To be released 28th January 2008

Songs without a Purpose - 2007

Break Your Little Heart - 2005

Photos

Bio

In 2002 Johnny travelled to Canada to have his music coupled with dance. After arriving in toronto the plans fell through and Johnny decided to make his first solo record, 'Break your Little Heart'. Johnny spent a month wandering the streets listening to buskers and visiting open mic nights to recruit a selection of Toronto's finest underground musicians. Johnny's producer Ru Cook flew out to capture the sessions in St Pauls Trinity Church.

With the album finished Johnny returned to the UK and got in touch with old musical friends Ben Milway (drums) and Dave Lynch (bass) to re-interpret the songs for a live show. The Johnny Parry Trio was born. Artist Andy Holden also joined the project to build individual short films to go along side each track.

"...fiercely personal and deeply eccentric...Parry's openness and sincerity leave me grasping for metaphors and straining to explain this album's power...truly novel, personal and powerful"
Splendid, 2003

---

In 2005 the second album started to be conceived. 'Songs without a Purpose'. Break your Little Heart was a patchwork of musical moments pieced together over a bed of electronica. Songs without a Purpose however explores a different side to Johnny's craft. Hundreds of pages of scrutinized manuscript were brought to the studio, arranged for the trio and a small chamber orchestra. In 2007 Songs without a Purpose was released.

"These songs are simply better written - better composed - than almost anything out there."
Scene Point Blank, 2007

"A piano led thing of beauty"
Timeout, 2007

"Beautifully orchestrated"
Plan B, 2007

“Songs Without A Purpose is one of the most beautiful records ever made. ...his music brims with such beauty, elegance and bountifulness that it is impossible not to look at him as a poetic and musical genius. Yes, he is that good.”
Daily Vault, 2007

---

Now as 2007 comes to a close the trio have embarked on part one of three EP's, The Little Prayers. The project started in the summer with the trio building there own personalized studio in the countryside that specifically lended itself to the project. The first unveiling of the songs will be at the Luminiare, (Kilburn, London) 28th January 2008.