Timothy Blackman
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Timothy Blackman

Band Folk Singer/Songwriter

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"Kiwi musicians find greener pastures"

07:50am | Kiwi musicians find greener pastures
Max Bania - May 11, 2009
Exciting times and new challenges await Tim Blackman in the coming months. Not that you'd ever know it beneath the perpetually-calm complexion.
Having played bars and music halls from Auckland to Dunedin and just about everywhere in between, the Wellington-born singer-songwriter is now setting his sights farther afield.
Later this month, Blackman will join the swelling ranks of young New Zealanders bound for Europe to broaden their musical horizons.
The move to London has long been regarded as a rite of passage for aspiring Kiwi musicians - Fat Freddy's Drop and the Blackseeds being two of latest acts to have found success there.
But latterly, it is Berlin that has emerged as a popular alternative to a London pub scene that has become increasingly regulated by record companies.
The German capital boasts a well-established underground scene - Lou Reed and Nick Cave have both recorded albums there - and has recently welcomed New Zealand acts such as electro rockers So So Modern, Auckland six-piece An Emerald City and electro-rapper Coco Solid.
But for Blackman, his move to Berlin is just as much about exploring his own musical abilities as promoting them.
With stripped-down arrangements and fragile vocal style evocative of psych-folk pioneers Bonnie Prince Billy and Devendra Banhart, Blackman was a fixture of the Dunedin music scene before relocating to Auckland in 2007.
That same year he released his first EP, Giraffes, Wharves and Sinking Sand, the highlight of which was the pleasantly-catchy riff on "Pigeon in the Vampire".
He followed this up with a second EP in 2008, Modern Sprawl, featuring the brooding single "A trip to the plain".
When it comes to disclosing his musical influences, he is mischievously evasive, although he does reveal that much of his lyrical inspiration is drawn from "conversations with friends, environmental destruction".
"I don't set out to write a pop hit", says Blackman, who prefers to think of his music as a free-running tape.
"I just kinda do it. Nothing's ever thought out or contrived".
He hopes the change of scenery will add new perspectives and complexity to his already-burgeoning songwriting talent.
"I just want to be a part of something more culturally diverse", he says.
Currently hard at work on his first full length album, on which he again will perform all the instrumental backing, Blackman expects his overseas experiences to be deeply imbued in the finished product.
And if the rest of the album can live up to the delicate, rhapsodic "Silence and the Sea", we are in for a treat.
While Blackman is pleased with the added exposure that New Zealand Music Month provides for homegrown musicians, he believes that more can be done to help independent musicians such as himself.
"I think most New Zealand artists would struggle to say it's boosted their sales or gig attendances", he says.
"It's fair to say that low-fi music doesn't really get supported".
Arch Hill Recordings have been at the forefront of New Zealand independent music for the last decade but in the absence of more independent labels, the talent drain to Europe seems set to continue.
Not that Blackman is under any illusions about the difficulties our musicians face in cracking the European market either.
"I don't want to say I'm going there to make it", he says with a wry grin. "I just want to play some shows and meet some musicians".
And - his fans will hope - one day return home all the wiser for the experience.
You can check out Tim Blackman's music at http://www.myspace.com/timothyblackman
Source: TVNZ.co.nz - Max Bania


"Modern Sprawl"

Timothy Blackman: Modern Sprawl (Home Alone)

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Preview track Timothy Blackman: The Great Extinction




This lo-fi singer-songwriter recorded the six songs on this impressive EP at his Auckland flat, so as a result he sounds like he's singing in your own home.

Very much in the folk-rock tradition (you can imagine the title track being pumped out by band), Blackman comes of as a melancholy soul on a first hearing, yet there are flickers of optimism and the result is a highly promising collection, made all the more gripping by his broken but passionate singing.

Not an easy listen for most I would guess, but if your taste runs to Daniel Johnston (fear not, Blackman is more tuneful), Elliot Smith (Blackman not quite so darkly imagistic) or even early folksy Neil Young then you'll find this one pretty interesting.

Added: 2 Dec 07
- elswhere.co.nz


"Music: Crying records (and things that make you go bounce)"

Recorded in his Auckland flat last year, Timothy Blackman's Modern Sprawl EP kicks off with a song that confirms his aesthetic debt to local home recording pioneer, Chris Knox. Drums clatter like biscuit tins on baking day; a bass thuds out a thick groove; electric and acoustic guitars shoulder a simple three-chord melody and a dry voice rings out right beside you, as if someone is singing while perched on the foot of your bed rather than ensconced in a flash studio.

The song is called Bermuda Triangle, which perfectly describes my relationship with this stark and lovely record: my heart disappears into it, threatening never to return. Vocally, these one-man-band ballads recall overseas eccentrics Neil Young, Gordon Gano and Daniel Johnston, but the subject matter is quite literally Blackman's backyard as he offers up a commentary on the alienation and environmental destruction wrought by Auckland's ever-expanding suburbs. A major new talent. - Sunday Star Times


"Live Review: Wellington, NZ"

Arriving from Auckland just in time for his gig with Matthew Holleman, ex-Wellingtonian Timothy Blackman strode up on stage with his strapping frame and small guitar, and proceeded to tune with a pitch pipe. I decided I liked him. Sometimes people get so bogged down with fancy equipment and the professional image that it takes someone like Tim to come along and remind us what it’s about. Which is music of course. But it’s also about having fun and connecting with people, and this is something Tim does pretty darn well.
It wasn’t a case of non-stop banter, but I still got an impression of strong humour, and someone who was there to have fun rather than sell CD’s. Some of the guitaring was pretty simple, but it was more than made up for by his powerful voice. Vocal delivery was interesting; after one unusual song he admitted “got a bit silly there”. Tim is certainly not your standard singer/songwriter.
All in all, it was tuneful and interesting, and a pleasure to watch. - Charlette Weston


"Modern Sprawl Review"

Timothy Blackman: Modern Sprawl

By Mark Laurent
Close your eyes, open your ears, and you’ll see an earnest young man draped over his acoustic guitar in a dim-lit bedroom on an overcast afternoon, singing his love-lorne heart out to himself and a couple of microphones. ‘Modern Sprawl’ (a mini-album - the 6 tracks clock in at just under 20 minutes) was recorded at Blackman’s Auckland flat by a mate in one afternoon last July. The recording quality is pretty good, too. The promo blurb says this album was inspired by the uncontrollably sprawling suburbs of Auckland city, but to me the lyrics speak more of interior architectures. Blackman sounds to be grieving for the loss of childhood innocence, and lamenting the uncontrollable-ness of the soul-scape. Musically it’s all sparse guitar, scratchy voice, occasional snare drum shuffle and minimalist violin drones, all played by him. Artists he admires include Daniel Johnston, Johanna Newson and Neil Young. There’s a slight edgy charm to this self-revelatory introspection, exactly the thing you might want on an overcast afternoon in a world that’s just a little out of control.
- Mark Laurent


"Modern SPrawl Album Release: Review"

Timothy Blackman: Modern Sprawl Album Release

Bar Bodega, Room 101
December 22 | Reviewed by Tim G

Timothy Blackman is an impassioned and captivating artist live. The night’s performance – for the release of Modern Sprawl – was obviously an intimate affair; two days out from Christmas, this was not an opportune time for such a gig and it seemed that mostly friends and family hugged the walls to see Blackman in his hometown.

Modern Sprawl is Blackman’s second offering, following on from 2006’s Giraffes, Wharves and Sinking Sand. It’s an album highlighting the evolution of Blackman’s songwriting into a concerted and remarkable record. I like Blackman’s style; whilst it has the integrity of traditional singer/songwriter tunes, it has an extra bite that sets it apart.

On this album Blackman has diversified instrumentation and style. Opening track ‘Bermuda Triangle’ is a pop ditty, whilst ‘An Isolated Waltz’ is an earnest, down-tempo song. Blackman’s songs are still stripped back yet he adds violin and drums as complement. His voice varies from swooning to broken and raspy, which entitles every song to its own body and mood. The title track is classic folk guitar music. The standout track is ‘Trip to the plain’; it’s an epic song that is moving and beautifully crafted.

Blackman live is something of a different experience to his recorded work. Blackman has captured the soul of his songs, yet reserves the impassioned energy of them for his live show. Unassumingly and unannounced, Blackman takes a seat and starts playing. Lead through songs from both Giraffes Wharfs and Sinking and Modern Sprawl, Blackman showcases his talent as an engaging and intense artist. Songs such as ‘Pigeon in the Vampire’ and ‘Trip to the plain are’ concentrated. His guitar playing is simple but his voice and the enormity or if resounds off the walls of Room 101. He sings possessed, as if a band backed him, and this is truly stirring. After only six songs Blackman abruptly puts down his guitar and retreats into the crowd. Perhaps the familiarity of the crowd, or just the fact he had given us so much in such a small amount of time, compels him to do this. But it really didn’t matter; in fact, it seemed fitting. It was abrupt and intense, yet personified Blackman and what he does.

Blackman creates something that is charming yet has teeth. He owns a sound that is classic, yet for a singsong writer it is bold.
» 04.01.08 / Music - Timothy Glasgow


Discography

- 'Giraffes, Wharves and Sinking Sand'- 2006
- 'Modern Sprawl'-2008

Photos

Bio

I first saw Timothy Blackman perform on a winter’s evening in 1997 at Lower Hutt’s Epuni Hall. Nobody had heard of his band and I had no understanding as to why a group of third formers were performing as part of a hardcore line up. The following week I met the young songwriter at the front entrance of Hutt Valley High School while he was giving out tapes the band had recorded on a four track. He gave me a copy on the condition that I passed it on once I had listened to it three times. The band became a regular act around the lower North Island and I still campaign that tape today.

In 2002, Tim’s ever-increasing passion for the environment saw him relocate to Dunedin, where by day, he studied geography and environmental planning. By night Tim would write, record and perform introspective and often isolated pop songs inspired by artists such as Daniel Johnston, Jandek, Elliot Smith, Smog, Johanna Newsom, Neil Young and Sufjan Stevens.

Timothy Blackman’s first solo release came as a result of a reclusive two-week period in 2006 in which Giraffes, Wharves and Sinking Sand was written, recorded and released. The album was described as “scratchy acoustic brilliance” (salient) and “promising” (pavement) with ‘Pigeon in the Vampire’ spending 8 weeks on the Radio One top 11. This success saw Tim invited to play at the Bnet Live to Airs and perform on Dunedin’s own Channel 9 for May Music Month celebrations. In 2007 Tim has performed extensively throughout New Zealand and at a performance in Wellington was described as “not your standard singer songwriter” (Wellington live music dot com).

His latest offering Modern Sprawl was inspired by the uncontrollably sprawling suburbs of Auckland City. The recording includes songs that were written/performed by Blackman and recorded at his Auckland Flat by a close friend in July 2007.

Timothy is currently located in Berlin where he is performing with established local and international acts and recording his third album. Blackman's next performance is at the Magnet Club (Berlin) on October 15th (2009) where he will be supporting The Mountain Goats.