Supine Orchestra Reviews

Stumble, Mumble, Talk...

Supine is sublime
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Good news for music lovers: Half Eaten has just re-issued Supine Orchestra's debut album. And jolly nice it is too.

If, like this particular hack, you were raised on a diet of Zappa, the Dead Kennedys and the Wolfgang Press, you might not necessarily be drawn to two chaps on acoustic guitars employing such outlandish concepts as 'melody' and 'harmony'. However, Coventry-based "folk/country/pop duo" Supine Orchestra are well worth a listen, especially as their debut album Stumble, Mumble... Talk has just been re-issued by everyone's favourite indie label Half Eaten Records. You can now download the Supine's first album here without having to pay so much as a bean, let alone a penny. And what's more, you're in for a right treat if you do.

Antidote to crap

Originally released back in 2008, this 11-track album is the perfect antidote to the mindless blather of one-eyed pop sludge sullying today's airwaves. But just because they've got acoustic guitars don't go thinking the Supines are a pair of New Age hippies living in a tent. Despite the fairly down-tempo nature of much of the album, not to mention the aforementioned use of harmony and melody, the Supines maintain a suitable degree of edge, primarily through the use of intelligent lyrics.

Rather than singing "oooh oooh yeah I love you in a very soppy and sissy way" over and over again or spouting out mournfully introspective stuff about how the only girl they loved left them because they kept singing mournfully introspective stuff about how the only girl they loved left them, this duo of Rich Sykes and Joel Kendrick (I haven't a clue which one's which but the main singer's got an excellent voice) pen some right gems. Indeed, while they certainly don't come across as trying to ape the truly wonderful Half Man Half Biscuit, the quality of the Supine's often cutting and witty lyrics nevertheless puts them in the same camp.

The second track Mrs Clytheroe, for instance, has the lovely line: "His love was like a cattle grid but rougher and much shorter". Meanwhile, the very last track Morphine, without being morbid or sounding like some 17-year-old Smiths fan w--king into a bin, offers the listener a highly commendable approach to death, viz don't be all mournful but "drink to my passing tonight".

Words, Music, everything

That's not to say, though, that their best lyrics somehow only occur at the front and back ends of the album. Take, for example, the excellently entitled My Favourite Rock'n'Roll Death. As well as more great lyrics, including a catchy chorus ripe for repeating down the pub, this track is underpinned by lecky guitar licks that give the song a raw, driving quality befitting its self-destructive theme. Or something.

Other nice bits of instrumentation include a banjo twang on the country-inspired August 31 and plenty of other stuff to boot. You'll bally well have to download the album yourself to find out more. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.

Date review added: June 14, 2012

Full review

Supine Orchestra "Stumble, Mumble... Talk" (Independent, 2008)
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Supine not prone to error

Calling yourself Supine and naming your record ‘Stumble, Mumble... Talk’ is apt to get you overlooked and because the music is perfectly described by the designation (it’s not so much understated as at times barely existent) you might think that there isn’t much going on. Now I’ve spent enough time in Coventry (home to Richard Sykes and Joel Kendrick) to know that, for the area, they might be considered as loquacious go-getters, but to most other people they’d think that the Nitrazepam has kicked in, that or too much has been smoked and their approach is horizontal. All that may be true but there is some method in their madness - the songs are slow to reveal themselves and an impatient approach would be one that missed out on some beauty.

Imagine Calexico by way of Barry Adamson scoring a film for Shane Meadows and you have ‘Rodriguez and Me’. ‘My Brother, The Horse’ is a minimal Faheyesque piece with pretty guitar figures and suggestions of woodblock percussion. ‘Selina, You Can Have Your Uke Tune Back’ is another instrumental of some interest with the ukulele running figures of eight whilst Indian sounding percussion provides a pulsating stomach to digest the simple chords. The vocal tracks differ quite widely from the folk stylings of ‘August 31’ with massed voices and acapella passages that are a long way away from stumble and mumble. ‘God’s Big Fat Arse’ with its simple acoustic strum and double vocal is another example of clarity. In truth the title and name are self-deprecatory - these songs may be relaxed and may not be crystal clear but they do have ideas and some moments of beauty.

Date review added: Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Reviewer: David Cowling

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Oil on Beaverboard

Supine Orchestra - this gentle, unperturbed music resonates with calm (August 03, 2010)
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Relaxed, placid, close to comatose or laid-back to the point of horizontal - there is a distinct impression on the second album from Supine Orchestra that they manage to stay alert just to lay down the tracks. This gentle unperturbed music resonates with calm. Following their first album ‘Stumble, Mumble, Talk...’ their latest offering ‘Oil On Beaverboard’ reflects their unruffled, slightly jaded, laconic view of the world with a selection of songs that present an eclectic mix of messages through their peculiar style.

Richard Sykes (strings and words) and Joel Kendrick (multiple instruments and words) are the driving force of Supine Orchestra, although driving inadequately describes their approach - insistent is more accurate. Nonetheless this is an album with presence and thought provoking songs. It’s true to say that with this album they have stuck an original stick in the folk- acoustic ground. However, given their style it’s probably more likely they’ve gently let the stick fall to see if anyone picks it up. And most people should. This album is a carefully crafted, subtle selection of melodious acoustic country folk.

From the opening gentle pulse and bounce of "These Big Steps" through the questioning, tangled lyrics of "Under the Radar" to the appealing beauty of "Waiting for the Butterflies" there’s depth, intrigue and observation that will engage from the first. Unlike many mellow songs these demand attention and need you to focus - gems such as "My Imaginary God’ and "The Bowerbreak" are there to be listened to; by the way guys, one small point - adding lyrics to the sleeve notes next time would increase enjoyment.

If your stressed, uptight or just plain scratchy this album will ease the strain away.

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A Coventry duo comprising Richard Sykes and Joel Kendrick, they describe their second album as "another self-composed, limited edition featuring 13 tracks of varying lengths and moral turpitude." I’ve not heard the first, Stumble, Mumble...Talk, but apparently this is less comatose.

Behind all this self-deprecation lies a rather good if rough shod collection of strummy country folk tunes and songs filtered through a jaded, cynic al view of the world and influences that might seem to encompass Simon & Garfunkel, American Music Club, Calexico, Roy Harper and maybe even a touch of Ralph McTell alongside such declared inspirations as, er, Bollo, Frank Lloyd Wright and Titian paintings.

Translate that musically and they jog happily from the opening jaunty bounce of These Big Steps, which is a bit like Horse With No Name on happy pills, through the S&G 60s folk pop Cold Carry On, Under The Radar’s desert country blues, and Latin samba swaying Waiting For The Butterflies to the flamenco and hand percussion strains of The Bowerbreak, front porch sunny afternoon strum There’ll Be No Whiskey In This House No More and a ukulele plinked home on the range trotting Feverish Dreams. My Imaginary God shows they know how to write a catchy pop melody too while the tropical lilting Taliesen West displays their instrumental prowess.

Not quite as laid back as their name implies, but even so it’s the sort of relaxed music you dig out when the skies are sunny, the beer’s chilled and the smell of new mown grass is on the wind. Just don’t poke around too much in the lyrical undergrowth, there may be worms.

Mike Davies September 2010

Full Review

Either the recession has hit orchestras harder than I thought or the Supine Orchestra are a misnomer, what with them being a duo an all, but Orchestra does begin to give an idea of the philosophy of the band, think big and the rest will follow.
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"Oil On Beaverboard" opens with "These Big Steps" which touches on the same territory of the likes of "Horse With No Name" and lays down one of many textures for the album. It's got that sort of west coast swingbeat that carries you into the album with pretty much your whole body gently swaying along, never a bad start.

The albums got a whole kickback and chill feel to it. It wants you to relax, take some time out and give it your attention. The dream pop quality enhanced by the inclusion of some great instrumentals and instrumental breaks that I found reminiscent of the scene in a Spaghetti Western, where the film's ultracool hero/gunslinger has his hat pulled over his eyes whilst his horse pulls him in a travois across the grasslands.

If that makes it sound a bit soporific, then don't be fooled, the only reason Supine Orchestra want you to relax is so you can listen to the lyrics away from the stresses and strains of the rat race and they are lyrics worth paying attention to, positively bristling with great phrasing and cunning observation.

As well as performing and writing the album, Richard Sykes and Joel Kendrick, also take control of the desk, ensuring that their attention to detail remains constant. It takes a lot of hard work to make something sound as effortless as "Oil On Beaverboard" all strength to them they seem to have this melodious folk pop pretty much off pat.

Neil King

Full Review

Second record from the band with the misleading name.
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This is the second full-length outing from the Coventry based duo of Joel Kendrick and Richard Sykes, offering a more matured and haunting offering of indie-folk this time around. Oil On Beaverboard demands a reasonable batch of attention when listening, should the atmosphere fit. It holds a vulnerability to get lost in the background of whatever it is that’s more exciting (for example a high-energy conkers tournament), or provides an ideal soundtrack to something aptly partnering (such as a jaunt in the park to collect a nice selection of fallen leaves).

There is a distinct stripped down approach to instrumentation here too, with little flailing about to allow space for the assumingly high-priority lyrics. Although not the most poetic of such they are easy to pick up, such as “you’ll never fly with a worse pilot than me” featuring on The National-esque track ‘Under The Radar’ - a thoroughly pessimistic song despite its warming harmonies reminiscent of The Byrds, also more of that in ‘My Imaginary God’. ‘Cold Carry On’ is equally downbeat but has a hushed quality that makes itself akin to one of the emperors of downbeat - Elliott Smith. Throughout the duration lies mellow outbursts of accordion, slide guitar, mandolin and percussion to keep the interest flowing like a Jewish man’s savings account, some are entire tracks such as the linear ‘Taliesin West’ and the short-lived ditty of an ender ‘Night And Blue’.

Like its title, this album maintains a minimal nature, which really is their house sound. Yes there are times where the concentration levels can potentially sink, especially with thirteen tracks. Sometimes the music can live up to some of their lyrics like “shades of grey and shadows of matt” on occasion too, but this happens as long as the observance of its admirable warm and emotional qualities is in play. It’s clear that Supine Orchestra are deeply melancholic songwriters, yet polished and refined to that respect; can you imagine what this record would sound like if these individuals were unhinged drunkards? In fact, there are tracks like ‘Feverish Dreams’ and ‘There’ll Be No More Whiskey In This House No More’ that suggest their dismissal of that particular direction, particularly in the former, where they reminisce from “round the back of the bottle bank where the seagulls fought me for my soul”. Don’t worry chaps, we all hate it when that happens too.

By Allan Judkins

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Coventry duo’s idiosyncratic second
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An oddball collection of songs that skirts the imagination and the pigeonholes that reviewers choose to chuck artists in. The opener is a slide driven narrative, ‘Cold Carry on’ is two part vocal driven by strummed guitar that reminds of Momus, ‘Under the radar’ has elements of John Cale.

Richard Sykes is the singer/ guitarist and Joel Kendrick a multi instrumentalist/singer/ producer and together they have created this defiantly lo-fi smorgasbord of songs. They describe their inspirations as many and varied and this is reflected in the tone and variety of songs. There is a hint of Turin Brakes or Arnold in their demeanour ('Taliesin West') but there is also early Floyd ('Waiting for Butterflies') and John Shuttleworth ('My Imaginary God').

The album ploughs this furrow with aplomb and conviction. Ultimately, there's some interesting stuff but not arresting enough.

Date review added: Sunday, September 05, 2010

Reviewer: keith lovejoy

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Marek’s Camp

10 Folk Music Highlights for Autumn 2014 (Martin Chilton, The Telegraph)
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There's laconic charm in Marek's Camp, the third album from Coventry based Supine Orchestra. The bold Black Funky Metal (all songs are written by Richard Sykes and Joel Kendrick), Manatee, Brighton Breakfast and Poor Bernadette are strong songs. Overall Marek's Camp is an accomplished and interesting album.

Full Review

Date of Review Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Folkwords - "Distinctive style, lyrically superb with a laconic edge....their best yet"
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There’s something to be said for grafting away at your art without undue screaming and shouting, then again it doesn’t hurt to give your own trumpet a bit of a blow from time to time. Alternatively, you can just keep on keeping on and let the music speak for itself. That approach may not result in a stellar launch, then again it rarely results in equally spectacular oblivion. ‘Marek‘s Camp’ the third album from Coventry-based Supine Orchestra reflects the ‘grafting approach’ and in my view it’s the best of their output so far.

Laid back is one description of this duo, perhaps nonchalant and tranquil could apply equally. However unperturbed their sound may be, their lyrical inventiveness and pertinence comes not from casual concepts, to achieve their biting observations demands considerable contemplation. These songs are the result of concerted effort. Supine Orchestra quietly beaver away forging their distinctive style and building lyrically superb songs delivered with a laconic edge that entices you into their music.

The subject matter on ‘Marek's Camp’ ranges from invitations to go out drinking, looking wrecked over breakfast, the smell of fresh rain on the earth and seeing someone stabbed to death by Satan in their underwear - each one a compelling narrative. Themes of affection mix with pragmatism, friendship blends with cynicism, sensibility with sarcasm. And there’s acid sharp lyrics throughout.

‘Brighton Breakfast’ examines the less than perfect side of life: "There’s seagulls in my stubble and the nicotine is yellowing my toast." The upbeat ‘Grand Union’ offers an invitation to relish, and the brilliant ‘Bucketful Of Ordinary’ presents more lyrical perspicacity: "Mine is a bucket brimming with ordinary. Yours is a halo of low wattage bulbs." For sharp sarcasm you need look no further than ‘Black Funky Metal’ or to find gentle understanding, the sentiments of ‘Nice For Jorge’.

Supine Orchestra - Rich Sykes (strums, mumbles, grumbles and writes) and Joel Kendrick (multi-instrumentalist, producer and writer) have created a fine album with ‘Marek's Camp’.

Full Review

Date of Review Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tamsin Rosewell (Radio Warwickshire) - "this group is producing something really rather wonderful....they have made one of the strongest claims on the current folk scene to show what new folk music can sound like. Bravo - more please"

To the outside world there seem to be two types of folk groups: those who want to be properly folky, steeped in a rich and complex history of regional variations and traditional instruments, and those who choose to do whatever they think is interesting whether or not it is covered in the hallowed dust of Cecil Sharp House.Supine Orchestra falls unapologetically, and with little burbles of glee, into this second category. And yet it suffuses as much warmth and humanity as you would find in the best of our old songs.

Marek‘s Camp is the third album from this Coventry-based group, and I love every track on it. The vocals glide from gorgeously plush in opening track ‘Manatee’ - like the kind of silk velvet they don‘t make any more – to the pleasingly coarse to complement the fearlessly direct lyrics of Black Funky Metal. The lyrics are a class act all by themselves; they conjure up a series of images, from the brightly coloured and comic invitation to ‘put your book down and come drinking with me’ (‘The Grand Union’), to the warm and romantic ‘born to be caught in the pull of your Saturn eyes’ (Laces), but they are consistently very sweet and brimming with charm and affection.

There is something deeply humanist about this collection of songs. Beyond the direct comments: ‘Torch a church, it makes you feel better, Hail Satan, then blame the weather’ (‘Black Funky Metal’), and the gently inserted Biblical references: ‘as the first arrive to cast their stone’ (‘Nice for Jorge’), there is something essentially human and social rather than spiritual about Marek’s Camp. You won‘t find ethereal folksiness here; the references are to rucksacks full of purple sweet wrappers (‘Bucket Full of Ordinary’) and being wrapped up in a string of electric lights (Manatee).

Overall Marek’s Camp is a cheerful combination of immaturity and real class. It is lyrically attentive and musically accomplished. Supine Orchestra has a distinctive style that is completely charming. This group is producing something really rather wonderful - it is too easy for that to go unsaid, so I’m saying it. Over three albums they have made the most sustained effort, and one of the strongest claims on the current folk scene, to show what new folk music can sound like - and all without a hint that they feel that they really ought to be leafing through the archives of Cecil Sharp House. Bravo - more please.

Full Review

Date of Review Wednesday, October 29, 2014

OpenMic Travels Blog

Taylor John’s House, Coventry by Martin Christie of the excellent Poet & the Loops,

More musicians arrive and I get talking to Rich and Joel who collectively are Supine Orchestra. They liked what I was doing with the kaoss poet. I gave them a copy of my lyric book and they gave me two of their Cd's in return. This is what open mics are about, meeting different people and finding out about their music.

Unfortunately I didn't get to see Supine Orchestra play as I had to leave before they took to the stage. But I listened to their Cd's all the way back to Yorkshire the following day and was struck by the depth of the music and the lyrics. Country and folk influenced songs and some great stories, such as:

"Rodriguez and me, breaking into factories, stuck in the air vent when the alarm went, hanging by the thread of my jeans" (Rodriguez and me) - that one made me chuckle

"Round the back of the bottle bank where the seagulls fought me for my soul" (Feverish Dreams)

A lot of thought had gone into the lyrics and you can check out Supine Orchestra on their myspace:

Worcester Arts Workshop w/Poet & the Loops, June 2011
Worcestershire Literary Festival

Supine Orchestra ended the evening with an hours worth of quality song writing and clever lyrics. Some new songs off their latest album and some even newer ones that I don't think they've recorded yet. This was exactly the right end to an evening that began with spoken word and poetry, through to jazz and digital beat poetry, and on to the Americana tinged backwaters of songs about growing up in Coventry. The whole evenings entertainment was a veritable feast of highs and lows, of the dramatic and the humorous, of lyrics and music, and all round cheerful depressions.

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