Friday, 20 November 2015

Winter Light

It has been many months since I last posted on here, not because of how quiet things have been, but because we have all been so busy. 2015 has been a great year for ex-members of Saloon, with Alison, Matt and myself all having released well received records this year.

But any success is always tempered by a degree of sadness, as we think about the friends and family we have loved and lost on our travels; none more so than at this time in November, when we remember Mike and his wife Sara who are no longer with us.

A few weeks ago Paul from Track and Field sent me a copy of a letter from his archives. It was the letter that Mike sent to Track and Field as an introduction to Saloon; at the time we badly wanted to play their club because it was so damned cool and we were sick of playing terrible gigs every time we came to London. Little did we know that Track and Field had already seen us when we supported Stereolab and couldn’t really see the point in Saloon. Still, the letter must have made a difference, as within the next few years we went on to play countless Track and Field shows and release three albums with them. Anyway here is the letter for you to enjoy. 

Missing you Smoughts!

Friday, 17 April 2015

Recording Artist Rod Cromwell
It has been a busy few weeks. My new album has been out for over a month now and I have still not officially announced the release on here. I tried writing a lengthy blog post about it, but just can't find the time to finish it, so here is the quick version.

So you know, the album is out in the shops, called RODNEY CROMWELL 'Age of Anxiety' released on the Happy Robots label on CD and digitally:

The limited CD is distributed by Cargo Records
Also download on iTunes
Buy direct and receive bonus goodies:

It has been favourably compared to early-OMD, Giorgio Moroder and Krafwerk (I think in terms of its sound rather than its cultural impact). The record has had really good airplay, with plays on the Gideon Coe show on BBC 6 Music, multiple plays on several Radio 3 in Spain and on loads of synthpop shows and other radio shows (all of whom I will thank again properly at a later date). Oh and somehow two songs are on heavy rotation on Croydon FM. So muchos respect there.  

Thanks to everyone who has played, bought and said nice things about it. It has been very much appreciated! I will write some more about it I'm sure. Oh and feel free to follow Happy Robots on the Facebook. You can hear it on Spotify too, although obviously we would prefer you to buy it.

What else to report:

Alison's band 'The Left Outsides' have a new album 'The Shape of Things to Come' out on 8th May which itself is getting some great airplay. Follow all their news too on Facebook. I've not heard it yet but I'm sure it will be really good.

Indietracks 2015
Matt I know is in the studio at the moment with The Leaf Library working on their new album. And both The Leaf Library and Rodney Cromwell will be appearing at the Indietracks festival this 24-26th

July.  It's the first announced gig for Rodney Cromwell so many thanks in advance to Indietracks for taking a punt and booking me.

On the Saloon front, I've renewed the Soundcloud subscription so all the old stuff is available again. Gideon Coe played two songs from the first Peel Session last night (that is the 16th April 2015). Gideon has played that session several times so many thanks for that Gid.

Lastly I've been emailing a chap James who was in the band Postalowa who we played with once in Norwich. As well as having a great Mixcloud show Tall Ships Radio Club, he has a band Broads who Saloon fans may be interested in. Our chat also enabled me to find the details on the 2003 gig in Norfolk which I've added to the Saloon timeline. As keeper of the archives and master of the data this stuff matters OK.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Kicker Without Conspiracy

Our friends and former label mates Kicker, with whom Saloon played countless gigs, have finally gone and got themselves a Soundcloud. Their great singles album is up there already.

 Their 'Get Rid of Him / Turning Left' single still is one of my favourite 7"'s, which I still spin on the rare occasions when I can get the wife and kids out of the living room.

Other 'news' I have done a bit of work on the various Happy Robots websites - the full Happy Robots back catalogue is now available from our Bandcamp,  there has been a fair bit of activity on our Facebook, we have a label Soundcloud that includes unheard before rarities and we have a new YouTube (because I lost the password to the old one.) We don't have a Twitter as the last one was compromised by Russian hackers. I can't really be arsed with twitter anyway.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

New records, new fruits of the 'loon.

It has been a while since our last update. The reason being, well we have been rather busy. 
2015 has been dubbed the year of the Saloon comeback! Ex-members of Saloon have, we hope, three new records out this year, so Loonatics start saving your pennies…(please)….here is the news so far....

Age of Anxiety

The album that I have been tinkering with for about for several years is finally finished. It is very much an extension of sonic area explored with Arthur & Martha (it features Alice / Martha on a couple of tracks too). It is an album of ten songs propelled by hissy analog synths, cheap vocoders, toy instruments, crackly samples, bass riffery and – errr - more analog synths. 

Although the title is a nod to 80's electro (Age of Chance and/or Age of Consent by Bronski Beat) its themes are those of love, loss, grief, paranoia, euphoria in our modern post millennial world of over connection and tribulation That sounds quite ominous - it’s really just a silly indie disco record.  

I’m releasing it under the Rodney Cromwell name – which is a moniker I used once before, during the Saloon days, when I recoded a song Radaghast the Brown for a Lord of the Rings tribute album on Bearos. It is to be released on CD / digital download on 9th March 2015 and distributed by the good people at Cargo Records. The lovely cover was designed by ‘our Matt’. And it will be the first release in five years on the Happy Robots label; hopefully – if we break even – we will be able to put out some more releases (by other bands) in the near future! …oh and you will be able to buy it on our website as well as in the shops and on iTunes.   


THE LEAF LIBRARY (Matt and Co)  
Daylight Versions

Second album time! We’re halfway through recording another album at Studio Klank in north London – it’s a lovely place, and they’ve even let us build a little shrine on the wall above the mixing desk (the full Happy Robots back catalogue to the first person to name them all...).

It’s all shaping up nicely thanks with tons of guitars, a bit of synth and some piano, lots of drones, some pedal steel and a ride cymbal orchestra all recorded so far. It’ll hopefully feature contributions from some of our mates too including members of The Clientele / Amor de Dias, The Drink, The Left Outsides and Singing Adams. And horns! There are definitely going to be some horns on there too.

The album is called ‘Daylight Versions’ and is inspired by (variously) the sea, commuting, the Suffolk coast, Walthamstow marshes and death. It’ll be out on vinyl via Where It’s At Is Where You Are some point this year. Happy listening.


That’s all for now. Hopefully more soon. Do get in touch if you need to know any more.  

Sunday, 26 October 2014

10 years after, a dream sleeps here

As it is the 10 year anniversary of John Peel's death, this means it is also the anniversary of a far less momentous occurrence, the split of out band Saloon, a band was much championed by the jovial DJ. We officially announced Saloon's split two or three days after the Peel news, but in truth the band had fallen apart at least a year before.

As a way of marking the date, I am posting here a set of real rarities; a collection of ideas recorded, mostly in 2003, and were a work-in-progress towards our third album. An album we referred to as our folk LP, also known as 'Speak Softly a dream sleeps here.' 

I issue thee songs with a 'health warning'; although written for Saloon I am somewhat loath to really give them the Saloon name. Our band was a very much a collaboration - nay collective - of five people, and it is telling that as soon as one of the five left, then the band fell apart. These recording are mainly just Matt and me; Amanda sings and plays on four of them, but there is not much of Mike and Alison on these recordings. Nevertheless, if you are or were a Saloon fan, I hope you enjoy these tracks despite the rather dour tone of some of them.

If you want to know a bit more of the backstory behind these recordings,  I have written a much more comprehensive post on another page.

On a cheerier note, I'm happy to say (to those who don't already know) that earlier this month I became a father for a second time (which explains why I am up typing this at 4am. Alison has a new record coming soon from The Left Outsides (lots of activity on their website), Matt is recording a new record with Leaf Library and I'm happy to say my synth-heavy solo record - under my moniker Rodney Cromwell - has  been mixed and mastered and is being polished off right now for, I hope, a release after Xmas. Lastly talk of a vinyl re-release of Saloon's our first collection of recordings - The Blue Demo - is gathering pace, so keep looking out here for an inevitable crowd funding request soon.

Keep on moogin people!

Speak softly a dream sleeps here

An imagined cover. Stolen from a design by Matt.
The album that didn't happen.

Posted here, perhaps one of the few remaining treats from the archives for Saloon fans.

There were always plans. In 2003, before the release of the second Saloon album, ideas were coming together for what might follow.  We were getting tired of the pick-and-mix approach, where our records would contain elements of electronica, krautrock and folk all thrown together in a big melting pot.  

By mid 2002 I was already thinking that album four should be a big pop record, focussing on pop hooks, more synths and a move away from the post-rock slant. While gigging in Spain in 2002 I came up with the idea of writing a Kraftwerk influenced song called ‘Autovia’ to open the fourth record. Of course the band split and none of that ever happened. The Arthur and Martha album was something akin to what I saw Saloon #4 would have been like, and Autovia ended up opening that record.

Before any of that, was a consensus amongst the group that the third album should be something smaller in scale than the first two records, and should concentrate exclusively on one part of our sound, notable our ‘folk’ side.

Saloon in 2002.
“There has always been a [complete as is currently fashionable] element to our music” is a classic band interview cliché. But folk genuinely was a big influence, from the start for Saloon. In 1998 Mike brought a load of Sandy Denny-period Fairport albums into the house, and we regularly spun those on the communal stereo along with Pentangle and the ubiquitous Nick Drake.  I was never an obsessive fan of folk, but I was really into all of those records, and I did have a formative and enjoyable evening at the Reading Folk Festival – although the real ale was the main attraction. On the first two albums, folk was one of the influences in songs like ‘Static’, ‘Dreams Mean Nothing’ and, most overtly, ‘Bicycle Thieves’. In many ways it was the folk influence, coupled with Alison’s viola, that stopped us sounding like a total Stereolab / Broadcast / C96 rip-off.

So in early 2002, at the same time as mixing ‘If we meet in the future,’ Matt and I began sketching ideas that might make up the third album, and it is some of those very rough ideas that are heard here.

Now these are not even demos; they are pre-demo sketches and I am loath to really call them Saloon songs. While clearing out the archives I found a minidisc containing recordings of 9 these ideas. There was only one song that featured Amanda and there was no contribution at all from Mike and Alison. In many ways that was a true reflection of the state of the band in 2003. Mike had a new girlfriend and, mainly as we still hadn’t made it to America, his interest in the band was waning. Alison was playing in several other bands, most notably Tompaulin. And Amanda was busy with her university studies (she got a first). It was really Matt and I who were driving forward this project, which is why most of the recordings were just the two of us.   

But, like stumbling upon a missing vintage Pat Troughton Dr Who treasure in the archives, my brother found alternative versions of ‘Castle’ and ‘Demonology’ with Amanda singing on them. With the addition of ‘Brockley Cross’ from roughly the same period and which does feature Mike, this little collection of ideas, which oozes wth atmosphere, started to feel a bit more Saloon, and gave an indication of how Saloon #3 might have shaped up.   

The four ‘fragments’ plus ‘The Maze’ are all ideas that Matt had. ‘Brockley Cross’ was an improvised jam recorded to tape recorder in our dining room (Mike, drums; Amanda, gloch; Matt, guitar; me, bass) possibly recorded before a La Jette rehearsal.

Damon and Naomi Gig Flyer
The other four songs are all based on riffs I put together. ‘Castle’ was the only song of these that we ever played as a full band. Much inspired by American Analog Set (who at the time we hadn’t yet played with) and Galaxie 500, we performed it at a wonderful gig with Damon andNaomi and The Clientele. That night was recorded onto video, and there may be a record of it out there somewhere, but sadly not in my archive. ‘Cathedral’ features Amanda singing with both Matt and I on guitar, which was kind of rare.

‘Demonology’ was just me and Amanda. This recording, made by my brother Dom, along with ‘The Castle’ was from the only session we did in the year between Mike, Alison and Matt leaving and the official split. I had completely forgotten about this little semi-acoustic session (and I still don’t remember why we recorded it) which also featured rather poor versions of ‘2500 Walden Ave.’ and ‘Victor Safronov’.  ‘Demonology’ was inspired by reading “The European Witch-craze of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries” by Hugh Trevor-Roper, although I think the actual title came from within “100 years of solitude” which I know was on our bookshelf.

A Study in Demonology
Almost every Xmas holiday, I would lock myself away and try and write a song. The final track here ‘The Sleep Laboratory’ was written over the Xmas break 2003. I remember the joyous ‘Nina Says’ came from my Xmas writing session in 1998. But in 2003, following the band falling apart and with my mother becoming seriously ill, I was incredibly down and suffering from terrible anxiety. It was a miserable Christmas, as can be heard from this song, written for what looked to be a doomed project. I thought the use of electronics (in the vocoder) at the very end of this album would move nicely into Saloon #4 (if that ever happened). The final vocodered refrain ‘Burn Burn machine’ was a play on the band name ‘Bang Bang Machine’ the other band that came up for criticism after a ‘controversial’ Peel Festive 50 #1. 

The title of the album was Alison’s contribution. When we came to name the first album, none of us could come up with anything decent. Alison made two suggestions ‘This is what we call progress’ and ‘Speak softly, a dream sleeps here’ (it may have been 'tread softly', but lets not knit-pick.) Both titles we thought were brilliant and this project became known as ‘Speak softly’ from an early stage.

All these recordings are as I recorded at the time on the MTX-8, with the exception of the birdsong in ‘Fragment #1’, the Melodica and bass on ‘Sleep Laboratory’, the bass on Castle and I’ve done a tiny bit of snipping and added some reverb. Other than that it’s all as recorded in 2002-2003.

I have included also, in a separate playlist, the original demo versions of 'Castle' and 'Demonology'  along with another recently unearthed sketch of my own from the same sessions called 'The Black Death' .

These recordings are not the third Saloon album, they are just a collection of raw ideas, several tinged with regret and sadness. But I hope to any of you that listen to it, that they might be a small reminder of friends and family loved, lost, never forgotten. 

Friday, 23 May 2014


Summer is almost here and my strawberries are coming along nicely. It feels like a good time to post a mix of the stuff I have been listening to at the moment to get me in the mood for summer.

Obviously I can’t claim this is a Saloon-mix (it’s an Adam from Saloon mix) but I have tried to avoid the handbag-house pop-cheese stuff that I like, because I am quite sure no-one else would appreciate it.

Most of this is fairly new stuff with some big tracks from great new albums by artists you would expect to see on a Saloon-related list (e.g..
Fujiya and Miyaji, The Horrors, Ulrich etc). I am looking forward to picking up The Soundcarriers new album from the post office-tomorrow.

I also had also to include Carice Van Houten (Melisandre from Game of Thrones –sigh) and Stromae (who says that Saloon don’t like French Rap, OK he’s from Belgium and only raps occasionally but still...) as I have played their albums to death over the last few months and I’m still spinning them.

With new albums / ep’s from collaborators Mahogany and Cosines out later this year I am sure this mix will change a bit – and I’m sure I will be talking about them here later. Maybe some Saloon news on here soon too.

Enjoy the sun and I hope you didn’t vote UKIP.