Notes on a Smiling Leaf by E.L. Heath

We asked all our artists to produce some words on their current thoughts and musical projects in November 2017. Here are the results from E.L. Heath, discussing feelings and themes around his upcoming release ‘Smiling Leaf’. To be released on CD & digital formats on Friday 25th May.

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Today is one of those curious days, one which never fully woke – the hills enveloped in mist. It is not the norm here, I am often afforded wide views of the flood plain and hills marking the edges of the valley. Welsh cwms often provide such scope whilst each remains unique to the other, this is a rural scene punctuated by industry and traversed only by a handful of roads and a multitude of lanes. If you wish to travel to a neighbouring valley you have two choices – over or around.

On this viewless day, I am concerning myself with a handful of old songs for release, many based on themes I find myself now concerned with in everyday life. The more my work required travel to the bustling metropolis with identikit stations and meetings in glass-walled conference rooms, the greater my desire not just to explore and engage with the countryside around my home, but also to learn greater self-sufficiency and a less wasteful way of living. Our mass consumer culture was a trigger for this, something I found oppressive and disorientating. Music slipped from focus at the time such endeavours took their toll. Preparing the soil in a bed, harvesting a crop or gathering wood for the fire took the place of songwriting. When seeking balance, one is never equal to the other and routines shift.

I found myself listening to these songs with trepidation – their themes were wrapped in a more bucolic view of the life I was living, when they were ideals rather than cold reality. Initial attempts felt clumsy as if what was there was there for a reason. Any addition to or edit of felt like trespass, even if what was there was not, to my ears, good enough. But musically and lyrically my mindset had not changed over the years – in many ways, I had reinforced my interests in local mythology, traditions and the harsh escapism of life far from twinkling towns. The weather, as ever, plays much on my moods these days – Machen wrote about what was underneath Welsh fields as if a violent storm could tear the modern fabric away and expose the old ways buried underneath. My house is often battered by gales. On my walks in the woods above, I regularly find a newly fallen tree blocking my path. This is an angry world, social media exposes our division and spite. Old ways are lost to the allure of new technology which in turn are thrown away, obsolete only a few years later. When attempting to write this I found my two-year-old device was unable to operate the most recent version of a word processing application.

When revisiting old themes and old songs it is haunting to see how ideas not yet fully formed can be so affecting years on. Many of them are concerned with old ways, the land, the woods and what was there before. Whilst we can never truly evade what the present throws at us, we can appreciate and attempt to understand why such things exist around us, beneath our feet and above our heads when far from seas of concrete and glass.

Claustrophobia & Paranoia: Component#4’s A Sentence

Component#4 present ‘A Sentence’ EP on Friday 27th April, via us. It will be available on CD + Digital Formats. (see listing). Here are some words written last year by Mike Rowley discussing his project.

From Wednesbury to Berlin: Component#4 and the post-industrial landscape

I grew up in the Black Country town of Wednesbury and at the time it was one of the most deprived areas of the country. Of course, when you’re growing up you don’t realise it, but it sinks into your consciousness and the environment shapes the type of music that you make.
My first album Into Memory is about that childhood, and most of the tracks are biographical.

The final track, ‘Christmas Day’, is a diary entry; an extremely vivid memory. At the age of 22 I was single, I was working in a call centre, I was living with my parents, my recording studio business had gone bust, I was in debt and I spent my weekends getting pissed quicker than any of my friends. Christmas Eve was no exception. I was hammered and I stormed out of the pub and set off home on my own. The twenty minute walk to my parents’ house was filled with ghosts: factories now closed down, the bus station where I was nearly mugged, the row of shops where I’d once been jumped by a gang and kicked around the floor, the primary school I went to…many of these memories surface on Into Memory.

On Christmas day, hungover, I turned on the computer and booked the cheapest flights I could find from Birmingham, which happened to be to Hannover. When I arrived in Hannover I immediately booked a train ticket to Berlin and upon arriving there I felt an instant, strange familiarity with the streets, the graffiti and the post-industrial surroundings. However, there was a freedom and a sense of belonging I had never felt before. The trip to Berlin had affected me in a way I couldn’t quite fathom. When I got home I began to immerse myself in the history of the Cold War and I empathised with the people of east Berlin and their need to escape. I stopped getting completely drunk all the time, I met my partner and I successfully applied for a teaching position at a prison for young offenders.

I worked there for four years and this has formed the basis of my forthcoming EP. It’s a concept piece from the perspective of a young character who feels frustrated with his life. One evening whilst out with his mates, he’s over the limit and he crashes the car, his friends die and he is sent to jail. The forthcoming EP chronicles his experiences; the hospital police interview, being taken to prison in an armoured vehicle, bullying and intimidation from other inmates, finally being released on tag, and his anxieties, depression and shame.

Every sound on the EP tries to capture the atmosphere of a prison; the claustrophobia, the concrete, the bars, the gates, the officers, the paranoia. Like my previous releases, the tracks are conceptual but the emotions are very much my own. When I worked there I too felt trapped, I was essentially locked inside myself for 9 hours a day. I struggled to find another job so for four years I willingly handed myself in to do my sentence.