Gabriel Minnikin's new record in progress is a project that I've been really excited about ever since he started recording it last year, and I've been meaning to mention it in the blog for quite a while now. I guess that part of the reason that I haven't so far is that I feel that it deserves far more time, attention and focus than a subheading amidst a load of other news and mentions of bands I know and dig.
When I started playing shows and immersing myself in the Manchester music scene I was still pretty young and I carried a lot of pretty idealistic notions, a central one being that the music industry is meritocratic and the good will always out. For a long time it really seemed to be the case, too. I was lucky to have seen so many great bands receive the recognition that they really deserved. For a while. Nine Black Alps, The Longcut, Cherry Ghost and Liam Frost (let's not mention Fear Of Music) all received considerable record deals and the path seemed to be set for them all to become the 'next big thing'. They all made great records, they were all dropped and the number of people who know about all the afore-mentioned bands is still shockingly disproportional to how good they are. It doesn't change anything to do with the quality of the music, but it does go to show how much affects awareness of good music besides quality or purity of intention. There's a whole load of bullshit too: bureaucracy, timing, fashion, money, press, etc, etc. No surprise that the music industry is as chaotic, complex and seemingly random as anything else that human beings are involved in. It can't always be helped.
Which brings me to Gabriel Minnikin. I first met Gabe a long time ago when I bought a violin bow for my guitar in Johnny Roadhouse while he was working there. Several years later, after fear of music broke up, I asked him if he wanted to play some of the songs I'd written with me. That's how I found out about his music.
Gabriel started out playing in a band called The Guthries, who formed in his native Nova Scotia. The line-up also included his sister Ruth Minnikin and Dale Murray (who both continue to make music under various guises and are still totally amazing). They made a couple of records and broke up. Gabriel has made two albums on his own (well 'on his own'): 'Hard feelings' and 'Wandering Midnight', as well as working with many different artists as a multi instrumentalist. He is also the keyboardist for the awesome Gladeyes, who are one of my favourite bands in Manchester at the minute and are currently finishing their first album. Gabe has since become a close friend, but his music has also been a source of inspiration to me and his attitude to music has had a profound effect on the way I think about being a musician.
Gabe's first two records are pretty incredible. He's a well studied, instinctive songwriter with a great sense of melody and form and a self-possessed, humble, calm attitude towards music. The instrumentation is lush and heavily layered without seeming cluttered or messy. Ruth's vocal additions add something really special to his very low, characterful range. I'm also a really big advocate of his lyric writing, which can be simple and direct, but is more often phantasmagorical, nonsensical and dreamlike in a way that never seems pretentious or contrived.
The album he's currently working on is his most ambitious so far, and it totally shocks me that its production has seemed to slip entirely under the radar. Somehow, he's managed to make an entirely DIY record with virtually no money that includes something like 100 musicians on it. A full orchestra, a thirty-odd piece choir, a band, brass, timpani drums, tubular bells... I make a brief appearance on one of my favourite songs of his and Ruth frequents a large portion of the tracks to beautiful effect as always. Sam Lench of Samson and Delilah has contributed as producer and Engineer alongside Gabriel and his talent's really shone through and made it happen.
I think that there are a few very rough, messy mixes on his Myspace, but it's really going to come together in the mixing, when everything is given its place. I'm always surprised that when I mention this project to people, no one is really aware of it. I think this is partly down to Gabriel's preference for doing things in a very insular way. He doesn't exactly scream it from the rooftops, but I think that he deserves a lot more recognition than he gets and I know that it bothers him (he has a pretty good song about it).
I know it could seem dubious to post a blog singing the praises of a good friend of mine, but I'm convinced I'd be trying to spread the word about this record whether I knew him personally or not. I honestly and sincerely believe in what he does and the lack of buzz surrounding him is a constant source of disbelief and bummed out feelings for me. I may have accepted that sometimes great artists don't get the recognition they deserve, but I haven't stopped believing that great artists deserve recognition and the most I can do is express my enthusiasm things I really love.