‘Hints of…’ is our fourth record. It's is an album of suggestions. Hints of emotions, of feelings, of states. It's a little shorter, quieter and perhaps more understated and reserved than previous work. It was difficult to write, record and put together, but we're very pleased with what we've made. It was inspired by a simple challenge, set by Brian Records founder Jimlad, to record four two-minute songs using two instruments each. Early experiments were not fruitful – the subconscious Ersatz mind kept trying to break free from these constraints. But the scraps on the cutting room floor eventually collected themselves together as nine new tracks. On hearing the results, Jimlad recalls: "They wilfully failed. And I am so glad they did. The sketches became songs, became a narrative, became a thing of wonder and of joy." Drawing on the minimalist roots of IN, and guided by improvisation and rapid decision-making, 'Hints of…' is a journey into the subconscious, the vague internalised shapes of emotions and mental states only dimly visible through the power of suggestion.
'Hints of...' is out now on Brian Records as a digital release and later on 2x10" LP. It is available for pre-order (vinyl) by contacting Brian Records directly here: http://brianrecords.co.uk/Contact.htmldoc or available now in a variety of digital formats on our Bandcamp page: http://ersatzuk.bandcamp.com/. It is also available on iTunes, Amazon Music, Google Play Music and all the other usual online music formats.
REVIEW: ERSATZ – HINTS OF…
A hint may be emerging or receding, or eternally destined to only exist as a thin, estranged wisp of the entity itself. A hint often inhabits other sensations, manifesting as a streak of colour upon a larger shape. A hint arrives gradually, obscured and perhaps difficult to identify, easy to misconstrue as something else entirely. Each of the track titles completes the statement. “Hints Of Emergence”. “Hints Of Regret”. “Hints Of Memory”. Ersatz pours each piece into my head with grace and care, like a liquid that cannot be spilled, sending it gushing down the side of my skull to pool at the centre. These track titles float upon the surface of the sound like a leaf, and as “Hints Of Being” sends a trumpet rising out of a watery, two-chord guitar refrain – arching up in the air like the tail of a whale – I find myself aware of my cycling breath and slight tingles in my fingers, temporarily conscious of those primitive signifiers of being.
Hints Of… never resolutely commits to anything. The cascading pianos on “Hints Of Grace” start by nodding in the direction of Steve Reich, before vacating to the wings to leave a melody slumped alone in the centre of the frame. The weary acoustic guitar and violin on “Hints Of Regret” feel thoroughly sedated by sadness in the opening moments, although by the end of the piece, the tonality has lifted toward glimmers of recovery and hope. Each of these sentiments – comfort, acceptance, reflection – are temporary; sand slipping through the gaps in fingers, held for mere moments before passing through. Their transit is slow and inevitable. They disappear down prolonged funnels of reverb decay; perishing upon the old eroded tape that carries them, falling silent as plucking hands lose the desire to play them. There are moments on Hints Of… that drag me toward sadness or euphoric relief, although each of these states comes blemished by the prophecy of its own departure. One hint makes way for another.
ATTN: Magazine, 10 Feb 2016
ERSATZ – HINTS OF (BRIAN RECORDS)
Ersatz is a project by multi-instrumentalists Ben Johnson and Jim Cornick based in Bristol, UK. They have worked together on various projects for over a decade, and under the name Ersatz for the last eight years yielding four full length albums and several EPs. Their latest, Hints Of, is by their own definition more concise and understated than their previous work, traits which are precisely what makes it such a gratifying listen and a fine introduction to the band for those of us who were not yet familiar. The album was created in response to challenge from Brian Records label runner Jim Norman, aka Jimlad, that did not turn out quite as planned, but the parameters of that exercise still influenced the spontaneity and minimalism that serve the record so well.
The word ‘ersatz’ basically means something that serves as a substitute and one can see these sketches as just that, each one a synthesized simulation of a genuine emotion or state of mind – emergence, poise, being, grace, regret, acceptance, comfort, reflection, memory – which Johnson & Cornick explore instinctively and extemporaneously using piano, synths, guitar, violin, and horns to great effect as both mood setters and narrative voices.
The overarching ambient motif in Hints Of hearkens back to the band’s self-released 2009 debut IN with only, excuse the pun, hints of some the more tangential experiments of the later releases. Both musicians play off each other beautifully and telepathically, making the most of the space the improvisational two instrument format affords. References to jazz as well as progressive and psychedelic rock are present, but in a very nuanced way so as to make the music more engaging & interesting without feeling forced or compromising the album’s contemplative nocturnal tone. “Poise”, “Being”, and “Comfort” are worthy of special mention for their beauty, but the thoughtful and uplifting end to end listening experience is a highlight in and of itself.
Hints Of is currently available as a digital download. A limited run on vinyl (50 copies) is forthcoming from Brian Records. Details on the release will be shared on Stationary Travels social feeds as soon as they are announced.
Stationary Travels, 19 June 2016