Paul Miro is better known as frontman of British rock band Apes, Pigs & Spacemen, but over the past few years he’s being carving a career out of making music for film and television as well as his own solo career. These have heavily influenced his latest album Sinombré Volume One All Hope Is Gone, possibly his most deep and complex work to date.As the title suggests the album is the first of a pair (part two Broken Angels is marked to follow next year) that are set in a dystopian future where the world as we know it has fallen apart.
Musical themes and motifs run throughout the sixteen track album, and will probably continue through the next album too, as the tale of Sinombré is continued. Sixteen songs make it sound like it’ll be heavy going but it’s not (the lengthiest track topping just over the five minute mark). It’s also cool to see that in an age and market where music is expected to be consumed quickly due to our society’s disposable nature, Sinombré is a work of depth. The whole album can be viewed as a continuous musical journey.
The more I listen to this album the more I get out of it. I’ve been listening to it pretty much daily since I got the download. It’s been one of those peices of work that rewards you the more you listen to it. The past week or so has seen a few things worm my way into my skull so much so that I messaged Paul about my feelings on it as I’ve explored the album deeper. I’ve also pulled together quotes from the Pledge campaign and some chats we’ve had online over the past couple of months.
The Concept Behind Sinombré
“It’s a two-album concept” says Paul. “The pledge campaign that’s currently running (note – this was when the campaign was running, it has now since closed) is for the first part. It’s a dark, dystopian journey into swamp Americana. It started when I was working on an album for a TV project, which was all about the kind of themes that a lot of big TV shows follow – Vampires. demons, ghosts and things that will come and get you while you sleep. I loved the soundscape that I was building for it, and it set me to thinking that, rather than write about mythical demons, it would be great to write an album about the thre real demons in our midst. There’s this dark Western/Americana musical soundscape throughout, but the lyrics are really political. Personally, I’m prouder of it than anything I’ve completed to date. The ‘overall’ two album vibe is a start-to-somewhere story cycle. The way I look at it is, if you are of the disposition to get into the whole journey, concept, then it’s a film in two parts, so it builds and shifts with a dramatic arc. There is a definite sonic vibe throughout, but album two is a little more intense in places. But, the main thing is, that the strength of the songs as stand-alones means you don’t have to get.”
To me, the album has three distinct acts or song cycles. There’s The Beginning Of The End (which comprises Nothing Left Here (Part One) up to Travelogue), The Beast (Night Fall up to Fall From Grace) and finally there’s The Beast Triumphant (which runs from Swimming In The Dowling Pool to Nothing Left Here (Part Two). The Beast character runs through the entire narrative, being hinted at early on and becoming a fully fledged character later on in the album.
There is certainly a cinematic scope to the album. In fact, the album’s cover a silhouette of a figure beside a bare tree framed in earthy browns, burnt oranges and yellows hints at the work of film genius Sergio Leone‘s ‘Dollars‘ trilogy. It’s certainly an album with a broad musical palate, the musical equivalent of Technicolor. It’s a broad presentation with layered instrumentation that reveal hidden depths. I’ve been listening to it constantly since it’s digital release it and it really just keeps unfolding, revealing hidden musical passages and codas. Listening to the actual cd is a musical revelation. The songs increase in their depth. Sonically they take on a new life which I never thought possible. This is an album that just keeps on growing.
As Paul has mentioned before, the album started it’s musical life being inspired from soundscapes he was creating for a television project. The album drips in Ry Cooder-esque twangy guitars, reverb and a denseness that that can only be created by understanding the importance of space.
This is where Paul’s recent work as a soundtrack composer comes to the fore. Ignoring what would be the standard approach to a rock based album, Paul has unleashed an arsenal of musical weaponry you wouldn’t quite expect. Guitars and drums sit alongside electronica and pianos. The music is infused with touches of Tom Waits bar room drawl as well as Ennio Morricone‘s widescreen soundtrack masterpieces. In fact, you half expect Clint Eastwood‘s Man With No Name to appear, his weather blasted face scowling from under his hat.
Paul’s been quite a busy guy with the album. He’s done pretty much everything with it. Writing, performing, recording, engineering, mixing and producing the whole thing. He probably made his own cups of coffee too. There’s only a smattering of other names listed on the credits. Tony Wright appears as the narrator on End Of Days (recorded in a windy car park before he went onstage), backing vocals on Find The Beast are provided by Emily Ewing whilst Swimming In The Dowling Pool features the talents of Willie Dowling on harpsichord, organ, backing vocals and misanthropy.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen artwork from an album reflect the contents so well in a long time. As I’ve previously mentioned the cover suggests bleakness and desolation with the bare tree and shadowy figure. Normally the colours used would suggest warmth but to me it’s the kind of warmth you only get by burning everything to the ground.
The album artwork as well as photographs used in the PDF booklet and the campaign were provided by longtime collaborator Haluk Gurer. Dilapidated buildings, dark woods, walls with peeling paint and abandoned rooms suggest a world that has fallen a long way from what we know. It’s almost like the world of Sinombré has turned it’s back (by force?) on it’s past. Colours and textures are exaggerated to make what should be familiar that little bit unnatural.
There’s also been a series of videos put together by Ian Husbands to help drum up interest in the project featuring Alan Doyle Booth as The Devil, telling people to buy the album and taking credit for the project. Ian is also behind the videos for The Only Devil and The Devil Made Me.
The World Of Sinombré
Although it’s never really pinned down as such, Sinombré lives in a world where society has collapsed. In the PledgeMusic exclusive track Atavista (another video by Ian Husbands that can be found here), Paul narrates the story of mankind’s fall from grace through its own greed. Things seem to have fallen apart to a point where all of mankind’s hopes have gone (“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” – ‘The Second Coming’ by W.B. Yates). There is nothing left to fight for, chaos and selfishness reign the land.
Cues for this post apocalyptic environment are taken from our real world. It’s not hard to see that in the past few months since the Sinombré pledge campaign was launched in March this year the news reports have been filled with anger and hatred, violence and civil unrest. The world has become a hotbed of terrorism and distrust. It feels like we’re about to tip headlong into Sinombré at any moment.
The Beginning Of The End
The first section of the album is comprised of eight songs, which make up the first half of the album. The opening pairing of Nothing Left Here Part 1 and the spoken word End Of Days (narrated by Tony Wright of Terrorvision fame) set the tone of the album by hinting at the past. What’s happened isn’t spelt out, it’s left to your imagination. This is perfect as it allows scope for you to draw your own conclusions which helps you make Sinombré more of a personal experience as you help create it’s past. Paul doesn’t spoon feed the story, it’s up you to draw things out of the album.
“Out on the bleak horizon there rages a storm with no reprieve” croons Paul in a deep, husky voice on the title track (and single) All Hope Is Gone, the song’s character sounding resigned to their bleak fate before the final chorus kicks it up several notches. His voice sounds the best it’s sounded in his twenty year or so career and considering some of his performances in the past that’s high praise indeed. Paul has spent time to craft a career best with this album. When he says it’s his best work yet you can’t and won’t disagree with the man. Suddenly Righteous lists past catastrophes and injustices with a upbeat manner that belies the subject matter. And let’s face it, any song that features the lyrics “tickety boo” is alright in my book.
It’s around this point in the album where the themes and concepts start dropping into place. When I say concepts, to me the album draws parallels with albums like Pink Floyd‘s The Wall, Queensyche‘s Operation: Mindcrime and Green Day‘s American Idiot (incidently, aren’t concept albums the modern equivalent of classical opera?). Album’s where there’s more of a abstract concept and the listener fills in some of the spaces themselves. This is not a bad thing. To me it’s great that not everything is handed to you on a plate. You have to do some of the work yourself and part of the reward is peaking under another layer of the album.
The short instrumental Wilderness sneaks up before the self-assured arrogance of Nest Of Vipers rears it’s head. There’s a Middle Eastern feel to this song, hints of Zeppelin‘s Kashmir helps give it a certain swagger. Again, another song with an epic feel without running too long. In fact, most of the songs on this album could be put out as singles and they would all sound great on the radio (possibly a pre-Sinombré time concept). The Party is the final full song of this section, it’s final lyric of “we’ll strike a light and watch it burn” brings the first act to it’s conclusion. The fire burns away the remnants of the old world away, leaving Travelogue, another brief instrumental piece, to bridge the gap between the first and second act of Sinombré.
The middle part of the album is made up of four songs that focus on the character of the Beast, the album’s dark, shadowy manipulator. For me, the Beast is very reminiscent of Randall Flagg from Stephen King‘s The Stand and Dark Tower series. In these books, Flagg goes under several aliases such as the Walkin’ Dude, The Dark Man and The Man In Black (and, no, I don’t mean Johnny Cash) before revealing himself and his true nature: destruction, disorder and death. The Beast is similar to Flagg as he’s not so much a character but more of a concept of evil that flows like a river that flows throughout the album. Always in flux and adapting to the situation, but revelling in the chaos that follows in it’s wake.
It’s this section that feels the most cinematic of the three. The Beast weaves his/her/their way through the four songs, creating sonic tapestries that sit a little different to the other songs on the album but with similar themes that tie each other together.
Night Fall is the first of the quartet. The song is quite feral, hinting that the Beast is part of us all, that dark shadowy nature that most of us keep in check. Nods to transforming from one state to another harken back to folk tales and lycanthropy but here it’s not a literal change in character that the song alludes to, more that the Beast is inside is all. The primal drive of the chorus gives way to a sweeping widescreen chorus, possibly the one that feels the biggest on the album.
Find The Beast dances it’s way up next like Tom Waits fronting the Urban Voodoo Machine. Emily Ewing’s backing vocals help add a softness to Paul’s rasping character vocal. Here the Beast seems to meet his end after being eviciserated but as the lyrics point out “the beast’s in there” inside us all, once again reinforcing part of the album’s concept as being thematic, not narrative. Again, the rhythm of the song differs to others on the album, something that ties most of the songs together. This one swings to a Latino infused backbeat. Strictly Come Sinombré anyone?
Devil Man Jump kicks in with it’s chorus and doesn’t let up it’s upbeat pace before dropping in a killer slide guitar solo.
Act two bows out with Fall From Grace taking it’s musical cues from the previous Find The Beast. The song’s narrator croons of their own inevitable fall whilst allowing his Beast to take dominance. There is a lot of talk of duality in the album’s lyrics, of opposites. These really come to the fore in this song, acknowledging that it is man’s nature that had caused whatever calamity it is currently wallowing in.
The Beast Triumphant
The final act opens with what is musically the most different sounding song on the album. Swimming In The Dowling Pool is full of regal flourishes thanks the harpsichord of Willie Dowling (the song is a nod to his band The Dowling Pool who Miro occasionally opens for). Lyrically the song is a lot more gentle than others on the album, the lyrics more reflective (“so many questions without evidence”).
The Only Devil is swamp blues married to hip hop, it’s verse vocals more spat out over a beat and slide guitar whilst the chorus warns us that “the only devil is you.” A bar room piano and muted horn section leads the torch song Sun’s Gonna Shine, a song that wouldn’t sound out of place sung in some dive jazz bar late at night. Even though the song is quite restrained and downbeat it offers up hope by recognising that “a little rain is gonna fall before the sun is gonna shine on you.”
The album is rounded off with Nothing Left Here (Part II), a gentle reprise of the opening song with different lyrics. The words touch on the themes of the album whilst offering a ray of light in the darkness, similar in a way that The Empire Strikes Back offers that grain of hope to balance the pretty grim revelations.
Pledge Exclusive And Bonus Songs
Paul included several extra songs within the campaign. Atavista (which I’ve previously covered) set the theme and tone of the coming album, whilst Nothing Left Here (Supplemental) draws a nice line under everything with tongue in cheek references to the campaign (“just a story or two, left the ending wide open”) and “all the angels are broken” reminding us that there’s a part two to come. There’s also The Devil Made Me, a b-side to the single version of All Hope Is Gone that you can download from iTunes and Amazon. Again, it’s another song that would have fit on the album and is worth the purchase.
There was the option for Sinombré 1b The Devil’s Arithmetic, a companion album to the main event. The eleven track album comprised six new songs and five acoustic versions of songs that appeared on the main album (in order All Hope Is Gone, Swimming In The Dowling Pool, Find The Beast, The Only Devil and Sun’s Gonna Shine). But whereas most acoustic versions reek a bit of cash in, offering fairly simple readings of the original songs, Paul has spent time on reworking these versions to suit an acoustic approach. If they’d appeared on the album in this form people wouldn’t have felt short changed at all, but extras they offer a different musical view on some musically accomplished songs.
The new tracks comprise three instrumentals (Outlaw, Aces & Eights and the surftastic Dead Man’s Tale), two ‘full band’ songs (The Devil’s Ride and Evil Is Comin’) and an acoustic Ghostheart that’s worth the album asking price on its own.
Didn’t get around to pledging for it? Well, unfortunately you’re too late now but I’ve got several pairs of shoes you can loan to kick yourself with…..
Paul has succeeded in creating and running a really successful pledge music campaign. On top of that he’s created what some of his audience are saying is his best work to date, and it’s hard to argue with that opinion. Sinombré has been my go to album to listen to in past month or so. If this isn’t my top album of the year then something simply PHENOMENAL has been released by someone. And, hand on heart, I can’t see that happening.
I’d like to say a big thank you to Paul for doing this album as well as being so supportive with me writing this. Also, i would like to thanks Haluk Gurer for sending me the photos I’ve used in this feature.
Sinombré Volume One All Hope Is Gone will be on sale from his website shortly.