Are Animals Necessary?
Gareth Stevens profiles Hastings’ musician Keith Rodway and his new album
Despite having always been obsessed with music, Keith Rodway tells me that he only really became actively involved in the arts at the relatively late age of 26 when Dave George from Alternative TV wandered into his second hand vinyl shop in Hastings in 1979. That first encounter led to the formation of The Good Missionaries who went on to play dates with bands like The Fall.
CREDIT: Dave Arnold
Rodway is a very quiet and humble man, but beneath his unassuming persona is a restless, curious and fiercely creative spirit. In his time, he has graduated two MA courses, one in Social Anthropology and the other in Digital Documentary. He founded and has directed the Trash Cannes multi-media festival for over 10 years. He has taught Film at UCL, University of Sussex and Bournemouth Arts University and, as well as all this, is on the editorial board of the online magazine International Times.
Involved in too many current projects to mention here, he has recently released Necessary Animals’ second album which has been lovingly crafted over the last two years during lockdown. More consistent and less diverse than the first, the album hangs together as a more coherent statement. There is a profoundly melancholic ache to all the songs and although all the separate instrumental parts were recorded remotely so as to abide by lockdown restrictions – no suitcases of prosecco involved here – the composite outcome has a very live quality.
You can only be impressed by Rodway’s multi-level input here. He wrote all the songs, lyrics and all. He produced the album and plays many instruments on all the tracks. The opening cut, Driving out of Town betrays his ongoing love of Miles Davis. The first bar recalls Miles’ 1986 tune Tutu, and as the track settles I am stunned by the snare sound and begin to realise the extent of Rodway’s production skills, not to mention the engineering and drumming skills of Fritz Catlin who contributed so much to this project.
In the hands of others, such an array of instruments and the oftentimes double tracked vocals would not hold together, but what we have here is a wall of sound that is seamlessly woven to simultaneously provide space and air.
Trick of the Night is a highlight for me. You can only swoon at the horn work of Sebastian Greshuk. As the tune develops and when the trumpet and flugelhorn set out on a multi-tracked section it is almost too much. Again, the drums are produced beautifully here, I know so many people who would kill for the bass drum sound he has achieved on this tune.
“The best lyrics or poetry give enough latitude for the listener to build their own mental imagery” Rodway tells me. “A recurring motif is the use of ‘she’ to reference an unidentified person who struggles in a world in which women are routinely marginalised or disparaged. All the songs are sung by women.” The vocal contributions from Ingvild Syntropia and Amanda Thompson are key to this work’s success. Like every contributor’s input, there is no ego involved, bordering on being dispassionate, their voices complement the music supremely well.
Another project that I would really recommend that you check out is Rodway’s collaboration with the multi-instrumentalist Eugene Kalamari and producer Kendal Eaton. Entitled Romney Marsh, the album is a series of experimental improvisations made in response to a pre-existing piece of music. The work is soul food for me. At risk of trivialising this fine work, it is top Sunday morning material. These cinematic soundscapes are at once plaintive, serene and meditative. At times there is a taut sense of suspense and even menace. This work is profound and definitely evokes the unique landscape of Romney Marsh with its windswept meadows, waterways and over-bearing skies.
Keith Rodway is a dark horse and yet another one of the growing number of intensely creative people I have met in the borough who need to be celebrated more.
• To listen to and purchase ‘Animalia’ by Necessary Animals go to www.necessaryanimals.bandcamp.com/album/animalia
• To listen or purchase ‘Romney Marsh’ by Keith Rodway and Eugene Kalamari go to kendal.gumroad.com/l/zeMfN
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