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David Bridie
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A humble dissertation of Mr Bridie’s most recent opus by Richard J from speedstar*

In May of 2000 David Bridie, of acclaimed bands Not Drowning, Waving and My Friend the Chocolate Cake, released his debut solo album. Act of Free Choice was a courageously esoteric record. Drawing upon his experience as a film score producer, Bridie sourced every manner of sound in the pursuit of best representing his songs. Track one to eleven unfailingly reflecting a heartfelt sincerity in music and lyric, this was a truly graceful and majestic record. It has, and shall continue to, survive as an inspiring work; uniquely so.

In February 2003 David Bridie shall release his second solo album, Hotel Radio.

‘I was very happy with what we achieved on Act of Free Choice,’ offers Bridie, ‘but I was determined this time to not make the same record. I made a conscious decision early on to break out of my comfort zone, to try different styles; to push myself’.

Hotel Radio materialised during a period of six months production with what Bridie terms a ‘traveling mobile audio circus’. Working from a number of locations, a preliminary consideration was to identify and seek out those whom could best contribute to the album’s development. Consequently—in addition to that of long-term collaborators (guitarist) Phil Wales and (arranger) Chris Scallan—Hotel Radio boasts the talents of some supremely impressive guests including Dave Mason (the Reels), Amanda Brown (the Go Betweens) and Katie Noonan (george) amongst others. However, a creative influence—which Bridie himself suggests as being particularly crucial—has been that of co-producer Nick Littlemore, better known as one half of progressive-electronica duo Pnau.

In addition to his other talents, Littlemore’s co-production was sought as means of instigating ‘… fresh sounds and a different style of drum programming,’ both factors perceived by Bridie to be important in ensuring that this record develop a sound of its own.

In Nick’s words ‘Recording and producing this album with David has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences that I have had. We shared a dialogue of noise and tones, layers of emotional depth, we created a world for these subtle, intimate and beautiful songs to exist in. It’s been like a dream, kids like me don’t get a chance to work with people like David everyday of the week. I value this experience more than I can say and I think that we will continue to work together in the future.’

Hotel Radio is a forthright album. Whilst Bridie’s talent for melding disparate sounds—traditional with contemporary—remains a feature of this record, it is the introduction of sampled, programmed and recorded beats which affords this album a character of its own.

The title track (and lead single) starts the album. An ethereal piano line winds out to greet us and is soon accompanied by that familiar out-worldly whisper:

‘February? one long day? I’d hardly call it summer when my skin’s so pale’.

First line delivered, and the character of the album is already asserted as an assured, punchy drum pattern pins the song down, and beat for beat progressively offers up a groove for the now infectious piano-hook to coil itself around. On a day like this follows, with everything; chiming guitars, keyboards, beats and more, all whirling in trance-inducing carnival specter. The steady, syncopated surge of third track, Safety Haven intimates the great success of Bridie’s resolve to underpin this album with a stronger, more forceful sense of rhythm. However, it is the cautionary Nation (‘is our whole nation of the heartless kind?’) with its driven, in-the-pocket drums and similarly determined lyric, which best heralds the faster, electronic/dance? quality of this record.

This, like Act of Free Choice, is an enchantingly hypnotic album. While AOFC achieves such an effect by weaving its sounds out stealthily, progressively into an (eventual) blanket of infinitely subtle textures and moods, Hotel Radio is a comparatively candid album. The sounds here are more clearly defined, and so too is the manner in which they are layered. This album is distinguished, from start to finish, by its commitment to an unmistakably deeper, single-minded sense of groove, and it is this quality, conveyed via infectious, alternating guitar and keyboard melodies; relentlessly marching drum and bass lines and also Bridie’s (often syncopated) vocal delivery, which affords Hotel Radio its own hypnotic effect. Even the hymn-like lament of The Tender Trap, ‘a hazy love song set in a Kings Cross bar’ plays out in evidence of this new found beat as it drifts along to the gentle sigh of a slow-mo drum loop. Rebecca Coseboom of San Francisco act Halou, provides a devastatingly sympathetic harmony to Bridie’s mournful plea; ‘It’s only when the darkness falls, then maybe you will come to me, then maybe you will come for me, some time.’

A highlight—if one must be chosen—can be found in the stately Blue Black Sky. Described by Bridie as ‘a soundtrack to someone’s life’, it is performed as a duet with Dave Mason of the Reels. The two alternate between relaying the past and foreshadowing the future, before joining to harmonise on the melancholic refrain; ‘Go walk away, walk away, walk with me out in the night. You’re so much better than this, you’re much stronger than that’. Solemnly restrained strings, brass and percussion serve as rousing accompaniment. 100 flowers in bloom (distinct in every way from Blue Black Sky) with its infectiously-syncopated dance beats and lazy, Sunday-evening trumpet, is no less worthy of note.

And herein lies the difficulty behind any attempt to conveniently label this record. Like AOFC, Hotel Radio is an album in the true sense of the word and as such it should be appreciated as a whole. Initial listening reveals an abundance of considered, contemporary sounds and beats, belying Bridie’s typically inspired arrangements and musing vocal. But first listens of David Bridie can only ever be cursory. His music—naturally enigmatic, continues to reward by revealing itself further—piece by piece, over the course of a hundred, a thousand listens.