𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗼𝗹𝗹𝘆’𝘀 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗿 - this week: Ease Your Day - James Hawken
Welcome all to 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗼𝗹𝗹𝘆’𝘀 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗲𝗿, a series of weekly reviews by Charles Connolly - an artist in his own right. Here, Charles delves into the greatest brand new singles brought to you by the best unsigned artists on our electrifying and eclectic set of 𝙉𝙚𝙬 𝘼𝙧𝙩𝙞𝙨𝙩 𝙎𝙥𝙤𝙩𝙡𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩 playlists.
𝙀𝙖𝙨𝙚 𝙔𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝘿𝙖𝙮 - 𝙅𝙖𝙢𝙚𝙨 𝙃𝙖𝙬𝙠𝙚𝙣
Charles apologises to James in advance…
Dzień dobry! I have just come back from a holiday, of sorts. Having not been anywhere in three years, the displacement was well overdue. The last time I went away, it was Poland that was unfortunate enough to have me. Specifically, Warsaw. So for a change, I decided this time to go to Warsaw. I know. Call me old fashioned. “You’re old fashioned”. Yes, yes, well done. But in fact, it is because up to this point my relationship “arrangement” has been an unusual one. My girlfriend of 8 years (the relationship, not the girl, just to be clear…!) is Polish. We have spent the majority of our relationship apart. Alone together, together alone. Not easy. This has been for various reasons, but I will not bore you with the details. I will bore you in other ways entirely. So! Aside from being able to see my lover again, this particular trip was for my girlfriend’s sister’s wedding. I have been to few weddings, and I have never really been a fan. There is usually something very forced, artificial and uncomfortable about them. This one, however, was rather more nerve-racking than usual. I don’t speak Polish, and they don’t speak English. And I was due to be meeting most of her family for the first time. Good, God. But it’s a holiday nevertheless, so I can enjoy it, right? Well let’s see…
Book flights. Book accommodation. Flights expensive due to me not booking them earlier. Accommodation expensive - because they can. Check passport is still in date. Not yet: find passport. Found passport, and it is rather amazingly still in date. Lists upon lists upon lists. Think about packing. More lists. Get frantic and lose mind several times a day each day for a week before leaving. Release new single, days before leaving. Great planning, Charles! Do final promo on single, before packing. Then pack. But after I have bought a suit. And a shirt. In the hot midday sun. Check various lists. Need jeans. Hate shopping. Won’t get jeans. Need jeans though. It’ll be fine. Wasn’t fine. Oh God, I’m going to a Polish wedding. Packed. Sit on case to zip it up. Weigh bag. Can’t weigh bag: no scales. Assume it’s okay. Worry that it’s not okay. Maybe the bag is too big. Measure bag. It’s too big. But maybe it’s fine. But what if it’s not fine. When will I stop sweating?? I have been sweating for two weeks! Is it nerves? No, it’s bloody hot! I thought London was meant to have traditionally cool, damp summers! Book coach to airport. Work out timing. Worry some more. Check passport again, as if the printed expiry date might have changed from when I last checked. Got to get to the airport around 9 years before take-off. So it seems as though I should probably have booked the coach for some time in the mid 1990s, just to be on the safe side. Just missed the coach. It was early. When does that happen?? It doesn’t happen. The previous one was late. That wasn’t my coach. Right. Phew! Must buy water. But I must finish it before I am forced to throw it away. You can take a potentially explosive lithium battery through customs, but you can’t take a bottle of Evian. But of course. Makes sense. You can take two 50ml containers of mystery liquid with you, but you absolutely cannot take one 100ml receptacle. But of course not! On trips like this, I sometimes think I should have had a minor “procedure” to have a catheter fitted, so I wouldn’t have to keep worrying about when I will next be allowed to have a tinkle. And no smoking or vaping allowed ANYWHERE in airports now!! That’ll calm the nerves of the cattle. Sorry: passengers. At the airport absurdly early, I sit and wait. The flight is of course delayed by an hour. Because there aren’t any planes. You might think the one thing an airport would have is aeroplanes. But no. Two queues for boarding. Pick one. This one. Wrong one. We take off. We land. Worst landing I have ever known. It was like a child plummeting a toy torpedo while screaming “NEEE-YOW - BOOM!”
I’m in Warsaw. In Poland. I am in Poland, for God’s sake!! Picked up by the lovely lady and her lovely father. Not so much relief, as just going with the flow. Overwhelmed with the fact that I am not in London anymore. I am elsewhere! This rarely happens. First night uncomfortable and weird. Second night in the flat we had booked. We asked if it faced the road or the backyard. They said the backyard. It faced the road. Warsaw has a new blight in the form of screaming motorbikes going 100mph, 24 hours a day. There is probably a total of around 6 bikers, but they all take turns in making everyone else’s lives a living hell. An unusual kind of courtesy. So. No sleep. Complained. Got nothing. Met many people in the first few days. They garbled in Polish while I nodded and smiled politely. But when we weren’t meeting people, we did actually manage to have some time to wander around the city. Architecturally, it is one thing or the other. There is the ancient beautiful Old Town (ancient, in that it was rebuilt in the 50s, following complete deletion in the war), and then you have the rest of the place - which is horrible. Hence why we spent almost all of our time in the glorious Stare Miasto (Old Town). Getting ready for the wedding was an awkward affair. Everyone knows everyone, and then there’s me. I met yet more of the family. By this point, I am beginning to realise that the entire population of Poland is my girlfriend’s family. My family extends to a total of about 15 people.
And here we are, at the Catholic wedding. It is proper. I am nervous, as ever. I stand when I’m told to stand, sit when I’m told to sit, and kneel when told to kneel. Not that I have a problem with this, I just have to be told by this patient lady of mine because I have no idea what anyone else is saying. The weather was perfect the entire time I was in Warsaw - except for two hours of pouring rain, just in time for the wedding. God and his sense of humour. He really does indeed work in mysterious ways… As to the reception afterwards, I have quite frankly never known anything like it! A Polish wedding is to be remembered for all the right reasons. I really couldn’t fault it. Except that I am not sure if it is possible for each guest to eat a literal tonne of food. We did our damnedest to try though. I danced the night away, like a giddy loon, and all was very merry indeed. The celebrations and constant “doings” barely ceased for a second throughout my entire stay. It was go-go-go from start to end. At some point we managed to fit in a trip to the zoo, where we saw slumbering seals. It made me yawn with delight! Then the packing resumed and the nerves came flooding back. My jeans ripped and my shoelace broke. And all the time, I had been reading about record temperatures in London - thank the Lord I missed THAT! I still couldn’t quite believe I was in a foreign land, regardless of how foreign everything was. Despite the absurdity of everything, the entire trip was actually rather fabulous and just so enjoyable. BUT…
… It was exhausting. It was exhausting from even the prospect of it, many weeks before even planning it. There was never a time when I could relax and kick my feet up. This was after all, supposed to be a holiday. And I adored it! But aside from the odd warm alfresco dinner, I was usually too alert to just be calm and simply breathe. It was also hard to keep away from my beloved New Artist Spotlight. With only two days left of my holiday, I could resist it no longer. It was time for a blast of new music. I didn’t want frenetic, I didn’t want heavy, looming, dark and fuggy. I didn’t want exciting and energising. And neither did I want to dance to electronic beeps. I needed peace. A time to close my eyes and dream - if the superbikes would allow it. And so, I remembered my dear friend, James Hawken. I always go on and on about songcraft and production, performance and mixing. Pop Pop Pop! But sometimes we need to step back and listen to other side. The side that isn’t talked about. The side B that doesn’t get played nearly as much as side A. Apologies to James and to anyone who doesn’t particularly go for my long ramblings, but I will now finally talk about a pianist who will make you think again. James Hawken has been bucking the trend for years. Never jumping on the latest sound, but simply doing what he does best. Relaxing piano music. Just that. Fingers on the ivories. Nothing more to add. No extra textures and background ornamentation, no singing, no beats, no effects. Just beautifully crafted pieces of music to lull you into dream land. His latest release is called Ease Your Day. Which is exactly what this Cornish chap managed to do for this frantic Londoner. You see, there is England, and there is England. I live in a city that barely sleeps. Much of Cornwall I would imagine to be the birthplace of said slumbering seals. And so it is only natural that James should make such peaceful, soothing music. James lightly closes his eyes and inhales slowly through his nose, before landing his fingers on the major key. His touch is soft yet defined. Dynamically in control, as only a professional’s experience can teach. There is no click track. Its tempo therefore is chosen by mood and by feel. Despite James opting for simplicity as the song’s main thrust, there are subtly clever transpositions from chord to chord. Its melody is a loosely woven tapestry that at times (1:51, for example) can feel as though written by Debussy and Gershwin, with even a hint of Rachmaninov in a more sedate state of mind. I often feel that certain artists on the NAS do not get the attention they deserve, simply because they don’t back themselves with a beat or a catchy chorus. As Monty Python once said, “we are all individuals”. These days, the world is full of attention-grabbing headlines (worthy or not), and we are perhaps rather more on edge than we used to be. We therefore maybe need a little more softness and meditation in our lives than we used to. Hence my bringing James Hawken to your attention. Classical music can do something to the soul where pop is truly lacking. It is moving. It also forces you to listen to the music itself, for there is nothing else. No words to distract or detract from the harmony. Simply beautiful music, played beautifully by a beautiful soul. It reminds one to breathe.
I, for one, needed this rest. Thank you, James. My girlfriend and I are now finally settled in London. Together at long last, and it feels right.
Part of me wanted to stay in Warsaw forever. But then my sanity took hold, as I realised that Sinatra was perhaps right after all “It's oh-so nice to go trav'ling, But it's so much nicer, yes it's so much nicer to come home”. Dobranoc.
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