Half World is available via:
20th April, 2018
IT has been a little while since I last reviewed Gypsyfingers…
but they seem to have lost none of their step and magic. I will talk about their new song, Half World, in a minute but, before then, I have a few things to talk about. I wanted to talk about changing dynamics and sounds; duos who have a clear connection and understanding; how Folk is expanding and subverting expectations; bringing physicality and dance into music; building a reputation as live performers; where Gypsyfingers go from here; the rare inspiration behind songs. I have featured Victoria and Luke Oldfield before when they released their album, Circus Life. I was mesmerised by the record and was blown away by all the sounds and beauties working away. The rich interplay between Victoria and Luke; the incredible songwriter that mixed fast-flowing raps and luscious acoustic music. In many ways, Gypsyfingers remind me of a modern-day Fleetwood Mac. There are other artists who have similar sounds to Gypsyfingers but, when you examine the duo carefully; they have extra strands and dynamics that take them beyond the simple rivals and those who aim for something big. Circus Life is a remarkable album but, on their latest song, there is an indication the sophomore album will be even richer and more astonishing. On Half World; one gets the impression touring and extra time has added to the locker of Gypsyfingers. That brings me back, actually, two artists: Fleetwood Mac and Kate Bush. The former, in this case, can be brought in when it comes to comparing Circus Life’s sounds and what we can expect going forward…think the transition between Rumours and Tusk. It sounds like irony – considering Circus Life and Tusk have elephants in common – but I mean there is a toughening and added confidence in Gypsyfingers’ latest sounds. They have added to the brilliance and innovation of their debut album and now, listening to what they are creating now; I hear added muscle, production genius and naturalness. I cannot wait to digest the rest of their album but, on Half World; there is something magical and exciting we can digest. Luke and Victoria have been touring a lot since their album and have, in that time, sipped from the waters of current music and seen what others are doing.
They have quenched a thirst and sojourned to the studio. In the time between then and now – 2014 to April, 2018 – there has been a lot brought on board. Some might say a four-year gap is a long time between records but the time has been spent crafting something that seems natural to them. Mainstream artists are a bit hit-and-miss when it comes to leaving that sort of gap. Royal Blood and London Grammar failed to add anything to their debuts when they left a three/four-year break. The same, I assume, cannot be said of Arctic Monkeys. The Yorkshire band is back with a fresh album very soon and, you know, it will live up to the marker laid down by AM. One of the reasons I feel Gypsyfingers will satisfy the demand and justify the pause is because they have spent their time working on something that departs from their album. I can hear aspects of Circus Life on their latest single but, when you dive deeper into the song; there is nuance and sounds I did not notice before. Maybe it is the extra experience of being on the road but, when you keep hearing the song; I feel it is the strength of the lyrics and how much the song means to the duo. I said I would mention Kate Bush – I know I said I’d cool it on the Bush references but, as it is relevant, I cannot go back now. Bush saw her music expand and strengthen from her debut album, The Kick Inside – which, I maintain, is her finest L.P. – and really hit her stride by Hounds of Love (1985). That seven-year period saw her move through phases and take more control of her music. Although our duo has not had the same experience as Kate Bush; I notice a difference between the sounds of Circus Life and Half World. In a way; their album has more in common with the earliest work of Kate Bush: it is light and innovative and has that ethereal beauty running throughout.
Half World is a darker and, maybe, more mature work that has extra production layers and sees authority and confidence rule out. That is not to say Circus Life lacked oomph and wonder: I stand by the review when I said the record was one of the best of the year. Now, a bit further down the line, we are seeing the new phase of Gypsyfingers and where they are now. I will talk more about that but, right now, I want to explore duos again. If anything, duos are the most varied and nimble form of music in the world. I am articulating that a little hazily. What I mean is there is the freedom and mobility to explore new sounds and not be too beholden to festivals and what has come before. Luke and Victoria started making music together when they were dating – maybe only friends, I guess. They are now married and that would assume they’d be cemented and on the same page. One of the big reasons some bands split up is because members have different ideas in terms of direction and what they should be making. Many duos comprise married couples or lovers – that does not mean they are more secure and solid. If anything, there is a risk that closeness could compromise creativity unity. Victoria and Luke have been together a long time and have a democracy that works well for them. Whilst Luke is more involved with composition and production; Victoria is more in the forefront when it comes to the songwriting and lyrics (as she writes most of the songs). I may be jumping ahead when it comes to their writing but they each have their role and fulfil it wonderfully – even though Luke does provide vocals at times and the duo both work on music and ideas. Other duos, in other genres, have a different set-up and way of working. What connects all of them is that passion and understanding. I have reviewed the likes of Rews – a female duo – and it is that incredible friendship that leads to brilliant music.
Whereas solo artists are alone; bands are more driven by other factors…duos build their work on that close relationship and something means a lot to both. In the case of Gypsyfingers; Luke and Victoria have similar tastes and ideas; they are incredibly close and that love for one another comes through in their music. That closeness could lead to squabbles and disagreements – I have seen duos form cracks because there have been different agendas – but Gypsyfingers are one of the tightest and most together forces in music. One can detect this similarity and connection when listening to the music. I still feel duos do not get the respect they deserve. I have known Luke Oldfield a while now – he is the song of the legendary Mike Oldfield and a knob-twiddling super-producer who has worked at Toe Rag Studios – and know his past. I have been reading up on Gypsyfingers and it is their different backgrounds that, oddly, leads to that harmony and brilliance. Luke comes from a Rock background and, one feels, has spent more studio time with the likes of The Wytches (a Brighton band) and similarly heavy-hitting groups. Victoria has a Classical background and knowledge of dance. In a way – returning to my Kate Bush analogy – it is like Bush and Dave Gilmour (who was hugely influential when it came to her debut album) in the same group. You have that understanding of Rock and Alternative sounds and someone who brings expression and physical beauty to the songs. Many duos I see write in a similar way and share musical tastes. A reason why Gypsyfingers are so strong and varied is because of their disparate and eclectic starts. When you melt Victoria’s seduction, dance and beautiful voice with Luke’s production, musicianship and history – you get a fantastic brew that surpasses everything I can see out there in the music market.
It would be naïve to simply label Gypsyfingers as ‘Folk’. Sure; one can hear elements of Folk artists and acoustic sounds but they are more than that. Luke and Victoria have taken the genre and added their own musical backgrounds to the genre. On Circus Life; I noticed Kate Tempest-like Rap and Hip-Hop with Fleetwood Mac-nodding sounds. The record was full and lush; it retained its core and foundations but was not as restrictive and narrow as some Folk albums. That record was laid down at Tilehouse Studios. It is a space created by Mike Oldfield that houses vintage recording equipment and a beautiful scene outside the door. It is nestled in countryside and is perfect for those who want to study and knuckle down in the studio; relax and detach when they have finished for the day. That may sound like an odd digression but, when you hear the music; that contrast comes through. Gypsyfingers have that connection with nature and their take from the world around them. I hear that bond with nature and spirituality; the grace and perfection of the outside air. They mix that style and inspiration with what older technology boasts: a nod to past music and how artists used to work. On Half World, for instance; you hear the crackle and nostalgic pull of the production with the nature-explosion of the vocals. By that; there is a pulling together of classic and vintage music with the here and now. Gypsyfingers are not a duo who are drenched in nostalgia and want to return to the past: their music operates in the present-day but, given their upbringing and love of music; a nod to older sounds is only to be expected. I have seen many duos come and go – it seems like Gypsyfingers are here for the long run! The fact they have such depth and diversity in the ranks means they’ll have creative options for years to come. I have not talked about live sounds and how working on the road can strengthen what happens in the studio.
After Circus Life was unveiled; the duo embarked on extensive touring and visited a lot of different stages. They toured with James Blunt in Warsaw (in 2014) and did a three-week tour of Poland. They got a huge reception in Eastern Europe and were afforded the chance to connect with people who would not otherwise have got to hear the music of Gypsyfingers. They supported Tubular Bells for Two and are ready to strike on their own and get new gigs. In fact; they have Isle of Wight Festival (23rd June) booked and will head to Hyde Park BST (13th July). Those are huge dates and much deserved when you think about it! The fact they have visited new countries and fresh faces means all of those travelogues and sights assimilate into their new music. I can hear more depth and adventure in Half World. I have tipped my hat to a new album but, when the time is right, the duo will unleash that to the world. What I am expecting is something that builds from Circus Life’s expansive mind and curious heart and integrates all the threads and memories they have collected from the road. Touring and constant live gigs are reasons why artists strengthen and create their best work. I can only imagine what the duo will learn when they head to big festivals this summer. They will be on some enormous platforms and get the chance to play to thousands of people. Right now, they are in a great position and have a worldwide fanbase. All of these little boosts and bonuses have been brought into camp and go into their latest single. I will come to look at the song in time but, before then, I will remain on this theme. Many overlook how important gigs are when it comes to creativity and longevity. We are in a time when venues are closing and people fear irreversible damage will be done to the scene.
I am hopeful resurgence will occur and we will be able to retain the spaces we have out there. It is vital artists have somewhere they can play and new acts are able to cut their teeth – imagine what will happen to music if we are denied that! When Gypsyfingers hit the road – after their album was released – they had Patrick Kenneally supporting. He can play keyboard and drums at the same time – one might assume he has sticks being clasped by his testicles; the answer is a lot less graphic than that! – and bassist Tali Trow with them. Victoria, as a multi-instrumentalist, was on piano, French horn and guitars (with her vocal input) and Luke, as you’d expect, handled guitar duties and did vocals, too. That luscious and vast live experience meant Gypsyfingers were able to realise the sounds on the album and not have to compromise. After having that set-up and options at their fingertips; this has kept the creative flame burning and translated into the studio. What I hear now is even more bravery and inventive spirit of the duo. They have learnt new skills and been hit by other sounds. There is that distinct Gypsyfingers lustre and connection; it has been joined by other fabrics and feelings. It is hard to articulate, I guess – one needs to hear Half World and contrast that with Circus Life. You get all of the skills and experience of the performers in Gypsyfingers’ live performances. Victoria brings that dance and love of movement; Luke has that ear for epic performance – his old man’s influence comes into things – and, combined, there is an extraordinary show! You might wonder where the duo goes from here and how they will adapt. I cannot disclose too much regarding albums and future plans but, with a new song out; you know there will be a lot of chatter among fans. The duo has been busy since their debut L.P. and has been bringing their music to the people of the world. I am confident this year will be one of the biggest for them. There are fresh challenges and new stages to conquer; a sound that is more alive and stunning than ever – these are wonderful times for Luke and Victoria.
Victoria has expended words in regards Half World and it was her guitar experiments and noodling that sparked the song into life. One may assume, when it comes to guitar starts, it would be Luke that’d be behind that. It was Victoria’s that started things and the lyrics were influenced by news stories of migration and hostility. I am seeing artists compelled by what is happening on the news and how people are being overlooked. That title becomes apt and apparent when you think of the divisions and lack of humanity we are witnessing. The fact is this: we are living in a divided world and this is not the planet we want to see. Victoria was shocked and stunned by images from the news and how people can be so cruel. We should not live in a time when others are being discarded like trash and left to die – others have to fight their way to safety and negotiate a daily regime of bombing and violence. Victoria brought her sketch to Luke and that was then worked on in the studio. That germ and initial passion was given more body and direction when the two joined heads in the studio. The vocal ideas and marching footsteps were added to give momentum and guidance; Luke’s production gave the song unexpected elements – mellotron choir and ghostly sounds – but it all started from Victoria’s playing and observations. From Luke’s perspective; the new song picks up from where Circus Elephant (from Circus Life) ended. The big sound is aided by Pat Kenneally and Simon Hedges (bass); the song was featured in gigs when Gypsyfingers played Poland back in 2015. It has mutated and evolved since then but, from those earliest airings; people reacted and bonded with the song. The reason why the song is more relevant now is that more people are displaced and things are getting more callous in the world. The fact it has been played on the road and had the chance to expand and wander goes into the studio recording. It started life as a big, live-sounding song and has been kept in-tact in the studio version. It is a fascinating birth and progression that makes me think deeply about how music evolves and where inspiration comes from.
There are lips sour and worn by the dust and battle cries. There is a war and river running through her eyes and one gets big scenes and epic imaginations coming through. Half World begins with a gorgeous rippling and entrancing notes. Piano trickles and there is a build-up that gets into the mind and compels the spirit. It is a gorgeous and enticing opening that gets you thinking and produces an immense amount of atmosphere. Percussion and unexpected notes add physicality, emotions and new layers to the song. Victoria’s vocal is strong and focused. There is a sadness and seriousness that mixes with the beauty and sense of wonder. When one listens to the lyrics; you hear about boats left to dry and souls hovering in the sky. It is haunting to think but, when looking at the thing that influenced the song – migration and humans being left to die – you get a much larger and more striking view of the song. It is shocking to imagine people struggling to find safety and taking immense risks. The way Victoria delivers her words and builds those visions into the mind is staggering. Luke’s production and musical input give the song a physicality and depth that means every listener will involve themselves and get thinking. The video demonstrates new steps for Gypsyfingers. Their visual elements are more stirring and ambitious. At the start, we see Victoria walking along and the camera following her. That scene and setting mirror the relative calm of the opening moments. The song seems to take on personal relevance and meaning as it goes on. The heroine runs and is tracked through woodland; the visions match the lyrics and we cut between different settings – Victoria running and looking to the horizon. The narrative turns away from the news and ideas of immigration and to something more personal. She is still inspired by the need to change and make the world better – the horror and shocking scenes have made her look inside her heart and make improvements.
Maybe we all get humbled and stunned by seeing others struggle and endure hardships. We think about ourselves and wonder whether our quibbles and complaints are justifiable. The percussion becomes heavier and the piano picks up speed. The heroine keeps the beauty and passion of the song solid but heightens and flies with the song. The video sees her in woodland, dancing in the sun; we cut to a bath where she gets in fully-clothed. In the song itself; there is a tightrope and things were good until the need we/he fell off. I think of these words as a metaphor for a security and safety that has now gone. Maybe there is a personal insecurity and transition that is being documented. In my mind; there is a look out at the world and the feeling life is not as safe and happy as it should be. The world is splitting and there is a clear divide between the privileged and those who have to struggle to live. You can hear those expressions of upset and wonder – where are we headed and how will the world change?! The mind is split between the personal doubts and anxieties and projection of the wider world. There are little elements of Muse when one hears the symphonic piano and drums clash – it is an interesting brew. If the demo for the song was influenced by news stories and displaced souls; there is more working away in the studio version. Our heroine has inspiration in her heart and is going through a change. It is hard to say whether hardships and stark images have focused her mind on music and making the most of her life; whether they act as a comparison to the wars and conflicts in her life. As the striking and memorable video moves along – images of the heroine in a bath and in the expansive openness of nature – you imagine different interpretations. Half World is a song that has a clear origin but its actual meanings can be interpreted differently by each listener. I was looking towards the heroine and how she has gone through phases and now, in 2018; there is a desire to change the world and make the most of her life. She is aware of the cracks in the planet and, maybe, she is casting her voice in the body of a migrant. They are looking at a better world and hope to reach some promised land. They see the way the world could be and that chance for happiness – getting into boats and risking their lives to escape poverty and war.
The duo have been playing together since 2010 and started as the solo project of Victoria - she was living in Paris at the time. Victoria moved to London and was introduced to Luke Oldfield. This was before they were married, you understand. He offered to produce a debut Gypsyfingers album and lend his hand to the mix. Their partnership formed and became deeper from there. Rather than it being a solo offering from Victoria; the duo became closer and, by 2013, they were a concrete and connected duo. New sounds were brought into the fold and, in 2014; Circus Life was brought into the world. It is interesting seeing how Gypsyfingers has grown from Victoria’s moniker and taken on a new life in 2018. Now; the guys now have expanded their sound and are working as a four-piece. They have recruited Tali Trow on bass guitar and have a fuller sound. I have mentioned them as a duo because I am not sure whether they will operate as a four-piece on the road or studio too – and, whether any of the notes we hear on Half World were part of the new line-up. In any case; it seems like things are evolving and growing for Gypsyfingers. Those fresh additions and ideas will add to their arsenal when they head to the Isle of Wight and play big stages this year. Half World is the next chapter in the Gypsyfingers odyssey. They have made changes since 2014 and are growing bigger and stronger by the release. I have been following them since then – I was not aware of them prior to that – and can hear new inspirations and chemistry in the music. I cannot wait to hear what comes next and where Gypsyfingers will go. They are playing gigs over the coming weeks/months and it will be chance to see Half World brought to the world. I am not sure what they have marked in regards a new album and when it is coming out – one assumes the new single is the first step from their sophomore record. I am looking forward to watching Victoria and Luke’s duo grow and tackle new areas. Half World is a fantastic and fascinating song from an act that is amongst the finest in the music world. Once you hear Half World; you will be taken away and compelled to think more closely. I have been listening to the song over and over and still…
CAN’T get enough of it!
Sleeping pic by Julien Weber
Jumping pic by Alexandra Cameron
Clothes rail pic by Sally Low
Victoria singing pic by Sally Low
Sitting in grass pic by Alex Cameron
Band Dressing room pic by Sally Low