TREMBLING BLUE STARS (TBS) is Bobby Wratten’s personal project, one of the most sensitive, moving and staggeringly sincere songwriters of all British pop. A genuine and respected figure, admired all over the World, whose beginnings date back to the golden age of indie-pop, when Sarah Records was the English pop fans’ cult label, and Bobby led the essential THE FIELD MICE. Their first single ("Emma's House", Sarah, 1988) is still a classic that absolutely represents the sound of an age and that, as the whole of the band and the label’s catalogue, is still highly-valued on the collectors’ market. THE FIELD MICE recorded sixmore singles and four LPs, all of which reflected an enormous variety of influences, from NEW ORDER’s moving synth-pop to SEEFEEL’s ambient pop, apart from continuing the best tradition of British guitar pop. It is often said that they were the missing link between THE SMITHS and BELLE AND SEBASTIAN, according to the way their thousands of fans are moved by them and the way they perfectly represent indie-pop’s aesthetic and melodic ideal.
After the band’s split, Bobby created NORTHERN PICTURE LIBRARY along with Mark and Annemari (also members of FIELD MICE). Together they record four singles and one LP, disappearing immediately after. It wasn’t long before Bobby sought catharsis from his recently dissolved relationship with Annemari in the guise of TREMBLING BLUE STARS, a name inspired by the famous sadomasochist erotic novel “Story of O”. As we’ll see, it’s true there’s some masochism.
In "Her Handwriting" (a quote from the GO-BETWEENS) Wratten open his heart and uncovers the keys to his relationship with Annemari, reflecting his feelings and suffering with an unprecedented sincerity, and becoming for this same reason an universal album with which anyone could identify oneself after an aching break-up. On this album he worked with Ian Catt, Bobby’s previous projects’ long-time producer, also very well-known regarding his work as ST. ETIENNE’s producer, arranger and composer. Rockdelux magazine said: “a very close, nostalgic, melancholic, optimistic, beautiful, courageous, touchy and charming album, saying so without wasting even one adjective”. Born to be a solo album, a cathartic project thought up to overcome a failed relationship, it was so successful that it drove Wratten to put up a band and go on with his project. Fortunately for all of us. Subsequent releases (“Lips that taste of tears", "Broken by whispers") would show us a TBS who were always moving and brilliant, and a more direct and accurate Bobby Wratten. The band is still part of Shinkansen (Sarah Records’ follow-up label), besides consolidating their relationship with Elefant and with USA’s Sub Pop. In 2001 TBS’ fourth album is released: "Alive to every smile", along with a line-up which includes many ex-Sarah Records members: Keris Howard from BRIGHTER and HARPER LEE, Beth Arzy from ABERDEEN and Harvey Williams from ANOTHER SUNNY DAY. Harvey was also part of THE FIELD MICE, and has released two other albums under his own name.
In 2003 "A certain evening light” is released: 17 songs taken from limited edition singles or previously unreleased versions of known songs. It’s a basic album to understand Bob Wratten’s career. In November, they start recording their fifth LP, released now exclusively all over the world by Elefant, which turns into their chosen platform to manage their career (as it has also already happened with CAMERA OBSCURA, among others). In their own words: “Southern skies appear brighter,” also the title of the their lp’s advance single, which includes four songs which will not be included in the album.
For Elefant Records, it’s not only a reason to be proud to release TREMBLING BLUE STARS’ fifth album exclusively all over the World, both because of the band’s obvious genius and the international acknowledgement to the label’s work and trajectory. More than this, it’s almost a dream come true; because Bob Wratten is one of those essential figures that help to write indie-pop’s little history since more than fifteen years ago, by writing wonderful, intimate and moving love songs which talk about opposed feelings everyone has ever experienced (obsession, desire, lust, break-up, remorse), altogether with a naked and fascinating sincerity. Because often, listening to his songs, it seems that he’s talking about us, about our own feelings. And well, because we’re fans. And even more when this fifth album is a new wonder in which Bobby strengthens his influences and devils, and at the same time he breaks fresh grounds for the project, ever-changing but always moving and full of skin-deep sensitivity, that TBS is.
"The Seven Autumn Flowers" opens with Beth Arzy’s gorgeous voice (from the band ABERDEEN), taking charge of the song "Helen Reddy" (the advance single’s main track, also the first videoclip in all the TBS history): sweet brilliant and almost dancey candy-pop, with references to ROCKETSHIP’s space pop or even YO LA TENGO. From this song on, it is Bobby Wratten’s melancholic and evocative voice that carries on taking us along his music up to such moving moments as in the lovely and delicate "One prayer answered", in which the narrator prays for nothing serious to happen to his love, while this prayer is stressed by a cello and plaiting acoustic guitar arpeggios go around the melody. We listen to Beth again in another beautiful song with string arrangements, "Further to fall" (with moments so absolutely BEATLES and a caressed violoncello, as in the previous song, played by Hugh McDowell, ELO’s cellist), and decorating with her voice in the distance "Kensington Gardens"’ sweeping circular tune.
This is TBS’ first brand new material in three years, and this reflects in new territories such as the dub inflections in "The rhythm of your breathing", with a broken rhythm and bass lines of unequivocal Jamaican roots (they have invented indie-dub!), or in the open recognition of their post-punk roots, paying homage to THE CURE and 80’s music with "All eternal things".
In all other respects, TBS’ new album dives deep into self-confessed indie-pop with those ambient and chamber-pop electronic touches they continue persuading and charming more and more people all over the world with. Bobby Wratten’s songs share the spirit of 70s songwriters such as JACKSON BROWNE (particularly on his most intimate and disheartening albums), or NICK DRAKE’s romanticism, along with an present day focus that adds synth-pop elements and a great deal of synth sounds (intelligently mixed with acoustic arrangements as in "If I handle you with care"), or melodic walls of sound as in "Moonlight on snow". On the production desk they are again assisted by Ian Catt (SAINT ETIENNE’s engineer and contributor); this, in songs as "Last port of call" or "Sorrow has a way", sublimates rainy indie-pop’s essence and the Sarah Records’ legacy they helped to create, with selected moments that give way to majestic and memorable choruses, with voices covered with reverb and an everlasting melancholic pitch in the voices. "The sea is so quiet" will be the second single extracted from the album and it has a perfect melody that could be signed by the best PET SHOP BOYS, euphoric by minutes but cloudy and with a little listlessness and nostalgic touch which is already their trade name. Despite this, "The seven autumn flowers" is the reflection of the most hopeful TBS: these seven autumn flowers bloom with the first sunrays that the clouds let through after the storm.
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