Assembling a network of collaborators, ex-Level 42 drummer and songwriter, Phil Gould returns to the fore with a stunning new album ‘Beautiful Wounds’ – out on June 18th via Abbey Records.
Phil Gould is a founder member, drummer and songwriter of the hugely successful British group, Level 42. At the height of the band’s popularity, he played to packed venues the world over, headlined Glastonbury and enjoyed major chart success with singles including ‘Something About You’, ‘Lessons In Love’ and ‘Running In The Family’.
Born in Hong Kong, the youngest of five children, the family relocated to the Isle of Wight when he was just six months old. Phil spent most of his youth on the Isle of Wight, playing drums from the age of 15 in local bands, often with his brother Boon, and later went on to study percussion and piano at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
Following attendance at the Royal Academy, Phil founded the group Level 42 along with Mark King, Mike Lindup and Roland (Boon) Gould, with Wally Badarou becoming an unofficial fifth member and contributing to almost all of the band’s recordings. This original Level 42 line up recorded 7 studio albums and one live album, achieving international success across Europe and North America.
Following the many successes achieved by Level 42, Phil decided to take his own solo route, spending his time raising his family whilst exploring other music genres, collaborating with myriads of talented artists, and continuing to write away from the pressure of a major touring band. Now having finished his first signed project since his Level 42 days, Phil is finally ready for the world to hear his new sound.
“I see this album as a transition for me” says Phil, “moving from popular music on a major label, and intensely labouring over the finesse of production into a simpler way of making music and leaving the mastery of each musician room to breathe.”
Phil somehow masters this idea of meeting perfection with imperfection and in the process making each track ‘human’ and full of experience and emotion. There is no question as to the quality of musicianship and production here, a real treat for audiophiles.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is the message emanating from the opening title track ‘Beautiful Wounds’, a clear highlight of the album. With intimate layers of rich, front and centre production, the track is a reflection on life’s struggles and how scars ultimately come to define us through enhancing our humanity, rather than detract from it. Amplifying Italian singer Diana Winter’s beckoning vocal, each instrument appears superimposed and pronounced without sounding overwhelming or crowded. The audible blank space only serves to compliment the mix as Gould asserts less is more on this masterful offering. In support of this track, Phil enlisted award winning director Sarah Scherer, together developing a stunning interpretive video that has gone on to appear in a number of film festivals, receiving an “Honorable Mention” at the Venice Film Awards as well as winning “Best Directing” at the Athens International Film Festival.
On Beautiful Wounds, Phil remarks: “Given the parlous state of the world it feels important to remind ourselves of the beauty that comes with our humanity, with all our foibles, our failures, our struggles, our demons and despite (or even because of) the scars we carry from the lives we’ve lived until now. We are all made more beautiful, more human by the wounds we pick up along the way. Often the damage that is done to us, or we do to ourselves, is the basis of our compassion for others.”
We move onto The Dance next, featuring one of the rare vocal performances from Phil. The track focusses in on past, romantic relationships as if through the hazy skrying of an afternoon daydream. The minimal track opening begins with the distorted clicking, like a grand clock’s mechanism turning backwards and slowly reversing time. Soon joined by the gentle lapping, sorrowful, yet driving piano, the track eases into a world of fond memories but nevertheless, of moments and relationships lost. Despite the layering of expert instrumentalism, the track remains sparse like two old lovers alone sharing their last dance in an empty hall.
A feeling that most of us will recognise arises from the next single on the track Faint Love, a sense of loss and heart break, juxtaposed with the empowerment of pulling away from a negative situation and the freedom that offers. A testament to his vision and talent, Phil Gould pulls together a myriad of collaborators and musicians throughout the album, here once again working with the immensely talented Wally Badarou (Grace Jones / Talking Heads). Lead by the immaculate vocal from Anji Hinke, Faint Love quickly finds its character and groove as the ostinato marimba invokes the cyclical nature of love and loss. This is perhaps the track that Level 42 fans will reminisce with most as the collaboration hints at the sounds these two music legends have been known for, for many years.
An altogether different style arises from the track Thank You. A stripped back piano ballad, with an exciting vocal performance from young musician Kira Osment. A young voice, given the power and maturity from the subject of thanking people from our pasts.
Equally worthy of highlighting is the track Russian Submariner, not originally destined for the album, but in fact a collaborative piece devised for television, it is the last track ever to feature Phil’s brother Boon. Sadly, Boon took his own life not long after recording these stunning guitar parts and in a bizarre twist of fate, the news was delivered to Phil whilst he was in the studio mixing this very track.
All in all, Beautiful Wounds is an exquisite example of Phil Gould’s writing and musical prowess. A clear vision, offset by the wonderful influences brought together by the talents of each contributing musician. Both existing and new fans will undoubtedly find what they are looking for in this new chapter of his career.
The album – Beautiful Wounds will be released on June 18th through Abbey Records www.abbey-records.com, an independent record label based in the Isle of Wight.