I am Mark West, a composer, musician and illustrator based in London.
I have co-composed or performed on music used in adverts for Vogue, Canon Powershot and Evian and in films including 'Going The Distance', 'Win Win', 'Crazy, Stupid Love' and TV shows including 'Greys Anatomy', 'House', 'Chuck' and 'My Life as Liz'.
Please contact me if you need some music for your film or TV project, or for any other purpose! firstname.lastname@example.org.
30/11/15 : Christmas show - The Magic Garden
It's time for a special Christmas show! We'll be playing a free show at The Magic Garden on the day before the day before Christmas. We're going to keep it upbeat and probably chuck in a Christmas cover... come along for a mince pie and a pint.
It's been a fun year! We've written literally more songs than we can remember (seriously, we have so many demo recordings of half finished, or promising songs that we don't know what to do with them all!) and we've started to finish off quite a few of them - including a recent recording session. We released 'Fine Afternoon' in the summer too, and Dan joined our ranks as our new drummer, after Jonny bravely moved away to the other side of the world! So we're going to be plunging into 2016 with all guns blazing...
19/8/15 : Fine Afternoon
We've been working hard on new tracks and are now ready to start letting some of them out into the big wide world... You can listen to or download our summer single 'Fine Afternoon' for free from Soundcloud or Bandcamp now!
Fine Afternoon is an optimistic break-up song. It's for two people who have realised they're best friends, and that there's no need to forget all the good times.
And catch us live on Weds 19th Aug at the Folkroom Fortnightly.
Blackbird image by Toby Atkins, available as a limited edition screen print.
26/7/15 : 100 albums in 2015 part 3
So, one of my new year resolutions for 2015 is to listen to 100 albums that I'd not listened to before... of various styles, some recommended, some randomly found. Here are the next 20!
30. Biff Rose - The Thorn in Mrs. Rose's Side Simon Love has given me a load of recommended albums to listen to while on my travels - this one is from 1968 and is mainly Biff Rose and his piano. There's a lot of brilliant humorous lyrics here, delivered with perfect comic timing. Loads of little quirks. There's three live bonus tracks here not included on the album proper, including 'Shell Of A Man'... "He's just a shell of a man, but if you hold him to your ear you can hear the ocean roar" - brilliant! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thorn_in_Mrs._Rose%27s_Side
31. The Lovin' Spoonful - Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful At first I assumed this was a compilation album, until I looked it up on Wikipedia to find that it's their third album from 1966, deliberately made up of songs of different styles. This does make it a little incoherent, but (now on my third listen) the songs are all really strong and I start to like the variety. 'Summer In The City' is on here too, as the closing track. It's an interesting idea to deliberately try to record an album of different styles, they all still manage to sound like tracks by the same band of course. In The Lost Cavalry we often worry that new tracks we come up with don't sound 'like us', but they always end up doing so anyway!
32. The Beatles - Revolver Right! Time to address probably the biggest hole in my musical knowledge... The Beatles. I've heard their singles so many times undeliberately (that's not a word, but it's what I mean - I've heard them without deliberately going out to listen to them) that it's hard to tell how much I like them. as they're just 'there', and are also mixed up in my head with bad cover versions and karaoke. So, time to listen to The Beatles properly... starting with Revolver. It's nice to listen to an album through and hear new tracks. Yellow Submarine sounds a bit out of place (though it's certainly catchy!), I'd not realised it was on this album first before being re-released for the film. I love the really diverse instrumentation - with 'Got To Get You Into My Life' using just horns and 'Eleanor Rigby' using just strings for example. The drums and drones on 'Tomorrow Never Knows' and 'Love You Too' are awesome. Yep - a good start!
33. The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour I chose this album next as it's from the year after Revolver. It's a lot more experimental and psychedelic and was released in the same year as Sgt Pepper. It's not as punchy as Revolver, but there's some powerful songs on here of course - like 'Strawberry Fields Forever', 'Penny Lane' and 'All You Need Is Love'. It's good to listen to these properly, as I already knew really, they're pretty amazing. My Beatles discovery process is going well.
34. Squarepusher - Damogen Furies My first proper listen to Squarepusher, someone I know has influenced my (solo) music already, via other artists I like who were themselves influenced by him. There's a cool 360 degree video to the first track too using youtube's new 360 videos thing. Second track 'Baltang Ort' has blown me away, can't wait to listen to this loud on my proper studio speakers! I'm not really sure how a human mind can come up with this sort of complexity. Some of it is pretty hard to cope with, it's all pretty intense, but overall it's still got enough melody and rhythm to latch on to and not get too lost!
35. Okkervil River - The Stage Names As recommended by our bassist Simon - and a good recommendation, he knows me well! I think this is a band I am going to become a really big fan of, it's just my kind of thing. I love the little segue into the Beach Boy's 'Sloop John B' at the end of the album, one of my favourite songs.
36. The Beach Boys - Love You I listened to a great 6-hour Beach Boys documentary from the 70's on Radio 4 recently (with Bob Harris) and this album was mentioned, almost a Brian Wilson solo album from his rehab in 1977. It's got loads of synths on it (analogue of course), used very prominently and generally as the bassline, which wikipedia says was a big influence on synth pop. 'Solar System' is nice, I bet Michael Stipe was listening to this when he wrote half of Reveal. This is a really nice album.
37. Bjork - Vespertine One of the few Bjork albums I'd not listened to before. And I'm listening to it on a train in Indonesia looking out onto the most amazing views of mountains and rice fields. It's a beautiful album, more gentle than other recent albums. Full of love and plenty of chiming instruments, that I'm a big fan of. Second track "Undo" is especially nice, beautiful vocals and gradually building layers.
38. The Velvet Underground I know "Loaded" well after covering it in a band with Simon Love and co. as 'The Flowers Of Evil Mothers'. Loads of top lyrics here of course, and experimental stuff, more so than Loaded. 'Murder Mystery' is pretty interesting... makes me think of Slint. 'Pale Blue Eyes' is great, as is 'Candy Says', both really mellow and relaxing.
39. The Beach Boys - Surf's Up Wow, this is a truely great album, and shows the Beach Boys to be far more than just Brian Wilson, who only wrote a third of the tracks on the album (including 'Surf's Up' itself, which is the last track - and the most beautiful). It's a grown-up Beach Boys album, with plenty of melancholy and lyrics about getting older.
40. Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited Starting with the epic 'Like A Rolling Stone'. Love how Bob's verses and choruses are all weird lengths, lasting just as long as they need to until he's sung all the words he needs to for that verse. And then with some mouth organ for a while. Many of the lyrics make no sense and on some tracks the guitar isn't at all in tune, but he's a genius and this is great.
41. Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run I think this album kind of washed over me a bit... The first half seemed better, then after 'Born To Run' itself in the middle (great track) there were a couple of less impressive tracks, then the epic (long...) 'Jungleland' at the end with an unnecessarily long sax solo. Probably a great album but probably not my thing.
42. Carole King - Tapestry So many amazing hits on this beautiful album, I'm so glad I listened to it. Every song is a gem, though 'Way Over Yonder' sounds a lot like 'Love Letters Straight To Your Heart' and someone let a sax player do a solo on it. 'I Feel The Earth Move' is so energetic and powerful, and 'It's Too Late', 'Will You Love Me', 'A Natural Woman' and 'You've Got A Friend' are on here too, perfect songs. I'm so glad I listened to this album!
43. Acker Bilk And His Clarinet - Sheer Magic No less that twenty classic hits 'As advertised on TV and Radio!' including 'Wichita Linesman', 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling' and 'What A Wonderful World' on lovely 12" vinyl, all performed instrumentally by Acker Bilk on clarinet. It's really nice to listen to while working and reminds me of being at my grandparent's years ago.
44. Blur - The Magic whip The new Blur album - I'm not sure how often I'm going to come back to it, though it is a pretty decent album I think. The first track 'Lonesome Street' is incredibly hard to get out of your head... it was stuck in there for days. I've had a couple of listens to the album and will again to see how it grows on me.
45. Dr Cosmo's Tape Lab - Beyond The Silver Sea A new album, but firmly in the style of the 60's/70's. In between each track is a narrated story, a really nice one about a character trapped in a brainwashed world trying to escape past it (and past Dr Magnatron!) to beyond the Silver Sea. Most of the tracks are pretty upbeat and poppy (and some are almost Chaz and Dave) but I'm more of a fan of the slower ones like 'The Mirrors Reflection'.
46. Tom Waits - Alice I wasn't entirely sure what to expect but I loved this. Such an incredible growl. I chose one of this albums at random, this one it turns out consists of songs mostly written for a play called 'Alice'. It alternates between a quieter pretty song, then a louder more raucous one. Some of the pretty ones like 'Flowers Grave' and 'Alice' itself are really nice.
47. Geoff Love And His Ragtime Band - Ragtime With Love Another old 12" passed on to me - and this one is an absolute treat! From 1974, all instrumental ragtime classics, including 'The Entertainer'. This sort of music is just so lively and fun it's impossible not to like. The first track 'Bugle Call Rag' is especially fun.
48. The Beach Boys - Smiley Smile I thought I'd indulge myself in some more Beach Boys albums I'd not listened to yet. Smiley Smile (being the album built from the unfinished 'Smile' album, intended as the follow up to Pet Sounds) is great but a lot more experimental and often silly than I expected it to be - I'm a little addicted to 'Heroes And Villans' at the moment though, and no doubt further listens to this album will uncover more amazing ideas.
49. The Beach Boys - Wild Honey A bit more straight-forward than Smiley Smile and Pet Sounds, and I guess a bit more middle of the road. Still some great moments, including 'Darlin'.
26/5/15 : 100 albums in 2015 part 2
So, one of my new year resolutions for 2015 is to listen to 100 albums that I'd not listened to before... of various styles, some recommended, some randomly found. Here are the next 20!
11. Mogwai - Rave Tapes I've been a big Mogwai fan for ages, but hadn't got round to buying their latest album until now. I'll admit to becoming increasingly less excited about their new material, but they do always try something different, which is great to see. And this album (on first listen) is a good one... not too much singing (good!), the addition of some dirty synth basslines (works well!), some really rocky bits... it is all a bit soundscape-y maybe, and I'm not sure any of the riffs have stuck in my head yet, but given a few more listens hopefully a few faves will emerge... I love Come On Die Young so much, but there would be no point in Mogwai just making that same album over and over again.
12. Tindersticks - Simple Pleasure This is nice - great vocals, a quite soulful to the whole thing, but pop too. This is their fourth album, released in 1999. The organ splashed throughout is nice to hear too (as an organ player myself). But the main appeal for me is the voice of singer Stuart Staples, I love it, even though on track two 'If You're Looking For A Way Out' it does make me slightly (slightly!) think of Cartman from South Park ;-)
13. The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Another band I think are great but of whom I'd not listened to an album all the way through before. When I saw them at a festival once, singer Wayne had hidden tubes in his hairline that gradually bled red blood down his face throughout the show. This album is built around the eponymous single, which is clearly the standout track, but it works really well as an album. It's mixed and co-produced by Dave Fridmann who has produced loads of my favourite albums (e.g by Mogwai) and it's pretty inspiring mixing, really lively and bright but solid and chunky! (Sorry, I get excited about this sort of thing! ;-)
14. Major Lazer - Free The Universe I loved 'Pon De Floor' from their previous album (see my Kazoo remix!) and already know and love 'Watch Out For This' from this album. The album seems to get off to a slow start, but Track 4, 'Ja No Partial' get's things going a bit, and then 'Wind Up' is a bit of a winner, as is 'Sweat'. The rest of the album is a little mediocre maybe. The good bits are really good though - and will definitely make it into my DJing playlist (though probably won't influence The Lost Cavalry's music much, don't worry!).
15. Sly And The Family Stone - There's a Riot Goin' On From 1971, and featuring the single 'Family Affair'. This is pretty dark and funky, and (having just read wikipedia!) really interestingly recorded - loads of overdubs were used (on tape of course) leading to really murky vocals and some instruments almost squashed out of the mix. And 'Family Affair' was one of the first hits to use a drum machine.
16. Lou Reed - Transformer Wow, this is an amazing album. I sort of knew it would be... but it really is a good one. Including both 'Walk on the Wild Side' and 'Perfect Day', I listened to it a second time as soon as it finished. The best albums always just inspire me to want to write, and this has certainly had that effect. I'd not realised that Herbie Flowers plays upright bass on 'Walk on the Wild Side', someone I met when I was around 17 and in one of my first bands - we recorded at his studio I think, and sadly, at that age none of us knew who he was.
17. Nat King Cole - Sings The Blues From 1958 on vinyl - Nat King Cole singing some classic-sounding blues songs with a big-band style orchestra, all composed by W. C. Handy. I love listening to these kinds of records, they're so warm and comfortable, and I love the act of listening to vinyl - apart from that part at the end where the needle is looping and popping endlessly until it becomes maddening enough to make you get up and swap the sides!
18. Gustav Holst - The Planets I'm a bit uneducated when it comes to classical music, so here's some very uneducated initial thoughts when hearing The Planets Suite for the first time, as played by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Leopold Stokowski. It's impressive, some really beautiful delicate moments, and some powerful and grand moments. It does make me think of watching an old Disney film in places, and there's one bit (Jupiter) that is obviously now on an advert. Not that that's bad of course! And I like old Disney films! I'm going to listen to more classical stuff I think...
19. Scott Walker - Scott 4 A name I've known for a long time and another I've been meaning to check out properly. This album from 1969 is (according to wikipedia!) one of this 'strongest works'. It really is - it's so well rounded, full of amazing vocal performances and solid, classic melodies... I can see why it's seen as a such an inspirational album to so many people. I'm certainly going to have to find out more about Scott Walker.
20. Bert Kaempfert - Swing Another old vinyl I had - and another by Bert Kaempfert, the first being 'Dancing In Wonderland', that I used to display while I DJed at my club night 'Wonderland'! This is a collection of nice swing numbers recorded in 1978. 'In The Mood' is the closing track. It's really nice stuff to listen to while getting on with stuff!
21. Paul and Linda McCartney - Ram As recommended to me by Simon Love - this album includes 'Dear Boy', a song we covered for the forthcoming Simon Love album. I really want to like this album so that Simon isn't disappointed in me ;-) So I listened to it twice, and I liked it a lot more the second time around. It's got a really nice home-made, contented feel to it and there are some good songs - some really catchy ones. I find the fake-posh-English vocals on Uncle Albert hard to digest... and a few bits just seem silly without being funny. Ram On I quite like, Smile Away is definitely catchy, Long Haired Lady is nice and The Back Seat Of My Car is top quality. Production-wise, this is great - amazing instrumentation, with lots of what I will call 'sonically interesting moments' (in a good way!) all pieced together collage-style really well. So yeah, I like it, but (like The Beatles) I don't really think I 'get' it yet... it doesn't excite me loads, I just think it's 'ok'... so I'm probably missing something. Here's a far more well-written review: http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/16651-ram/
22. The Divine Comedy - Casanova This is great - a top quality album with all the songs basically themed around sex (apart from the last one). I knew the singles (Something For The Weekend and Becoming More Like Alfie) and of course there's the song reworked from the Father Ted theme tune :-) It's just a realy solid album, well written, great lyrics, great vocals and great arrangement. http://open.spotify.com/album/0txgYRjymfL0U28aTEK6Qk
23. Joe Innes And The Cavalcade - The Frighteners! This is a mini-album by a band I know via Folkroom Records, and who we've shared a stage with a fair few times. This is the first time I've listened to them recorded though - and it's brilliant. The songwriting is so strong, and Joe's vocals and lyrics make this a cut above the rest. There's a duet on tracks 4 and 5 (Sweetheart Revolution parts 1 and 2) that works really well - a love song that manages to be sweet and pretty without being too over the top. A few of the songs suffer slightly from a muddy recording or mix, but I probably let that sort of thing bother me more than it would bother most people. This is a fairly old release I believe... I'm looking forward to hearing their newer recordings when they come out.
24. Kings Of Convenience - Quiet Is The New Loud From 2001, this was the debut album by Kings Of Convenience, two guys from Bergen in Norway (where I'm been and played once before - it was a beautiful place!). close harmonies and pretty acoustic guitars, with a bit of drum and trumpet every now and again. It's a really nice record, sad, pretty, melencholic.
25. Shpongle - Museum Of Conciousness This is dancey, trippy, electronic, psychedelic stuff... it has a sort of world music feel to it, but mixed with synths and big basslines, and plenty of psytrance elements. It's not ambient, but it has that sort of side to it too... maybe it's ambient music that's got up for a dance. Anyway, it's top-quality, really nicely produced, and in the right situation (late at might at some festival maybe) would be awesome. I've enjoyed listening to it today a lot, and it's made me miss Boom festival! https://open.spotify.com/album/04T2dbDrecHZBs3WFdFOpt
26. King Creosote and Jon Hopkins - Diamond Mine Two friends recommended this independently, so I had to have a listen! And thanks guys... it's beautiful. So atmospheric, with lovely reverb and field recordings of people and trains. There's a Sigur Ros feel to some of the music, with the piano, pads and pump organ sounds. I love it when I listen to an album and it inspires me - which this one has certainly done. I have made some notes and we'll see if they get put into action for the next Lost Cavalry album! https://open.spotify.com/album/5jdm2D6gY3GQXGmVRTKBZN
27. Broadcast - Work And Non Work This is an early singles collection from Broadcast, an electronic indie band from Birmingham. It has a nice feel and tempo, and some interesting noises going on. It's from 1997 and does feel a bit 90's. Worth a listen, but hasn't changed my life! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadcast_(band)
28. Lemonheads - It's A Shame About Ray I'd been looking forward to listening to this one, as I remembered it from back when I was at school - probably because I always thought the title was cool. I wonder if I would have liked it if I had listened back then, as now it just sounds really average and unexciting. 'Rudderless' is the first track that gets a bit more lively, but for most of the album the music and (especially) the vocal just seems to lack a spark of excitement and effort. Maybe that's the point - and maybe I'd have associated with it more while at school! But I was listening to Pearl Jam, Levellers and Nirvana back then who still sound great when I listen to them now. This is the re-issue with the Mrs Robinson cover at the end, which is the highlight of the album for me, and reminds me of dancing in the Indie clubs at uni!
29. Kyoko - Unpure Disco This is a random CD Jonny (drumsticks) gave me. According to what I can find online "Kyoko was a Bristol (UK) band formed by three Ex-Beatnik Filmstars in 1999". It's nice - a home-made feel to it, lots of strummed acoustic guitar, drones and some looped samples, which I especially like the idea of. I'm really glad I put the CD on, it reminds me of music like the album 'A Little Knowledge Is A Dangerous Thing' as recorded by Nick and I (and friends) prior to The Lost Cavalry (an album that I may have to re-release some time!), there's a lovely warm feel to it, as if it was recorded mostly at night in a room where you couldn't make too much noise in case you woke up the neighbours. I found their old bandcamp page, and here it is: http://kyoko-uk.bandcamp.com/
13/2/15 : 100 albums in 2015 part 1
So, one of my new year resolutions for 2015 is to listen to 100 albums that I'd not listened to before... of various styles, some recommended, some randomly found. Here are the first ten!
1. Arab Strap - Elephant Shoe. I've never listened to Arab Strap though I loved Aidan Moffat when I saw him play at a Mogwai gig in Alexandra Palace, and I love the cover of 'Bill Is Dead' they did together. I didn't realise that Arab Strap had drum machines. It's a lot more like Mogwai than I realised it would be - but that's no bad thing of course. It gets a bit samey towards the end maybe, but I really like it and can't believe it's taken me this long to listen to them... A good start to my 100 new albums!
2. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - The Boatman's Call. I'm a BIG fan of Nick Cave, he's one of my vocalist and lyricist heroes, but I only discovered him relatively recently, so don't know many of the older albums yet. This one starts with "Into My Arms" (which I did already know), which has to be one of the most beautiful songs ever, I'd eat my own legs to write a song like that. The other track that triggered some inspiring thoughts and made me listen back to the lyrics was "Where Do We Go Now But Nowhere". The whole album is so all about Nick Cave's words of wisdom and the powerful voice, far less instrumentation than most bands I listen to. He's a genius.
3. Stereolab - Mars Audiac Quintet. This CD was given to me by drummer Jonny who played in our friend's Cosines and I can see the influence here, lots of rich warm Farfisa-style synths and repeating riffs. It gets pretty hypnotic and makes you want to tap your foot. This album is from 1994 and is their third album, I don't know if it's considered one of their best or not, but I'd guess it's pretty representative of their style. I'm a fan of the synths but not really a fan of the vocals... I like it, but it doesn't excite me much - Cosines for example take this style and add in more interesting catchy pop bits... listening to this album makes me want to go and listen to Cosines instead ;-) Mark.x
4. The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree. As recommended by our bassist, Simon. He says 'Pre 2002 they were ultra lo-fi. One guy and his mates recording a record a year on a tape recorder'. This album isn't as lo-fi, but is still nice and simple. Dilaudid is a pretty powerful track, with all the chopping cellos, but I think I prefer the softer songs on the album - I find it hard to like the singer John Darnielle's voice on 'This Year' and the shoutier numbers. Simon likes the personal and direct nature of the lyrics, and I agree. 'You Or Your Memory' is a great example, and 'Pale Green Things' the closing track is utterly wonderful.
5. Pavement - Slanted and Enchanted. Most of what I know about Pavement was from seeing them play at All Tomorrows Parties, this is the first time I've listened to one of their albums all the way through. Slanted and Enchanted is their first album, released in 1992. There's some really great stuff on here, "Conduit For Sale!" is stuck in my head, and the whole album is refreshingly raw and exciting, you can really picture them in the studio recording it - I think it actually benefits from the drummer not being very good back when they first started! I can really see how Pavement excited people and made people want to start their own bands.
6. Ray Conniff - Ole! This is amazing! It's a vinyl that came within a bunch of them donated to me by a lovely old chap my Mum knew. It's a compilation of mostly instrumental Latin-American and Spanish-styled orchestra pieces, all arranged by Ray Conniff. If I ever get around to making another chilled-out mix some of this is going on it. There's an incredible instrumental version of 'Do You Know The Way To San Jose?' on side one that's calling out for a dancy remix too. Loads of trumpets and a choir singing "Ba daaaaa ba dah!", it's from 1973 but sounds very 60's to me. It's all really uplifting and lively, I love it!
7. Mum. - Finally We Are No One. I already know one of their more recent albums "Sing Along To Songs You Don't Know", but this is their second album from 2002. It's more instrumental, experimental and mellow than "Sing Along...", which is more pop and upbeat. I think I might like this older album more though, it's packed with great ideas and soundscapes - lots of crackles and pops and stompy clicking samples to build up the rhythms, something I've been trying out myself more recently, I'd love to combine these sort of ideas with a strong vocal and pretty guitars. It's a lovely album, I recommend listening to it late at night in a dark room in headphones.
8. Orange Juice - The Esteemed (The Very Best Of). I kinda want to listen to full proper albums rather than 'best of's, but this CD was sitting on my shelf waiting to be heard, another one given to me by Jonny. I expected to love it, but don't really... yet, I suspect it's one that will take a few listens. I'm also very disappointed in myself that I didn't know this was the band Edwyn Collins was famous for, prior to his solo career (I first got to hear of him in 1994 with "A Girl Like You"). I'm definitely going to listen to this album again, as I really think I *should* like it... we'll see!
9. The KutiMangoes - Afro-Fire. This one is thanks to Folkroom's Ben Walker, after he played 'Fire' in between the bands at our gig last weekend (the launch of Folkroom Anthology Three). The band are from Copenhagen and this is their first album, and their only one so far - released in 2014. It's probably music that's best danced to... I'm sat at a desk, but it's infectious, upbeat, jazzy Afro-beat rhythms have made my day a lot more fun! 'Song For Fela' is perfect - a catchy flute hook with drums and percussion it's impossible not to swing your hips to (even if sat at a desk). This is going to be a fun album to play along to at home while practicing improvising Hammond organ too!
10. Roxy Music - Roxy Music. Very classic album that I'd never listened to until now - I only knew Virginia Plain, which always reminds me of the final sketch from 'Big Train'... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tFF2oB4n6M This is a great album, great songwriting and (for me) the right balance of pop and experimental sounds. The lead track 'Re-make/Re-model' is a bit of a tour-de-force, and the first half certainly seems stronger than the second, but maybe my view will change with more listens.