It was not your fault but mine – I’ve known this for some time, Mumford old chap

Last year, around February, I bought Laura Marling‘s excellent Song Box edition of her album ‘Alas I Cannot Swim’ – yes, I bought an actual CD. I know. How delightfully 20th Century of me – anyway, I bought it because it is a beautiful thing to behold with lots of interesting games and trinkets ashlongside [sic] a ticket to her gig in the Union Chapel in East London.

This gig was revelatory for three reasons: her; my discovery of Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit; and my discovery of Mumford & Sons.

As they were, at that time, sounds quite different to how they sound now. All of the songs on their Myspace have since changed, been updated or dropped.

I was not a happy folker. To say the least.

I thought that what was once a subtle, humble and earnest band had been over-produced and become ostentatious [though, really their subject matter and folk form is easily still far from most others ostentatiousness] through the simplest of things, the introduction of too much sound. Too many instruments seemed to clutter the rage, melancholy and violent pain that was evident when I first saw them.

It seems that they may ahve got the balance right with this new single [below] but I’ll wait on more new stuff to see.

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5 thoughts on “It was not your fault but mine – I’ve known this for some time, Mumford old chap

  1. I saw Mumford and Sons (but have never heard any of their recordings) and thought they were brilliant. Over-production is the death of contemporary music, I feel. The 90s brought a wave of big and influential producers who were determined to leave their signature sound on a record (something perhaps initiated in the 60s by the grand old dame of record production, Phil Spector) but the naughties became obsessed with slickness, sanding down the edges of anything even slightly challenging. This is what happens when the music business has become as monopolised as it currently is. The paradigm has shifted, and our ears have mutated and adapted to this sterility. Myspace should have been the rebirth of interesting production, but the disease had already established itself in our aural canals.

  2. The only pop producer currently working (and working a hell of a lot, I might add) who has lent an interesting and personalised ‘sound’ to his records lately is, interestingly enough, Bernard Butler (formerly of Suede’s first two seminal pop records). His work on Duffy and Tricky’s records has been very interesting in the sense that the man knows good pop music, and isn’t afraid to use the sounds and ridiculously OTT polyphonic techniques he has always used, but harnessing them subtley enough to leave a stamp, not a smear.

  3. Hmm. I just had a listen to that M&Sons video, and had to turn off after 40 secs. I thought it was pretty bollocks, and I really like that band. Too slick! Turn off the fucking compressor mr. Producer!

  4. I agree. The naughties were savage on the natural aural and natural aural understanding.

    It’s such a shame in the Mumford’s case because they were so subtly brilliant before the damn banjo plicky-plucky-shat over everything.

    I think your propensity to Suede-love leaves you a little bias toward Mr. Butler [that’s not to say he’s not good but that I’m unsure he’s the only producer worth a look] but then my bias is with Van Dyke Parks due to his work on the Beach Boys, Loudon Wainwright and Joanna Newsom. I would however say that you’re right when you imply a serious talent deficit in production.

  5. Sure. I’m sure most bigshot record producers have talent. But its a talent in making things unoffensive, sellable, buyable. It is a marketing talent instead of a musical or artistic talent. Don’t get me wrong – I still maintain that good pop music is the most difficult type of music to make and produce, and the ability to produce a song that compels millions of people to go out and buy it is a remarkable thing. What separates a good producer from a bad one (or an artist from a salesman) is something subtle, something unidentifiable. Grace, perhaps. Style. Class.

    Balls, even.

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