Ben Howard has shared a second track, ‘Crowhurst’s Meme’, from his forthcoming new album, Collections From The Whiteout, released on the 26th March 2021.
Ben states: “This song was firstly inspired by a wonky synth guitar part that I had which had a kind of seasick quality to it, which in my head had a tenuous link to the Donald Crowhurst story – the famous tale of the amateur British sailor who died whilst sailing around the world. These two things seemed to marry and so it became a sort of exploration of the undocumented universal side of the story.”
Donald Crowhurst, a British businessman died while competing in the Sunday Times’ Golden Globe Race in 1969, a single-handed, round-the-world yacht race. According to Wikipedia, his ship began taking on water, and he wrote that it would probably sink in heavy seas. He secretly abandoned the race while reporting false positions in an attempt to appear to complete a circumnavigation without actually doing so. His log-books, found after his disappearance, suggest that the stress he was under and an associated psychological deterioration possibly led to his suicide.
Produced alongside Aaron Dessner (The National, Sharon Van Etten, Taylor Swift), Collections From The Whiteout heralds the first time Ben has opened the door to production outside of he and his bands closer confines.
The foreboding darkness that coated Ben’s second record I Forget Where We Were and thinly veiled its follow up Noonday Dream, isn’t so evident on Collections.. These are songs written from headlines scanned, or news stories scrolled past. Ben has taken those snippets and let his curiosity take control, creating an aural scrapbook that reverberates with tape loops and guitar FXs. Those stories sifted from the news provided inspiration for a selection of vivid narrative snapshots – the death of amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst (‘Crowhurst’s Meme’); Russian fraudster Anna Sorokin (‘Sorry Kid’); Richard Russell, the man who stole and crashed a plane in Seattle (‘The Strange Last Flight Of Richard Russell’); and the dismembered body a friend of his father found in a suitcase floating along the Thames (‘Finders Keepers’). An England puffed up into absurdity by political outrage and infighting all fed these songs. Alongside them, the personal anecdotes from the same scattered period living between Paris, Devon and finally Spain. There are sounds akin to Brian Eno, Durutti Column and Steve Reich in there, but also Neil Young and Townes Van Zandt. It’s a million miles away from Ben’s multi-platinum selling debut, but a path plotted from Ben’s then to his now isn’t so far removed.
But if you’re opening the door to a producer’s input, you might as well leave it ajar for some new players too. Aaron has hands and feet in all the pies, and he opened up his contacts book to pepper the stew. Yussef Dayes, one of the UK’s most innovative young drummer/producer’s, especially in the field of jazz features, as does Kate Stables from This Is The Kit, James Krivchenia from Big Thief, Kyle Keegan from Hiss Golden Messenger, and Aaron lent his hand too where needed. Thomas Bartlett, St. Vincent’s go-to pianist, and Rob Moose, a long-standing arranger of strings for Bon Iver and collaborator to Laura Marling, Blake Mills, and Phoebe Bridgers is also present, seasoning the mix accordingly.Long-term guitarist to Ben’s band, Mickey Smith, remains a reassuring constant.