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Mixing It!

Amplified Wattage

Everything But The Girl

Grooves and tubes: Ben Watt masterminds a unique fusion of vintage guitars and sampled loops on the new Everything But The Girl album, Amplified Heart

Legendary producer Joe Boyd has something of a disciple in Everything But The Girl's Ben Watt. In the 1960s and '70s, Boyd worked with just about every significant British folk-rock artist of the era, from a vantage point at the head of Elektra's UK office. His promotion of alternative acoustic music created a movement, but he also delighted in electronics. Both Soft Machine and Pink Floyd benefited from his early patronage.

Some 25 years on, Ben Watt surveys a changed scene with equal enthusiasm for the acoustic and the electric. With a proud collection of vintage guitars, he'll also turn his hand to the Minimoog, if necessary, to flesh out the homespun songs he writes and sings with partner Tracey Thorn. And he'll happily blend contemporary production techniques such as looping with guest appearances by musicians once nursed by Boyd himself.

The evidence for all this is on Everything But The Girl's seventh album Amplified Heart, released on June 13. It's a good title: hearts and amplifiers - especially those favoured by Ben - both have valves. And gently beating at the core of the new album's sound is the rhythm section of Dave Mattacks and Danny Thompson, drums 'n' bass to folk royalty since Donovan was hip.

Add to this some guitar from Richard Thompson, plus the considerable coup of enticing string arranger Harry Robinson out of the woodwork for the first time since working with Nick Drake and Sandy Denny in the early '70s, and you have the spirit of Fairport Convention et al pretty much revived.

The recording demanded only a few sessions; capturing a vivid and intimate electroacoustic performance was paramount. But, like Boyd, Watt is not engaged in an exercise in pure nostalgia. Three of the songs on Amplified Heart are co-produced with John Coxon, whose grooves are to be found on dance records by Shara Nelson and Pooka.

It's the latest in a catalogue of varied production techniques adopted in loving detail by Watt and Thorn. 1984's debut Eden captured the laid-back latin vibes of London's street-smart jazz scene. By 1986, Ben was scoring for a big, MOR-style pop orchestra on Baby The Stars Shine Bright. A drum machine and sequenced bass underpinned 1988's Idlewild. And in 1990, the cream of US session musicians created a sassy, urban backdrop to The Language Of Love.

In a concert theatre, you will get a simple, acoustic duo performance from Everything But The Girl. But on record, you never know quite how Ben Watt will amplify the heart of the music next...

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The Mix - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.


The Mix - Jul 1994

Donated by: Colin Potter

Coverdisc: Mike Gorman

Mixing It!

News by Phil Ward

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