Yesterday I received one of the occasional mailings from Billie Ray Martin’s mailing list. Of course, we have long admired the singer who first came to our attention when Electribe 101 released the best album since “A Secret Wish.” I have smatterings of her canon and enjoy it all immensely. In recent years she would put DLs on Bandcamp and I would even buy these as much as you may be aware that DL music is not appealing to me. In recent years, I would pay 2x the asking price on principle. Ms. Martin has also written some very fascinating and illuminating words on the dramatic changes that she has seen in her years in the music industry with a refreshing candor. She doesn’t mince words, so when she made the leap to a subscription model last year, it was tempting for one who doesn’t even have autodraws for most of my utility bills, much less a musician I admire. Still, I can’t go there. Yet.
For €5/month subscribers get all new music from her Bandcamp store as long as they are current, any two back catalogue releases, and access to special subscriber events. A thing to consider if you hold Ms. Martin in high esteem. With the subscriber event just announced, anyone of the persuasion to subscribe in England with easy access to the Hackney area might be advised to do so quickly, in the light of the special show she’s just announced. In order to drum up some manufacturing/promotion budget for her new album, she will be having a special “Four Ambient Tales” live recording session. For €25, just 20 subscribers will experience the following:
- Meetup in the Hackney Road Studios piano room/bar
- Experience live recording of the “Four Ambient Tales” songs
- Hear two new songs being written for the occasion with the ambient band playing piano [TBA]/pedal steel [Steve Honest]
- See the mixdown of the six tracks in the main studio room
- Have a CD burned on site with BRM happy to autograph your sleeve
That sounds like a fantastic night out in Hackney! It all happens on February 10th, so act quickly if you want to experience magic. I’m across the Atlantic, so I can only admire such events conceptually, from afar. Those with a legitimate interest should act decisively. The full story of “Four Ambient Tales” has been written here by the singer herself.
Billie Ray Martin: Four Ambient Tales GER DLX RM CD 
- Planet Of The Blue
- [I Spent Hours Again] Wishing You Well
- House Of Love
- Hearts [inst.]
- Planet Of The Blue [inst.]
- [I Spent Hours Again] Wishing You Well [inst.]
- House of Love [inst.]
I managed to get this CD in 2006, during the brief, glorious heyday of LaLa [R.I.P.]. When I had heard of “Four Ambient Tales” I assumed that this project was an ambient house project of some kind. Electribe 101 sure pointed in that direction, and this was the second thing that she released after that band fractured. The Grid were involved. Surely this was a dance record of some kind. Nothing could be further from the truth of what it was. These were four songs that were ambient in the same fashion as Brian Eno and Laniel Lanois’ “Apollo” soundtrack! In this way they pointed the way to the sounds on her first solo album, released several years later, with B.J. Cole playing pedal steel guitar along side subtle keyboard drones!
It’s music of a personal and delicate disposition that was miles away from even the “Dusty-In-Memphis-Goes-Kraftwerk” approach that made “Deadline For My Memories” so astounding when I first encountered it. Of course, B.J. Cole was the link between those two projects, but “Deadline” was still catering to a dance audience, no matter how sophisticated its approach. This was far more intimate, with the music bed barely suggesting melodic development and no rhythms at all. The melody was carried there by Ms. Martin herself.
The original 1993 2×12″ had ten tracks. I’m not sure how the versions of “Hearts” differed, though the radio edit appeared twice, for reasons unknown. The 1993 CD had only the four songs, but the 2000 DLX RM on Ms. Martin’s own Stahl2 imprint, had the four songs and four instrumental versions. “Hearts” was too slight to withstand having her vocal stripped from it, but the remainder of the tracks effortlessly slid onto the slim shelf reserved for the “Apollo Atmospheres and Sountrack” by Eno/Lanois/Eno. When Cole’s slide guitar is going places, you would be keen to follow.
– 30 –