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Once Upon A Little Time

Thrill Jockey
thrill 157 - 2005

John Parish's How Animals Move was released on Thrill Jockey Records in 2002. The final show by the band that played on How Animals Move took place in May 2003 at the Primavera Festival in Barcelona. Following this performance, Parish started thinking about his next record. He wanted to do something different -- sometimes intimate and sometimes intense, sometimes serious and sometimes frivolous, sometimes beautiful and sometimes unpleasant. Chance and circumstance were largely responsible in finding the right people to help him realize this...

In 2003 Parish made his first Italian record, traveling to Catania in Sicily to produce and album for Cesare Basile (Gran Calavera Elettrica). "I immediately related to the place, and the way of working down there. The casualness, people dropping by the studio for a glass of wine, some olives, maybe play a little guitar or something. The opposite to that sterile studio situation you often get where everything is under control and as a result it's kind of impossible to do anything genuinely inspirational," said Parish. While in Catania, Parish met a range of interesting musicians, including Marta Collica. He liked her voice and her unique keyboard style, stumbling unpredictably between delicacy and distortion.

Several months later in January 2004, Parish travelled to Rome to produce an album (Tutto L'amore Che Mi Manca) for Nada, the Italian Marianne Faithfull. Growing more attached to the Italian music scene with each new introduction, Parish built a relationship with bass player, Giorgia Poli. and engineer Marco Tagliola. Jean-Marc Butty, who lives in Paris and played with Parish in the era of PJ Harvey's To Bring You My Love, was chosen to play drums.

Once Upon A Little Time was recorded by Marco Tagliola over four sessions in the second half of last year. The first two sessions took place at Marco's Perpetuum Mobile studio in Nave, Italy. The third and final were at Toybox in Bristol and Sun Studios in Copenhagen, respectively.

Some friends, including Adrian Utley (Portishead), Jeremy Hogg (PJ Harvey), and Hugo Race (Bad Seeds, Sepiatone), dropped in to add their own personal touch to the record, but Once Upon A Little Time is really a band record. The core group of John Parish, Marta Collica, Giorgia Poli and Jean-Marc Butty developed a musical vocabulary and conversational tone that only a band can have. Most of the tracks were cut live in the studio and you can hear the trust the four have in each other as they waiver between intense emotional fragility with "Choice" and recklessness with "Even Redder Than That."

Once Upon A Little Time is Parish's first record with vocals in fifteen years. Parish began his career as a singer with cult band, Automatic Dlamini, who released two albums in the late 80s and whose line-up included Polly Harvey. However, by the beginning of the 90s, he'd grown uncomfortable with the role of frontman and opted instead to play side-kick/ collaborator with, amongst others, the Eels, Giant Sand, and most famously, PJ Harvey.

Apart from Kevin Hunter's "Somebody Else", all the songs on Once Upon A Little Time are Parish compositions. "Water Road" is an arrangement of a piece Parish originally wrote for American director Jennifer Houlton's fi lm Water. "Glade Park" was written when Parish visited the titular Colorado National Monument. He was told it was beautiful, though he wasn't able to see it because on the first day Parish contracted a serious bacterial infection in his left eye. He narrowly escaped losing it altogether and had to stay there a week while it was treated. "I couldn't stand any light, so I could only go outside in the middle of the night, crunching around on the snow with really blurry vision. It was like being on another planet. Oddly enjoyable."

Once Upon A Little Time is a title inspired by John Parish's youngest daughter, Hopey. Hopey used to begin all of her stories with this phrase and it resonated in Parish's mind with its combination of the epic and the intimate. (It should be noted that, aside from inspiring the title, Hopey also makes her recording debut on this album. She wandered into the studio while Parish was recording a vocal and started playing the organ. It sounded good, so Parish stopped singing, held the mic over the organ speaker, and left the tape running.)

Once Upon A Little Time is a sprawling and engaging record. It talks about the heroic struggle of everyday life. It talks about the sublime and the mundane. It's a stand against the myth of choice. It's a grown?up record for people of all ages.



  • 1 salo
  • 2 boxers
  • 3 choice
  • 4 sea efences
  • 5 even reder than that
  • 6 water road
  • 7 somebody else
  • 8 kansas city electrician
  • 9 stranded
  • 10 glade park
  • 11 even redder than that too
  • 12 the last thing i heard her say