Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Pineapple Thief – Where We Stood

The Pineapple Thief – Where We Stood
by Pete Clemons

The last time I wrote at length about The Pineapple Thief was around the time of the bands tenth studio album ‘Magnolia’ being released. So the time, I feel, is right, for a bit of an update.

After touring Europe and the UK, during late 2014 with The Pineapple Thief in support of ‘Magnolia’, guitarist and band leader Bruce Soord settled down to record a solo album. Something he had wanted to do for many years.

The resulting self-titled debut was recorded during the summer of 2015 with all the tracks were written and performed by Bruce Soord with Darran Charles of Godsticks playing some delightful additional guitar.

For his solo release Bruce found himself revisiting his entire life to find inspiration for the songs. From growing up in a small town, where he had gained and developed his musical tastes to becoming a father and generally reflecting on the changes to that same town.

A delightful passage of songs, for example, imagines Bruce going back in time and being spoken to by his parents and then in part 2 of the song he, in turn, is passing on that wisdom to his offspring.

While the songs describe a sense of the past that has been lost, it is also a celebration of a wonderful and yet artistically decaying town. Sound familiar?

A short tour by Bruce and Darran, supporting Sweet Billy Pilgrim, gave the songs their first tentative outing before the album was released to critical acclaim during November 2015.

After that brief soiree it was down to business with The Pineapple Thief again and Bruce started writing for a new album at the end of 2015.

To give the music a new, fresh perspective Bruce decided to step back from the production and performance side of things and see where the record took it-self.

In addition, and for the first time, The Pineapple Thief introduced several special guest performers. These included Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree, King Crimson), Darran Charles (Godsticks) John Helliwell (Supertramp), Geoffrey Richardson (Caravan) and a 4 piece choir.

Explains Bruce Soord at the time: ‘This has not only redefined our sound but also redefined how we approached the songs as a band. Gavin’s drumming is technically brilliant but also incredibly musical, and it inspired all of us to raise our game. I’ve also rediscovered my roots in terms of song-writing and arrangement’.

As it happened Gavin also helped Bruce finish off the album. Bruce explains ‘I was so stuck and I was burnt out and I had already missed our deadline’. Gavin asked Bruce to send him what he had done so far on the song ‘Tear You Up’. Gavin put down some ideas. Suddenly the album came together and crossed the finish line.

The completed album, released during August 2016 was ostensibly an album about separation, estrangement and reconciliation. Its themes were empty spaces and isolation along with other emotions we will all encounter from time to time. But again, and this is what I find with Pineapple Thief albums - as dour the subject matter might suggest the output is quite the opposite. The results tend to be thought provoking and uplifting.

The music throughout the album ‘Your Wilderness’ is in keeping with the subject matter. The subtle use of flute, for example, is just sublime. ‘Your Wilderness’ is, by and large, a quiet and sensitive album but it does have its heavy moments.

The reaction to ‘Your Wilderness’ upon its release was a resounding one. It made number 54 in the UK album charts, 57 in Germany, 48 in Sweden and number 40 in The Netherlands.

There then came the business of having to promote the album by way of a tour. But Bruce had a dilemma ‘I can't imagine taking the album on the road without Gavin on drums. We're seeing if we can make it happen’.

The Pineapple Thief, with Dan Osbourne in the drum seat, had only played one gig during 2016 and that had been at a festival in Barcelona alongside Steven Wilson, Opeth, Magma and Iamthemorning. Despite ‘Your Wilderness’ being in production process, none of the tunes was to be given an early airing. Instead the band opted for the more familiar ‘Magnolia’ set.

But before The Pineapple Thief got stuck into touring ‘Your Wilderness’ the opportunity for some solo gigs in North America came Bruce’s way. These were as support to Steven Wilson who was promoting his own album ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase.’

Apart from a festival some years ago this was Bruce’s first encounter with America. There would have been more gigs but visa issues got in the way. In fact, it went right to the wire as to whether the trip would go ahead. I remember thinking at the time that it seemed to be a gruelling schedule but Bruce enjoyed every minute in America and he appeared to be very well received wherever he went.

The ‘Your Wilderness’ tour began in January 2017 and, yes, much to Bruce’s delight Gavin Harrison was able to fulfil the dates. Support came from Welsh band Godsticks whose lead guitarist Darran Charles really earned his corn as he was heavily involved with both halves of the show.

The 14 date tour was climaxed by a sold out gig at the Islington Assembly Hall, London. It was an awe inspiring performance both for band and audience.

Filmed and recorded the concert is due to be released shortly as a CD and DVD under the title of ‘Where We Stood’.

Bruce Soord says about the show and release ‘It was our last show of the tour and our biggest headline show ever. We had 15 cameras, a massive jib, but more importantly – a sell-out crowd! The pressure was indeed on, but it’s safe to say that the stars aligned for us that night and it turned out to be one of the most memorable performances of our career so far. We’ve thrown everything but the kitchen sink at this special edition blu-ray. It has the full show; documentary footage and interviews; and 2 different 5.1 surround mixes (one natural, one discrete) – all in high resolution 24/96 stereo. It also has our last album ‘Your Wilderness’ in stereo and surround, plus the special ‘8 Years Later’ album in stereo with a brand-new surround mix too. All of that plus 5 acoustic tracks (also stereo and surround) and loads of bonus videos. This is without doubt the definitive ‘Your Wilderness’ release.’

Since the January tour The Pineapple Thief were invited to play at the prestigious Starmus festival. This year’s festival was held in Trondheim in Norway.

‘Where We Stood’ is due for release early September 2017. And as it happens the ‘Your Wilderness’ tour also resumes during September 2017. Again it takes in Europe and the UK, again Gavin Harrison has agreed to be involved and, once again, Godsticks will be in support.

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