Fyfe Anthony Dangerfield Hutchins was born in 1980 in Mosley, a suburb of Birmingham in the heart of the UK’s West Midlands conurbation. His family moved to the leafier and somewhat less cosmopolitan town of Bromsgrove when he was eight. The Crotchety Brain knows he is a classically trained pianist and avid birdwatcher but, sadly, the global library that is the Internet seems to have forgotten that. (I’ll be having a word with the Librarian at the next opportunity.)
Taking “Fyfe Dangerfield” as his nom de plume (or should that be nom de clefs?), Fyfe formed a band called Guillemots in 2004 and they released their first album, Through the Windowpane, in 2006. As Crotchety Readers know, Through the Windowpane is one of my all-time favourite albums and I’ve been following Fyfe’s career eagerly ever since. Guillemots released three more albums between 2008 and 2012 and a Fyfe Dangerfield solo album appeared in 2010. Crotchety Man has them all.
The last Guillemots album, Hello Land!, was supposed to be the first of four albums to be released in 2012, one for each season. When it saw the light of day in May of that year Fyfe acknowledged that the band was behind schedule but promised more music soon. And so the fans waited. We are still waiting for the 2012 Summer album from Guillemots; in fact, Fyfe and his Guillemots seem to have been completely AWOL for the last six years. Then, two days ago, an email dropped into my inbox from Fyfe Dangerfield himself.
The email was entirely in lowercase, in a monospaced font, sporting black characters on a plain, pale pink background. Simplicity and clarity seemed to be paramount. It began with a polite “good morning” and on the next line announced “i am your waiter”. (That’s funny, I thought, surely I am the waiter – I’ve been waiting for Mr. Dangerfield to resurface for the last six years.) It soon became apparent that Fyfe was offering those on his mailing list a sample dish from his new musical menu.
Continuing in Fyfe’s quirky, playful style, the email heralded a series of “broadcasts” to be made available on a new website, channelsmaychange.com, starting with Birdwatcher – Episode 1 that very evening. Following the link took old Crotchety Man to a page with some intriguing artwork and a one minute audio sample. Clicking the Play button produced some disconcerting sounds: an unpleasantly distorted guitar motif, with heavy reverb, repeating ominously and overlaid with Fyfe’s spoken words intoning “channels may change” over and over again.
That certainly grabbed my attention and, with some trepidation, I dutifully revisited the new website shortly after 7 p.m. BST when the first episode was due to become available. This time the home page presented an Enter button which took me to a page with 12 thumbnails, the first displaying the Episode 1 artwork and the rest bearing dates at weekly intervals, presumably the publication dates for episodes 2 – 12.
Clicking through to the Episode 1 page I found a banner saying “Free take away!”, an audio widget for 18 minutes of music and download buttons for the music itself and for a track listing in the form of a spoof menu.
So, what do we have here? There’s no video, so it’s not the podcast I was expecting. iTunes classifies it as an album with one 18 minute track; the Crotchety Filing Clerk, however, has placed it in the EP section. Although the menu lists 6 courses, in most cases there is no clear break between the tracks.
More pertinently, these are not conventional songs. Much of Episode 1 is a collage of sampled and highly processed sounds: anything from children’s voices to bleating sheep and weird electronic effects, collected and collated to create an art form that isn’t exactly music as we know it. If you think of Laurie Anderson’s works or Pink Floyd in their more peculiar moments you’ll be getting close to what Fyfe Dangerfield has done in Birdwatcher – Episode 1.
As an album of music it wouldn’t get the Crotchety Stamp of Unqualified Approval, but if you think of it as Fyfe Dangerfield telling the world, “I’m back”, then it is very welcome. And there are some nice tunes in there, too.
Perhaps the best way to describe the Episode 1 broadcast is a spoken remark from the fifth track, Birdwatcher:
Finished? Nothing’s ever finished; it can only ever be ready.