The Man Of Lists – Profiles 4 – Picturebox
As you may be aware, Pulco’s new album ’The Man Of Lists’ is due for release on June 18 and features contributions from a load of my musical pals. Next up in my ongoing series of profiles of these collaborators is the excellent Picturebox!!! I love Picturebox not just because I love their tunes (which I do loads!!) but because the project also involves Dave Hirst. Some of you my remember that we used to be in a band together called Derrero. :0)
Sturry, an unspectacular village outside Canterbury, is best known to pop history as the place where Kevin Ayers went to school, very unhappily so. It is also the cradle of Canterbury Lo-Fi, a new clandestine pop movement encapsulating all the charm but none of the noodling of the legendary old Canterbury Scene, led by and mostly consisting of resident home-recordist Robert Halcrow, the core member of Picturebox.
Actually, it’s not a movement at all, just the title of one of his instrumentals. But if it were, anyone would be welcome to join. After all, here is a man whose refreshing take on doing a local gig is to set up in a local Salvation Army building and serve tea and biscuits to anyone dropping round to listen to his music.
When Halcrow sings a song like “Ruth Bakes a Cake”, he is neither being ironic nor twee nor coquettishly kitchen sink. There is a light-hearted, profoundly uncynical love for humanity running through his lyrics that can sometimes remind you of the way Syd Barrett used to sing about the lost idea of simple kindness.
“The idea,” says Halcrow, “is to write songs about anything at all.” Anything such as errant butlers, the lurgy, having crushes, a love of French pop or those long Canterbury nights (and days, as work for supply teachers has dried up thanks to government cuts) spent watching ladies’ tennis on TV.
Over the years, his musical vehicles for these tales have moved from a conventional guitar band backing to incorporating found sounds, crude cut-ups, home keyboards and looped beats, a colourful melange that belongs in a parallel universe where the Tornadoes are widely recognised as a proto hip hop act, where Belle and Seb never went all quality on us (though Robert is still a fan), and where Robert Wyatt’s Kentish vocal delivery is the established language of pop.
A bedroom in a row of Sturry bungalows, unbothered by any pop-cultural to-dos, would seem a perfect place as any to imagine and build such a world. The fact that Robert Halcrow has engaged in little more promotional activity than to open the door to the Salvation Army Annexe on a Wednesday night might explain why the music of Picturebox has so far remained an undiscovered treasure. But it chimes with his music’s spirit, which is as far removed from any pretensions of speculative careerist hipsterism as it could possibly be.
Special things don’t always hit you over the head with a mallet, and neither will Picturebox. But you just never know, sometimes a movement can start with an instrumental named in allusion to a little hi-fi shop next to a supermarket car-park in Canterbury, some heartfelt tributes to tennis girls, and lots of tea and cake.
Click on the link to find out more about this most charming of groups - Picturebox Bandcamp
‘The Man Of Lists’ can be heard and pre ordered here
Picturebox information kindly provided and worded by Robert Rotifer & Ian Button