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Baker's Dozen

Arcane Lore: Alasdair Roberts' Favourite Albums
Neil Macdonald , April 2nd, 2013 07:59

The Scottish folk artist picks out his top LPs, going from Bach to Kraftwerk by way of Bahamian field recordings and 14th-century French polyphonic classical music

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Alasdair Roberts' personal musical landscape is one navigated by the compass points of composition, collaboration, interpretation and inspiration. Simultaneously a synesthesiatic collision of colour and innumerable shades of windswept grey, listening to his music is nothing less than a voyage into the soul of a man consumed by the workings and heritage of centuries of songwriting and storytelling. Roberts' is a music inspired by musical theories (although he's keen to point out that he has never studied music academically), a childhood informed by the British folk music scene of the 1960s and 70s — his parents were musicians who booked touring acts to play in his mother's native Germany — his teenage years taking in everything Peel and an unending enthusiasm for playing with others.

The decade-and-a-half he's spent signed to Drag City has borne a wealth of material, from his initial output as the only constant member of pastoral folk oddballs Appendix Out through collaborations with Will Oldham and his friend the late Jason Molina, to his recent collaborations with the alumni of Scottish folk and indie. Time invested in Roberts' music is time well spent deep within a parallel culture - a culture of forgotten tradition, bygone theory and one unsullied by the conventions of what one would presume necessary to sustain a livelihood as a songwriter in 2013. Throughout his career, ancient ballads have shared record space with his own compositions, and since the lines between the two are so gloriously blurred it doesn't seem hyperbolic to posit that Roberts' take on the music of our ancestors places him assuredly at the modern fore of a lineage of composers hundreds and hundreds of years old - his is an absolute respect and understanding for what has gone before, but with an undying keenness and ability to progress it, both in terms of composition and listenership.

Roberts' enthusiasm shines through in his conversation, in fact recently described perfectly by the Quietus' Ben Graham as being "biblically literate", so to hear him expound upon the music that has shaped his life and his music is truly a pleasure. Erudite, interesting, informed and entirely bereft of pretention; Alasdair Roberts tells us why these thirteen records mean so much to him. NB: Our conversation took place before Jason Molina's tragic and untimely death.

Click on the image of Alasdair below to begin scrolling through his choices


Apr 2, 2013 1:43pm

Great choices - and it's finally got me listening to the Incredible String Band...

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Apr 2, 2013 3:55pm

Another list without Bowggy Reed! The censors are dead!

Ralf and Florian is a great album. I pray that one day they will come to their senses and accept that K1,2, and R&F are part of their body of work and just as brilliant as their more celebrated albums.

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Apr 2, 2013 4:04pm

Great piece; Alasdair's newest might be his best yet... And I was someone who first liked his trad albums more than the original but now "Amber Gatherers," "Spoils," and "Wonder Working Stone" slay me too... just takes a while to assimilate his language!

Hey John, how about roping in Dick Gaughan for a Baker's Dozen? And/or Michael Chapman?

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Apr 2, 2013 4:10pm

Never heard of him. but that's definitely diverse taste.

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Apr 2, 2013 5:03pm

Viola da Gamba has frets - cellos don't

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Apr 2, 2013 8:09pm

In reply to :

Also, to be precise, Fretwork are currently 40% Japanese, though England based.

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Apr 4, 2013 7:26am

I was listening to Guillaume de Marchaut a lot, lately. I find "Je vivroie liement" quite similar to your cover of "What put the blood on your right shoulder, son?". Both quite impressing. Vielen Dank!

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Afro Zen
Jul 3, 2015 1:13pm

Me mate's dad's cousin is Phil Minton and my cousin's son is named after Thomas Tallis. Small world!

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