Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

Wonder & Waveform: Hannah Peel’s Favourite Albums

Hannah Peel speaks to poet, writer and sometime collaborator Will Burns about the 13 albums that influenced her, from Kraftwerk to Jill Scott, Radiohead, Cluster and Steve Reich. Photo by Peter Marley.

It perhaps speaks to the nature of the times that Hannah Peel’s newest album had a somewhat different gestation to much of the work that has made up the many highs of her pleasingly non-conformist career. Film scores, super-groups, brass bands, working with bona fide musical national treasures – even the potential disaster of picking up with yours truly for our Chalkhill Blue collaboration. But Fir Wave comes out of a more singular enterprise, starting life as a project based on the re-interpretation of the library music label KPM’s 1972 album KPM 1000 series: Electrosonic, which featured one of Peel’s heroes in Delia Derbyshire.

“At first I was reluctant to do it,” Hannah told me from her home in Northern Ireland. “There was so much going on and I just wasn’t sure about making a record with no audience. But then I thought about the idea of re-working and referring to Delia Derbyshire and Electrosonic and I thought actually it could be really cool, so I went with it… So there was this interesting process, a kind of preciousness, because I didn’t mean it to be an album, for it to be listened to like that. It’s supposed to be licensed, like library music. But when I finished it, they said they loved it and that if I wanted to release it, they would happily help organise it.”

Naturally, given the circumstances, Hannah and I were talking via the ubiquitous, epoch-defining Zoom call. The unique nature of this last year shaped Peel’s own thinking on the music that makes up Fir Wave. Despite the label’s enthusiasm, and the promptings of her manager, she remained doubtful about the album’s viability as a whole, but with so much of the world on hold, she decided to look at the project again. “When lockdown came I re-listened to the recordings, got it re-mixed, and started to think of it more as a record, I changed a couple of tracks and the running order and got some input from another producer – TJ Allen – on the two singles, just to sort of re-fresh it in my mind.”

The dislocation of that first period of lockdown, the impending environmental crisis, the way we all suddenly re-appraised our surroundings, all re-lit the music. “It just felt right, suddenly, where previously it didn’t. And that’s to do with time, and our place in it. How we feel, how we live. The music always had a kind of association with nature and the environment, and it just made a different kind of sense – and a sense that meant it needed to be released.”

Which is not to say that Fir Wave is in any sense a ‘lockdown’ album. This is not the introspective, quiet electronica that has become mimetic when talking about music and nature, or landscape. Rather, Peel has fashioned a kind of upbeat, at times danceable, palpably hopeful whole that still warbles with the kind of organic textures that earth her music so profoundly.

"In the last year or so, I felt like I listened to so much music, especially in this field, that had this quality of stillness, a kind of quiet, a sense of the present moment, and I just started thinking about what I would want to hear when we come out of all this. I started to think about colour, and shape. I wanted to write something that had energy, that you could dance to. Something that replicated the energy of the culture that emerged after the two world wars.”

That restless energy is there in every synth line and drum loop across Fir Wave, as it has become ingrained through the music that makes up Hannah’s whole career – a career built on boundless imaginative instinct married to a supreme technical gift which has created a back catalogue that seems immune to standing still. Her Baker’s Dozen selection reveals just that instinct, and more besides of a fascinating artist and her influences. It reads to me like a document worthy of someone dedicated to resisting boundaries – half applied, practical text, the bricks and mortar of influence, of discovery, of learning – half personal reminiscence. Wonder and wave form. Science and magic. Memory and metronome.

Hannah Peel’s new album Fir Wave is out on 26th March 2021 via her own For My Pleasure label. Her collaborative album with Will Burns, Chalk Hill Blue, is out now and <a href="

" target="out">you can buy it here. Click the image of Peel to begin reading her Baker’s Dozen selections

First Record

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