Of birds

by A Seated Craft

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    Where A Seated Craft's first album 'The Savage and the Small' contemplated distance and yearning, her new album 'Of Birds' looks at what it means to rebuild a life. At times stark and sparsely arranged, at others vibrant and brimming with colour, 'Of birds' is a musical aviary of orchestral sounds, Alexia's arresting voice binding it all together.

    Includes unlimited streaming of Of birds via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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about

Australian musician Alexia Peniguel is 'A Seated Craft'. One part silver-tongued folk narrator, the other golden-voiced chanteuse, her music is – as her stage name suggests – something both intricately hand-crafted and a vehicle that carries the listener, like a boat, on a journey to another place.

Where her first album, 'The Savage and the Small' (2011) contemplated distance and the weight of a journey across continents (Alexia relocated to Berlin in 2004), the new album, 'Of Birds', explores what happens once the journey is done and the weight has been put down. To do this, 'Of Birds' draws inspiration from many things, including the obvious title reference. However, perhaps the most striking of her winged muses is the bowerbird – a small, plain-looking creature that, despite its dowdy appearance, builds an extraordinary arbor-like nest to attract a mate, decorating it with the brightest found objects. In the song 'Bowerbird Bacchanal', Alexia draws parallels between this labour of love and her own experience of reconstructing her life, urging herself to 'build a bower, bound with blue and shiny things' where 'only beauty... may peruse me'. This sense of creating a space from which to sing out from permeates the album.

Musically, 'Of Birds' is a wondrous carpet-bag of orchestral sounds: trumpet, drums, clarinet, cello, treble recorder and piano all paint sceneries and build stories across a bed of bruised electric and agile parlour guitar; Alexia's arresting voice and those of her guest musicians weaving tales throughout. At times stark and sparsely arranged, such as the quiet, plaintive ode to Galileo Galilei in “1633 in Villa Medici”; at other times vibrant and brimming with sonic colour, such as the pulsating, flurry of wings and heartbeats that is 'Sardinia'; orchestrations unfold to elevate the narrative. When Alexia sings in 'Sardinia', 'bird call cuts the morning like a new pack of cards', cellos, recorders and choirboy-like voices chime in to bear witness; when she berates herself in 'I Find Geese' for her self-absorption in the midst of wonder, 'demanding beauty as ducks brush the surface', organs, pianos and accordions oscillate as if taking off from the lake itself.

Recorded over the period of a year, from the beginning of one winter through to the end of the next, 'Of Birds' emerges from its winter lair bright-eyed and joyful. As Alexia explains, 'I wanted to consciously celebrate achievements while honouring disappointments. In doing so, I wanted to create an almost symphonic environment where these things could co-exist'. She cast her net wide in order to gather her 'orchestra', working with long-time musical partners, drummer and sound engineer Benjamin Johnson and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Jule Kauert, renowned Australian producer/multi-instrumentalist Tony Dupé, UK folktronica artist Cajita, US folk-americana troubadour Ian Fisher and a handpicked selection of quietly accomplished German, Australian and North American musicians.

Much like the bowerbird collecting his kaleidoscopic material to create an alluring nest, 'A Seated Craft' has gathered a palette of both subtle and vibrant musical hues to build her bower. But has it succeeded in attracting the things she so desired? Has it revealed to her what comes after the long journey, what happens after the weight has been relinquished? Perhaps the answer to this can be found in the album cover itself, where she sits, a hint of a smile on her face, in the apartment where 'Of Birds' was recorded and where she lives today - no longer the outsider looking in but the one that belongs.

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released 20 February 2015

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about

A Seated Craft Berlin, Germany

A Seated Craft is the music of Alexia Peniguel. Originally
from Melbourne, Australia, she has lived unobtrusively in
Berlin, Germany since 2004. Lo-fi in style, hi-fi in texture, she treats words like clothing and keeps instruments like some people keep cats.
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Track Name: Summer days
Summer days, sumer tempers, summer fires
dark skies bruised and sunburnt with awakened desires
the air leaves a smokey kind of taste on the tongue
everywhere is the laughter from the old and the young

and from the room next to mine I hear you breath as you lie
feel the comfort and joy of you being close by
there's no words but the simple ones to say what I feel inside

these days are as real as they'll ever be
this is as close as anybody's ever gotten to me

you gave me smiles when the sun frowned down
I'll always have time whenever you are around
you taught me love comes even if it comes late
you had the patience like no other when I asked you to wait for me

these days are as real as they'll ever be
this is as close and anybody's ever gotten to me
Track Name: Bowerbird bacchanal
I am rising, I'm done fighting to be small
no dark hands will make me a shadow on their wall
all this silence has made a skeleton of me
I am rising, bones are rattling

build a bower, bound with blue and shiny things
all around her lair of hooks and bells and rings
only beauty and the absurd and the divine
may peruse me, may pay their dues to what is mine

oh life you've tried to make amends
with sunsets wide and humble men
but I take back now my loose ends
and bind them tight
to make the right kind
of kindling
to light a fire with

so let's burn this, let this become our bacchanal
fire and furnace, a pyre of words old and banal
light ignited – the likes of which I've never seen
line by syllable burned clean

of what was said and what was heard
do not be bound and burdened by those words
of what was done the unsung hurt
do not be ground and girded by those words
we're stronger when we let ourselves be heard
Track Name: I find geese
There I go on days like these
I find geese in the strangest corners
All is still, I have needles for eyes
Stitching up the open skies

there I go, so quietly
standing still, demanding beauty
as ducks brush the surface
as dusk shrugs the dirt off

there I go again
Track Name: 1633 in Villa Medici
such a sun I'd chosen
pulled it from a notion
polished it with prose and
oh how it shone all golden

I guess I got my science wrong
trying to move around a sun
next up I'll think that the earth is round
first comes the ache of dawn
then the birds break out in song
then all we know comes falling down

such a sun
a golden bowl, a molten lung
such emotion
a violent hymn, a pendulum
such work begun
to be unpicked, unstitched, unsewn
a once-sung wonder overthrown
and I alone, alone
yet not struck dumb
Track Name: One's friend
It's one's friend here, calling from a deep green valley
It's dark and late here, the the show is over for another year
Last night the rodeo megaphone murmured faintly in the air
softened by the valley reverb and kilometres of trees
what from afar looked like a single globe lit the oval
and the edge of the caravan park
cauliflowers and carnations won prizes
and horses were denied the opportunity
I hope your day is o-kiddy-kay
till soon

It's one's friend here, reporting from a frozen city
it's dark and early here, the day is over by mid-afternoon
last night the man downstairs drunkenly fell out of his window
his fall softened by the bushes, lucky he lives on the ground floor
and from afar the Fernsehturn looks like a globe pierced by a chopstick
its bulbous beauty made surreal by the snow
ice has staked its claim on pavements
the buildings sing off-key under their breath
oh it's a plain city but sometimes the loveliness can stop you dead
hope you're well
till next time

and you say – I'm outside time here it's quite strange
and I say – all the trees are fat and green here, it's quite a change
and you say – each day is defined by the sky
and I say – I remember the smell of the air and the light, day and night

our tiny windows of words let lovely light in my world
Track Name: Ducks and drakes
Pillows are pebbles and you are a stone's throw from sleep
Your body skimming circles on the sheets
bone tired, the lone fire is out
but the water won't break
preferring to play ducks and drakes
than let your weight through
than let the current take you

thought and light are the levers that keep the levee high
and on the crest of the creek
the rest of the sleepless lie
limbs like a lovers strewn on a funeral pyre
but the water won't rise
preferring to lie like a dry lullaby unsung
until the morning comes

and your ducks and your drakes
are all pieces of eight
flung with the latent strength of the numb
but at the break of the day
the bank's still caked with clay
and the lake remains unswum

row, row, row, row to where the water is thin
lo, lo, lo behold what's below its silver skin
oh, oh, oh, lady of the lake let them in
let her in and let him in
take them under and let them swim

pillows are pebbles and you are a stone's throw from sleep
Track Name: Field recordings
Pied crow, Cape Turtle Dove, Coucal and Go-away bird
Track Name: A tiding of magpies
When I wake up in your house
and the light outside is starting to rouse
a tiding of magpies out in the trees
who harmonise with each breath as it leaves you
and my own lungs fill like balloons
and the air in my chest lifts me up to the top of the room
and my heart is so wonderfully full
between your breath and the birds
I don't know which is more beautiful
Track Name: Muscle memory
Trickle patter caterpillar
rain's hemmed your travels in
dusty burned streets become rivers
no-one taught you how to swim
could a leaf become a boat
could a lamb learn how to lie and
if such foliage stayed afloat
where would your joy reside?

Salvage a song from the wreckage
sample all its smells and flavours
tackle the grief with the grappa
and become a gremlin slayer
as the sky-bees dance on the skin
all the girls are running riot
Scarlett's out back nursing the tom cat
while I'm failing to be quiet

Standing where all the parachutes fall
High like an angel low like a wet fog in the morn
all are calling for you not to leave
but you're reading your stars in your palm
and your heart's exercising it's muscle memory

Notre Dame n'est pas une femme
just a girl who done got lucky
see her there still swears like a sailor
acting like she knows the deal
Notre Dame's a girl still learning
all her roads still lead to roaming
but she'll find her way back home
'cos the heart's got muscle memory
Track Name: Increments
Half light, body like a kite
inclined, chest an open mine
no gold, seams all stripped and sold
oh
I know what it's like to be low, low, low
I'm not going to let your hand go
I know what it's like to move slow, so slow
all there is to give is just the start
just a part of it
cast off, departure has been cleared
sky soft, land has disappeared
light falls in increments, the sun is comandeered
oh
I know what it's like to be low, low, low
I'm not going to let your hand go
I know what it's like to move slow, so slow
all that we've to give is just the start
not the last of it
a blind spark that's lit
to lend the fire the fight to live
Track Name: Sardinia
Bird call cuts the morning like a new pack of cards
Moths twitch like eyelids pressed against the bark
our eyes, out teeth, our bones and breath
our chubby fists say yes, say yes

Here the butterflies are friendly fire
the trees are alive, the air alight with powdered flight
of slight paper wings, bare feet brush through the grass
flush the life from the leaves and they rise and rise
Track Name: Simple guest
oh, I know, I haven't known you very long
but that's just bones and a short time stretches on
strange to start there but we all start somewhere

after that storm we think we'll never again be warm
so say we all, board the windows, bar the door
oh faith, you simple guest – your hand so light on a broken chest

oh, I know, I haven't loved you very long
but that just shows; inside the little lies the strong
and oh my heart – be brave!
There's a world inside just being safe
and oh my heart – be true!
It's the simple things that will carry you
Track Name: On the cusp
old love, on the cusp
of letting go of the rest of us
old laughter, hands in the cold
the taste of your tenderness
and the hurts tenfold

and I could lie beside your smile
for all of time and still be silent

and what do we do now
that we are grown
no more branches to brandish
no more rocks to be thrown
take our bats and our balls
and shake hands
and go home?