The Sea Cabinet

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The Sea Cabinet
Studio album by Gwyneth Herbert
Released 20 May 2013 (UK)
Genre Jazz; Singer-songwriter
Label Monkeywood
Producer Gwyneth Herbert and Dave Price
Gwyneth Herbert chronology
All the Ghosts (2009) The Sea Cabinet (2013)

The Sea Cabinet, the sixth album by British singer-songwriter Gwyneth Herbert, was released on 20 May 2013.


In January 2010, Gwyneth Herbert was commissioned by Snape Maltings as artist in residence to write, record and perform a new body of work based on stories of the sea.[1] This was performed in October 2010 at Snape Maltings.[2][3]


An album of this music, The Sea Cabinet,[4] was produced by Gwyneth Herbert and Dave Price. It was recorded and engineered by Robert Harder at Britten Studio at Aldeburgh Music, Suffolk, with additional recording and engineering by Robert Harder at Satellite Studios and by Dave Price at the Old Locker Room. The album was mixed by Robert Harder, Gwyneth Herbert and Dave Price and was mastered by Robert Harder.[5]

The album's cover artwork was by Sarah Jones, with photography by Rosie Reed Gold.[5]


The album, financed through a crowd-funding initiative,[6][7][8][9] was released on Herbert's own Monkeywood label in May 2013 and launched in a series of concerts from 23 to 26 May at Wilton's Music Hall in London's East End.[10][11]


The album takes the form of a song cycle and a storyline[9] which Herbert describes a follows: "Every day, a woman walks the beach alone, obsessively collecting every discarded and washed up object that she finds. She takes them home to catalogue each one with the care and rigour of a scientist. The artefacts are then placed in 'The Sea Cabinet', and every one sings with the memory of a secret sea-set story – the victory of a Fishguard cobbler's wife, a jaded seaside hotel, a sunken chapel, the shifting sands of wartime Alderney, the dangerous allure of the King's Shilling, the loves and the losses and the stars and the whores and the drink and the drowning and the drip, drip, drip..."[10]


The album includes a new version of Herbert's "Lorelei"; this song also featured on her previous albums Ten Lives and All the Ghosts.

In her song "Alderney" Herbert tells the story of the sudden evacuation of the inhabitants of Alderney, one of the Channel Islands, in the Second World War. She sings about the Nazi occupation of the island and the move of 6000 labour camp inmates into the homes of the people who had left, the scarring of Alderney's coastline with huge concrete buttresses and, finally, after the liberation of the island, the emotional return of the evacuated inhabitants, who find the landscape of their home irreparably changed.[9][12]

In a metaphor for an eroded love affair, "I Still Hear the Bells", co-written by Gwyneth Herbert and Fiona Bevan, refers to the "drowned" Suffolk village of Dunwich,[8] which was severely flooded in the thirteenth century.[13] A popular local legend says that, at certain tides, church bells can still be heard from beneath the waves.[14]

Instead of the usual two or three seconds of silence between tracks, Herbert inserts the sound of her walking across the stones at Aldeburgh.[8]


The Financial Times' four-star review called it "a concept album about the debt British history owes to the sea".[15]

In a four-star review The Independent described it as a "cabinet of curiosities" with "a cabaret approach to storytelling, in rollicking sea shanties and waltzes", and "inventive" instrumentation "featuring wheezing accordions, warbling woodwind, tinkling music boxes and rolling bells".[16] The East Anglian Daily Times described the album's "collection of unusual percussive bells, bottles and ringing sounds" as "rather reminiscent of Benjamin Britten’s slung mugs in Noyes Fludde".[8]

John Eyles for All About Jazz praised its "consistency and unity of sound and tone" and the fact that several of the songs "could be taken for traditional folk songs rather than new compositions".[17]

The Art of the Torch Singer described the album as "Haunted and haunting. Poignant and achingly beautiful. Ribald and raunchy. Evocative and nostalgic...In its lovingly-produced completeness, this album is a work of art".[18]

Track listing[edit]

No Title Lyrics and music Length
1 "Sea Theme" Gwyneth Herbert 2:13
2 "The Regal" Gwyneth Herbert 3:19
3 "Sweeter" Gwyneth Herbert 3:49
4 "Alderney" Gwyneth Herbert 4:30
5 "I Still Hear the Bells" Gwyneth Herbert/Fiona Bevan 4:03
6 "Fishguard Ladies" Gwyneth Herbert 3:00
7 "Plenty Time for Praying" Gwyneth Herbert 2:02
8 "Drink" Gwyneth Herbert 1:55
9 "The King's Shilling" Gwyneth Herbert/Fiona Bevan 6:45
10 "Promises" Gwyneth Herbert/Heidi James 5:12
11 "Lorelei" Gwyneth Herbert 6:40
12 "Drip" Gwyneth Herbert 4:06
13 "Sea Theme" (reprise) Gwyneth Herbert 3:38 Total length =


On this album, Herbert shares vocals with singer-songwriter and guitarist Fiona Bevan, who also co-wrote two of the songs. She is backed by her regular band – Dave Price, Al Cherry and Sam Burgess – and is joined Harry Bird and Christophe Capewell from The Rubber Wellies.

  • Gwyneth Herbert – vocals, piano, ukelele
  • Fiona Bevan – vocals, guitar, piano
  • Dave Price – percussion, strings, piano, programming, backing vocals
  • Al Cherry – guitar, backing vocals
  • Sam Burgess – bass, backing vocals
  • Harry Bird – guitar, clarinet, piano strings, backing vocals
  • Christophe Capewell – fiddle, accordion, piano, melodica, backing vocals
  • Tom Allan – trumpets
  • Ollie Parfitt – Moog synthesiser
  • Jack Carr, Alex Carr and Robert Harder – additional mob chorus
  • Will McVay – chain
  • Brian Herbert – gramophone operator


  1. ^ "Singing songs of Suffolk and the sea". East Anglian Daily Times. 16 July 2010. Retrieved 22 March 2011. 
  2. ^ "Gwyneth Herbert – An exploration of the sea". Aldeburgh Music. 2010. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
  3. ^ Piers Ford (2 October 2010). "Concert review: Gwyneth Herbert, An Exploration of the Sea, Britten Studio, Snape, 1st October 2010". The Art of the Torch Singer. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  4. ^ Dave Price (18 April 2012). "Sea Cabinet". Dave Price Music. Retrieved 11 November 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Album sleeve notes
  6. ^ "From Gwyneth Herbert to the Pet Shop Boys and Bruce Springsteen: Seven gigs in seven nights". Metro (London). 13 June 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2014. 
  7. ^ "Gwyneth Herbert's Album Fan-Funding". London Jazz News. London Jazz. 8 March 2013. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c d Andrew Clarke (19 August 2013). "Gwyneth Herbert opens up her Sea Cabinet at the Snape Proms". East Anglian Daily Times. Retrieved 27 August 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c Sebastian Scotney (15 May 2013). "Podcast: A Few Minutes with... Gwyneth Herbert". London Jazz News. London Jazz. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  10. ^ a b "Gwyneth Herbert 'The Sea Cabinet'". Wilton's Music Hall. 2013. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  11. ^ John Fordham (28 May 2013). "Gwyneth Herbert – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  12. ^ Gwyneth Herbert (2013). "Alderney Original Demo". SoundCloud. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  13. ^ Paul Simons (2008). Since Records Began. London: Collins. pp. 175–6. ISBN 978-0-00-728463-4. 
  14. ^ Rowland Parker (1979). Men of Dunwich: the story of a vanished town. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. p. 10. ISBN 9780030468018. 
  15. ^ David Honigmann (24 May 2013). "Gwyneth Herbert: The Sea Cabinet". Financial Times. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  16. ^ Holly Williams (18 May 2013). "Album: Gwyneth Herbert, The Sea Cabinet (Monkeywood)". The Independent (London). Retrieved 18 May 2013. 
  17. ^ John Eyles (19 June 2013). "Gwyneth Herbert: The Sea Cabinet (2013)". CD/LP/Track Review. All About Jazz. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  18. ^ Piers Ford (5 June 2013). "Album review – Gwyneth Herbert: The Sea Cabinet". The Art of the Torch Singer. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 

External links[edit]