I Tell a Fly
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|I Tell a Fly|
|Studio album by Benjamin Clementine|
|Released||29 September 2017|
|Label||Behind / Virgin EMI|
|Benjamin Clementine chronology|
|Singles from I Tell a Fly|
I Tell a Fly is the second album by English artist and poet Benjamin Clementine. It follows his Mercury Prize-winning debut album, At Least for Now. According to a press release, the album was written and produced by Clementine, recorded at RAK Studios, Abbey Road Studios and Studio 13. It was released on 29 September 2017 in Europe and 2 October in the United States.
After his collaboration with Gorillaz on "Hallelujah Money", Clementine unveiled his first new music since being awarded 2015's Mercury Music Prize for his debut album At Least for Now accompanied by a video shot by photographer Craig McDean and filmmaker Masha Vasyukova, In conversation with David Renshaw, Clementine explains the origin of I Tell a Fly lies in a disarmingly strange line found in his American visa: "an alien of extraordinary abilities." He explains, "I was baffled for about ten minutes when I first saw that visa. But then I thought to myself, I am an alien. I'm a wanderer. In most places I've been, I've always been different. And so I began to think about the story of a couple of birds, who are in love: one is afraid to go further, and the other is taking a risk, to see what happens." On I Tell a Fly, Clementine uses his personal history as a prism through which to view the world around him (and attempt to make sense of both), musically exploring unknown territories while maintaining a lifeblood that could not be mistaken for the work of anyone other than him.
Musical style and themes
— Clementine, on the album's theme and content
Written, recorded and produced by Clementine, I Tell a Fly finds him exploring new musical territory on the heels of his Mercury Prize-winning debut, At Least for Now (2015). At Least for Now stretched itself across a series of piano ballads with unorthodox structures; I Tell a Fly brings a sense of theatricality and power by using whirling, interwoven instruments throughout the uncompromising release. While At Least for Now looked inward and backward, Clementine's follow-up looks outward and forward-to a changing world, ancient struggles and the individual response. Clementine composed the track "Phantom of Aleppoville" after being affected by the writing of pioneering British psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott. He wrote extensively about children who have experienced bullying in the home and at school, discovering that while the trauma was naturally not comparable in scale to that suffered by children displaced by war, its effects followed similar patterns. Seeing in Winicott's writing a mirror of his own childhood experiences, Clementine chose the title – the "little city of Aleppo" – to symbolise a place where children encounter such bullying. Says Clementine, "Aleppoville is a place where many are bullied if not all, but no one understands nor see why; Phantom." "God Save the Jungle" was released ahead of the album, and was called "eccentric and sardonic" by The Fader. It was written in New York City and recorded at RAK Studios in London. The Fader said the album "shows Clementine stretching the autobiographical lyrical style used on his debut to incorporate current events, touching on the refugee crisis and the war in Syria among other subjects." Clementine also explained to The Fader how being in the United States during the 2016 election campaign influenced the political aspects of the album: "I was writing about what's going on. It turned into what I was really trying to say, which was that I'm an alien. Not in the most superficial, arrogant fashion, but rather an alien who wanders around. It fits the current dilemma that we all face. It was mostly to do with the traveling. The feeling of not belonging to somewhere, just being a mere traveler, being an alien." The guardian Kate Mossman states that On I Tell a Fly, Clementine takes the unusual decision to work his own narrative of displacement into various settings of international conflict: his nomadic path, versus the plight of refugees in Calais There is a chewy song called Paris Cor Blimey, based on the tongue-twister, Peter Piper, about nationalism in France: “Paris’s friend got her little Pen from her daddy before he left.” And the flies? They’re wind-battered lovers looking for a safe haven.
|The Line of Best Fit||8.5/10|
I Tell a Fly was well-received by contemporary music critics upon its initial release. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from music critics, the album received a universal acclaim score of 81 based on 12 reviews.
In the review for AllMusic, Timothy Monger described the album as being "Meticulously packed with lead and backing vocals in a variety of timbres, songs like the warbling harpsichord-ornamented "Better Sorry Than a Safe" and the sprawling and kooky refugee crisis commentary "Phantom of Aleppoville" show an intense artist operating at a full sprint down the crooked ginnels of his imagination." Andy Gill, writing a review for The Independent regarded the music as classical and avant-garde with operatic delivery, pointing out that, I Tell A Fly won’t be to everyone’s taste--which in this era of increasing conformity may be its most valuable asset. Writing for The Skinny, Aiden Ryan noted that Clementine sounded wholly original. On I Tell a Fly, he offers stunning, stirring proof that his originality extends beyond his voice to his phrasing on every instrument he touches – piano, but also here, showcased to great effect, harpsichord and clavichord – as well as to arrangements and production. All of which conspires to pummel and purge every tired expectation that repetitive rap, rock, dance, pop, indie, and alternative music have wrought into us. Appropriately, the album opens with Farewell Sonata. Simon Price from Q Magazine stated Anyone expecting an album of unchallenging fodder is in for a shock. Like the voyage faced by its desperate, stateless subjects, I Tell A Fly is no easy ride.
In a less enthusiastic review for The Guardian, Alexis Petridis said that Clementine clearly has things to say about some important topics, and it’s hard not to think they might reach a wider audience if they were a little less obliquely presented. Equally, there’s something laudable about an artist using their initial success not as a foundation for steady commercial growth but as leverage to get something like I Tell a Fly released and promoted by a major label.
All tracks written by Benjamin Clementine.
|2.||"God Save the Jungle"||3:15|
|3.||"Better Sorry Than a Safe"||5:53|
|4.||"Phantom of Aleppoville"||6:31|
|5.||"Paris Cor Blimey"||4:23|
|7.||"Ode from Joyce"||2:05|
|8.||"One Awkward Fish"||4:13|
|9.||"By the Ports of Europe"||3:41|
- Benjamin Clementine – music, production, artwork
- Alexis Bossard – drums
- Steve Sedgwick – recording engineer and mixer
- John Davis – mastering engineer
- Max Anstruther – recording engineer
- Wes Maebe – recording engineer
- Robbie Nelson – recording engineer
- Duncan Fuller – assistant recording engineer
- Craig Mcdean – photography
- Akatre – design
|Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)||30|
|Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)||56|
|Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)||33|
|French Albums (SNEP)||24|
|German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)||68|
|Portuguese Albums (AFP)||3|
|Scottish Albums (OCC)||96|
|Spanish Albums (PROMUSICAE)||92|
|Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)||23|
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