By today's standards Adam Irving is doing it wrong. No social media, no singles, but building a discography of highly eclectic albums. Yes, albums. His latest, Tomorrow & Tomorrow, swings from pop to rock to jazz and dance and everything in between, with his leftfield approach of the guitar as an intermediate to keep it all together. It is a textbook DIY record, with instrumentals as breather tracks between the songs in which he dissects a subject to its bare essentials.
Irving is a sharp observer and an opinionated lyricist - Hipsters is vicious and funny, following the tradition of satirists like Ray Davies and Jarvis Cocker, but also a composer with a knack for austere explorations on his guitar (Matt Stevens comes to mind). Seven is a gnarly dance track, although ravers need to be chemically enhanced to pull off moves that will make sense to them. Quite the opposite is the title track Tomorrow & Tomorrow, a charming instrumental in the vein of late Sixties Pink Floyd.
He is an artist who does as he pleases, with an allergy for people who tell him that he shouldn't do this or that. A true original, relying on word-of-mouth and live shows to build an audience. That might not be "en vogue" at the moment, but it never gets old.
Hans Werksman - Here Comes The Flood Blog.
Like the blurb on the back of a DVD case, the sleeve notes of Irving's latest CD states that all the songs on it were recorded in a year in which the musician went deaf, lost his voice, underwent chemotherapy and presumably lived to tell the tale, albeit in mono. So it isn't surprising that the music itself sounds like a battle is being fought. Its a mix of stories and styles underneath under some very angry guitar playing. Guitar playing which sounds like it's fighting for its life. Many of the tracks run into each other seamlessly, giving the set of songs the feeling of a 'suite' of moments rather than a bunch of different pieces. There's a surprise rap track with 'No Words'. while 'Sickness', 'Hindsight', 'Invaders' & 'Remember This?' are conventional rock songs, each with blistering guitar work and occasional surprise moments. The three instrumentals; 'Archid', 'We Fly' & 'Mtlsque' emerge from their own independent musical universes. The music itself has a charm; Irving's style and passion on the tracks is both unique and strangely familiar to the ear. The sentimental final track, 'Home' is an appropriate acoustic closer tying the album together. Lyrically you are taken to the artists darkest moments but somehow it never gets too bleak or depressing. Irving's knack of incorporating a variety of ingredients to produce something unique is clever, sometimes too clever for its own good, but ultimately, the album shines musically and the artists personality manages to tear through the indulgent guitar work and organized chaos to make a living breathing object which the discerning fan will no doubt dwell upon and discover something new with each listen.
First off, you gotta like your guitar music, because this is a lot of guitar music. Each track basically consists of an underlying riff and beat with various fuzzed up or wah wah’d solos over the top. Over the top is perhaps apt, as this is, in his own words, an exercise in indulgence. You can hear the influences of Jerry Garcia, Peter Frampton and Steve Hillage as he noodles his way through such titles as ‘Animal’, ‘Nut’, ‘Horse’ and ‘November Came’. Some of the foundation riffs have been hanging around since 2009, just waiting for that moment to become fully fledged… somethings.
Adam Irving is asked exactly howbeit?
Article from NoiseWithin Zine.
Interview by Damian Westbury.
The title of Howbeit could almost be used to describe the thoughts of the average listener when hearing it. It’s an instrumental album of guitar laden music. NoiseWithin caught up with Adam Irving to discuss the tracks. Its a brief conversation, which seems at points seems a little like an argument.
NoiseWithin: What exactly are you doing on Howbeit?
Irving: shining the spotlight on the electric guitar. Not as a rhythm part or as a something that sits beneath the lyrics, but as a solo instrument.
NW: But its not Jazz is it?
Irving: No, its not metal shredding either.
NW: What would you call it then?
Irving: Music for the electric guitar.
NW: Do you worry it will confuse the average listener, I mean don't you think that people still need to put the tracks into categories?
Irving; Electric guitar music isn't enough?
NW: Well not for me personally. Electric guitar music is The Strokes or Eric Clapton maybe. Who are your audience?
Irving: Well, I guess people who play guitar or who enjoy listening sounds that the instrument makes.
NW: And if you had to put the tracks into sub-categories?
Irving: Ok, if you insist on an iPod category tag for each track then Afterthought is a minimalist piece, Collateral is a free improvised thing over a drum beat, Animal is a sort of a jam, This is My Girlfriend is a Japanese lesson with guitar interludes and the rest of the tracks are made up of a central theme, tune, riff or head and solos within. None of them should be stored in the same folder as Clapton or the Strokes.
NW: I guess I’m a little confused because I’m the average listener and I -
Irving: You’re what? Nobody admits to being the average listener? What does it even mean?
NW: It means I’m within the majority of people who like the mainstream types of music.
Irving: So because the tracks aren’t mainstream you’re confused and don't like it?
NW: I guess so.
Irving: If the songs had vocals you’d be in a comfortable place?
NW: I would definitely be happier yes. Then I could relate it to the bands and artists you sound like.
Irving: Well, the mainstream to me is very homogenized; it’s like supermarket brand food. It’s functional and cheap and edible but nobody is sat around craving a tin of Tesco beans or searching their cupboards for brandless Cornflakes are they? If you aim for mass appeal you have to strip a lot of things away that people might not like. This album, if it were remade for mass appeal would have about ten seconds of guitar solos, be in 4/4 throughout, have lyrics and catchy autotune choruses and wouldn't feature me in any way.
NW: So you don't care about the average listener then?
Irving: Not really, why should I? What’s the point in catering to the average audience?
NW: Its the target audience of every artist surely.
Irving: The average listener moves on too quickly, something is very popular and then its not, so the Charleston or Indie or Skiffle or Disco or Rave or Dubstep is out of fashion and the average listener moves onto to something new. Bargain bins are filled with the average listeners discarded record collections.
NW: But the average listener has the money.
Irving: Start thinking about money when you make music and soon you’ll end up wondering what the average listener will think of you.
The bewildering 'Howbeit' is released on Horn & Hoof / Mitten Records this month
By Mick Rainford
I have to admit to being more than a little confused with this record which assailed me with wailing, distorted, grungy riffs, a myriad of influences and to cap it all, an artist I know nothing of at all, apart from the fact he is obviously a multi-instrumentalist. There are no clues in the CD insert, the song titles are either one or two words long with weird titles and the whole thing was a mishmash of styles that just failed to focus my attention. There is no doubt that Irving is a talented musician and i found odd comparisons in his work to The Who (Swam), Steve Marriot (Soulful Mood), Bowie (Hug) and Modern Jazz (Why Not?). The trouble was I could find no consistent theme or style to grab my attention or keep me interested. One for his, I’m sure, many fans.
There's loads of new artists out there, that are trying to make a name for themselves with new sounds that are meant to be some amazing creation, and more time than none they end up being the same as the rest. Not Adam Irving, his sound is outstanding, his album Sobeit is a collection of dirty distorted blues rock and roll, driven by effect ridden pedals that make this album, one flavourful pie to get your juices flowing, now this isn't a review about a burger or anything, but the licks in this album are the tastiest around.
One of the first thoughts when listening to this album are 'wow! Jack White has a run for his money', which is a bold statement which I happily stand by. This guy has amazing fight and potential about his unique melodic, raw and powerful guitar techniques shown specifically in two great songs namely why not? And the Journey; both excellent in their own right, flowing together so well in the clever line up on the album track list, which leave the feeling of being in your mates living room when suddenly they start jamming, making some sweet tunes. One of which being 'The Journey' an absolute corker of a song, with great use of lyrics and Adams masterful guitar work, that's shown off after the genius lyrics ' Until one day I came in the 249 pounds, plugged it in and played this' In one of the most best solos I've ever heard from a solo artist, but from a guy who has been in a number of duo's, trio's and bands its clear to see that Adam has picked up some tricks from the road and turned them into his own.
Sobeit is a very good sign of things to come from Adam. If I had to rate this original breed of excellence, I would give it a 10 easily, so if I were you I'd head over to www.hornandhoof.com, itunes or Amazon where you can get your copy.
Having previously been a drummer, a lead vocalist, a double bassist and rhythm guitarist for a number of bands, Adam Irving has returned to playing his first love, the guitar, in his debut solo album. And we’re very glad to hear it…Or try to. The album is very overwhelming on the first listen, but I implore you to stick with it, trust me, it’s worth it.
Sobeitis a rollercoaster. Mainly because the high points of the album are in a league of their own. The sexy jazz undertones, class. The quirky guitar riffs, amazing. The ambient acoustic sounds, gorgeous. The vocals, excellent. And this heavy, dirty, distorted guitar is like sex to your ears. ‘Hug’, ‘Moby’ and ‘141’ are the titans of the album and flaunt these qualities. Even the few mediocre songs are still decent.
However, sometimes the very same features don’t quite work right. It’s as though the defining aspects that make the songs so good, make them so bad when they are abused (‘A Journey’ being the stand out culprit for this).
Lyrically, this album is not the best. But by the time you get around to listening to the words you’ll either be already completely sold by the album or have binned it. Personally, I have faith that the quality and vision of the good tracks outweighs the down-right annoyance of the bad ones and there’s no denying Irving is a very promising and stupidly talented solo artist. He’s got the right idea.
By Manuel Ecostos http://music-dash.co.uk/releases/archiverelease.asp?item=7235
Jazz, blues and the sound of the underground sum up Adam Irving’s one man effort to reformat the singer / songwriter template. This 12 track opus is a home recorded catalogue of DIY blues riffs and abstract instrumental breaks. Tracks like “Soulful Mood” try to weave in a hook line but it’s the more interesting double bass driven meanders of “Why Not?”, that propose a more interesting prospect - although the guitar breaks tend to get in the way more than anything. The acoustic strums of “No Other” provide a welcome change in direction whilst the DIY ethic begins to seep through. An apparent crash of live rock drumming on “Squeak” makes a massive difference to the dynamic and at last “Cursed” produces a brightness that begins to engage with the listener, whereas the other material seems to have been compiled for musical satisfaction rather than entertainment. The title track adds in more of this edge to leave a mixed and rather enlarged bag of rather personal music sketches. “SOBEIT” is an interesting journey, but not necessarily one that all will wish to subscribe to.
After playing double bass in Folk/rap duo I Am Three, Adam Irving takes a moment to discuss his solo work with VVC and also get a little angry…..
Q: Can you tell me a little about your musical background, how did you start making music?
A: I've been playing guitar since I was five years old, my first guitar was a crappy little acoustic which I took great delight in smashing up and setting on fire in the garden when I got a proper guitar. I was the drummer and lead vocalist in a band, the rhythm guitarist in another and I also played bass and then double bass for a while.
Q: So is returning to guitar a natural move then?
A: Of course it is. I played drums and bass out of necessity to replace a missing part of a band. My love has always been guitar.
Q: Can we get technical and talk about your equipment for a moment?
A: Sure, I still have my first electric guitar, a 1980's Korean Strat with a really thin neck and I also have a modified Mexican Strat. It has a little push pull device on it that gives it more interesting pickup combinations and I melted some of the electrics inside by accident and had to replace bits with different parts. I use a 70’s Wah, a Boss Loop, Boss distortion, a Muff, an octave pedal and a Rothwell Hellbender, all of which are on the front cover of the Sobeit CD.
Q: Is that your view from onstage?
A: Yeah, that’s what I see when I look down.
Q: And influences, who did you listen to growing up?
A: There’s too much to list. I had my older brother’s massive record collection at my disposal; Zappa, Beatles, Floyd, King Crimson, Jazz and a hundred other artists. Before I was ten I’d pretty much worked my way though all the vinyl and started to listen to Steve Reich, Prince, Bjork, Tori Amos, Hip-Hop, Afrobeat. I listen to lots of stuff and how this influence emerges in my music I don’t know.
Q: You’ve been described a number of times now as having more Punk aesthetic than many Punk bands, how do you take that?
A: I don’t know whether to take it as a complement or a diss to the many bands who think they are Punk and aren’t. I wouldn’t describe my music as being Punk but I’ve certainly felt more comfortable playing gigs with other Punk bands than with Rock, Rap or singer songwriters.
Q: I notice that your first album Extant states that it’s all recorded live.
A: No, it's not live, it’s just that i didn't use any electric instruments or loops or samples when I recorded it, with the exception of one track. I spent years recording and relying on a particular compression, a specific distortion or a set of samples and effects. You end up falling back on being able to make mistakes coz you know you can just drop in on a particular phrase and do it right later. I wanted to record with no electronic trickery, just a guitar, vocals etc. So there is overdubbing obviously because I play several instruments on some of the tracks, but it’s not sampled, looped or going through any effects to make it sound good.
Q: Your second album, Beautiful People Eating Pastries is the opposite of this.
A: Correct, is totally electric, full of samples, music concrete, loops and a whole host of devious editing going on there.
Q: It’s a bit overwhelming on a first listen
A: Good, rather that than forgettable crap.
Q: And now your latest CD, Sobeit is another direction change, it’s all electric guitar.
A: Yes, it’s like the sister album to Extant.
Q: What electric delights does it hold then?
A: It’s a mixed bag of electric guitar stuff, a lucky dip. There’s some conventional songs, some instrumentals, some odd time signatures and some sweeping ambience, licks, riffs, dirty distortion and solos.
Q: I hear that I Am Three have broken up now, what happened there? I saw you guys live a couple of times and thought you were fantastic.
A: I Am Three sort of self destructed.
Q: That sounds like a very diplomatic reply, care to elaborate?
A: Not really.
Q: So you’re currently gigging solo, what’s the set up?
A: It’s nice and simple; me, an electric guitar, an amp and some pedals.
Q: No lugging a double bass round this time then?
A: No, everything feels like doll’s house scale compared to the double bass.
Q: Any dates you want to plug?
A: At the moment I’m still sorting out the rest of the 2012 dates. It’s like pulling teeth though, I’m so sick of promoters.
Q: How do you mean.
A: Well briefly, when I was 16 or 17 I used to gig and got paid at the end of the night. Then promoters appeared all over, handling the bookings for the venues, which was good for the venues as they didn’t have to handle bookings. However, the vast majority of promoters basically do no promoting whatsoever, they rely totally on the bands to sell tickets and bring audiences and then take most of the cash in return for doing nothing. It’s a fucked up situation when the bar staff are paid, the doormen are paid, the sound guy is paid but the bands aren’t. And it’s sad considering people are going to the venue to hear the bands in the first place. It’s an even more fucked up situation that most people don’t even remember there was ever a time when bands did get paid at the end of the night. Anyone who started gigging after around 2001 just accepts it as the norm that to play somewhere you have to sell tickets for the promoter and won’t get paid anything unless they bring 25 people. Promoters are an unnecessary cog in the whole process. They skim the little money that’s there and serve no purpose.
Q: You sure you aren’t being greedy?
A: I'm positive; I’ll do free gigs if the promoter is doing it for free too, which incidentally I’ve never ever seen happen, but if they are being paid, why shouldn’t I get paid? Do bands ask promoters to come and sing backing vocals or play bongos? No,. because it’s not their job, next time a promoter asks a band to buy tickets from them to sell on their behalf they should tell him to fuck off and get on with doing what they’re supposed to be doing, the clues in the their job title.
Q: Any more analogies?
A: Yeah, does anyone tell a chef if he doesn’t bring 25 people to the restaurant he won’t get paid?
Q: I think you’ve made your point now.
Extant, Beautiful People Eating Pastries and Sobeit are all available on Mitten Records. http://www.mittenrecords.webs.com/
Sometimes very odd, but nearly always very interesting. A heady mix of experimental music, electro, hip-hop and just plain craziness.
Irving – Extant (Mitten Records)
You know when you see a film that one of your friends foists upon you and forces you to watch? And then a few days after declaring you hated every minute, you find yourself thinking about it? With an introductory, “It’s an acoustic album, but there are loads of overdubs on it,” the Irving CD Extant is thrust into my life. Days later I’m having a piss and find myself humming something. What is it? It’s ‘I Try’, one of the fucking tracks from Extant. Like the title of the album, it’s still existing in my head somehow. Days later again the hypnotic ‘Faras’ is pinging round my head and I find myself gritting my teeth and listening to the CD again. Ok, so not as bad as I though. Nice little collection of songs with nice harmonies. Is this how you get addicted to crack? A week later it’s on my iPod and the circle completes itself as I copy it and hand it to a friend saying “you might not like this at first but…”
Text: Patrick Struijker Boudier
Strange and only for the fans: that's my impression of Adam Irving Sobeit. The album contains songs recorded in the period 1996-2012 and is characterized by the prominent role of the electric guitar and distorting effects.
Adam Irving has been active since 1991 and plays several instruments including drums, guitar and (contra) bass. He has played in the folk / rap duo I Am Three and performed in the United Kingdom and Europe. As a solo artist he has released three albums: the complete acoustic Extant (2007), the experimental Beautiful People Eating Pastries (2010) and now by an electric guitar-dominated Sobeit.
Maybe I'm not in the mood or I had a more blues-oriented album expected, but Sobeit is alienating me and experimentally to buoys. Swam opener begins the album with an electric guitar that is quite a bit of distortion on and gets on my nerves. Unfortunately, that feeling dominate almost the entire CD. Soulful Mood, No Other and Cursed are still worth listening to by a reasonable arrangement and "normal" sound reminiscent of The Black Keys, but Hug, Why Not, A Journey, Moby, Cursed, Sleeps Sobeit and G is the annoyingly guitar with overdrive again. How hard I do my best to enjoy the record: I can not. Only for the fans