The Sign Of Four – ‘Hammer, Anvil, Stirrup’ LP [Jazzman Records]

Great album here from The Sign Of Four, a new recording project from  underrated composer and multi-instrumentalist and more importantly sound engineer Miles Newman. Miles is best known as one-half of The Natural Yogurt Band (NYB), who came to the forefront with Away With Melancholy in 2008, and Tuck In With… in 2011, both on Jazzman Records and both released as 2×10″ pack LPs. Oddly enough, both Miles and NYB band mate Wayne Fullwood had both been in Little Barrie (though at different points), but when a series of events brought them to be jamming together in Miles’ analogue studios, things went next level.

I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Miles on the back-end of NYB’s first release. He happened to be floating around Jazzman Gerald’s purchasing rarities and discussing follow-ups, and was well up for a chat for Shook! magazine. At the time, around 2009 I believe, he didn’t have the internet and couldn’t locate a mobile phone number. As a result, he’d had no idea how popular the NYB recordings had been until he went to pick up a cheque, and learned that the release had sold out numerous occasions in a short space of time. Critics and consumer couldn’t get enough, and their lack of online presence, and mixture of psych, jazz, funk and library influences all weighed in to their respective crowds.

Here’s an interesting fact about their first album that came from those talks but didn’t get published – all of the tracks were misnamed. When the artwork came back they realised that the tracks were all out of order compared to what was recorded on the masters. Seeing as there were no lyrics, they found it easier to just change the names of the song as opposed to redoing the artwork and track list order.

An absolute gent, and someone who struck me as untainted genius, Miles was a pleasure to talk to then and completely open about recording techniques he’d borrowed from the old-school. His analogue studios – The Chicken Shack in Nottingham – have fast developed a reputation of their own as one of the top locations for artists who want proper sound. Naturally, The Chicken Shack again was home to the recording process this time around, decked out with Miles’ various companion players who pass through it’s doors regularly, and his own instrument collection.

Under the guise The Sign Of Four Miles has just dropped the album Hammer, Anvil, Stirrup (named after parts of the ear, not blacksmith and cowboy tools) on 2×10″ and CD, and it’s a brilliant listen. Released on Jazzman once again, the hard-panning, hammond-battering and oscillating sounds come up like a dusty classic that Votel or Gaslamp Killer might turn up in a set as an unknown library cut. Perfect psyche in the vein of ‘The American Metaphysical Circus‘ in some areas, others are a throwback to ’70s Gainsberg jazz, and even still we get funk comparable to modern day Stereoscope Jerk Explosion. It does all this with keeping the original composer in mind at all time, sounding like a complete album instead of a random compilation of ideas.

Big ups all involved, Jazzman Gerald and Miles Newman as well as the recording musicians who guested. Scroll down for the press release and album preview, and just above that check the lead single (also available as a 45) ‘Jumping Beans’ with a very cool video to boot.

via Jazzman Records
Oscillating and reverberating chaotically through sonic orbs and polyphonic sound textures, The Sign of Four is a new creative concept from the Natural Yogurt Band’s Miles Newbold.

Hammer, Anvil, Stirrup is the debut album from The Sign of Four on Jazzman Records and is spread exquisitely across 2×10″ LPs in hand-printed sleeves, digipack CD and digital download formats.

Recorded live at Chicken Shack studios in Nottingham, real musical instruments are used to create a swirling jungle of throbbing palpitations evoking the spaced-out vibes of an unsound mind. It’s an infectious fermentation of debauched instrumental chaos, sometimes calming, but often unnerving, that will leave the listener bewildered, wide-eyed and gasping for more.

The 9-track vinyl version also contains a track from Sun Suite, an alternative incarnation of The Sign of Four, that sees out the release in a less chaotic fashion, a sonic antidote to the preceding pandemonium.

Welcome to the hylomorphic world of The Sign of Four.