She has elicited favourable comparisons with mavericks such as Bjork and Liz Frazer of Cocteau Twins, but Storm Gordon is very much a sui generis artist, one who occupies her own distinct space.
Now, 14 years on from the critically-lauded Someone to Dance With, the singular Scottish singer-songwriter and visual artist releases her new album, The Lie I Love the Best, on Wonderlust Productions via Proper Music Distribution.
“We had to move the studio many times,” she explains of the lengthy gap. “From Scotland to Canada, then to Cornwall, back to Scotland, then to Cornwall again. All huge, time-consuming upheavals. We also decided that, above all else, we wanted to combine analogue with digital. This is very costly, so it took many years just to get the studio we wanted.”
The daughter of a late jazz musician father and an artist mother, Gordon, along with sister Julia, was raised on the Isle of Arran in the West of Scotland. It was in this remote outpost that she immersed herself in mum Avril’s extensive collection of jazz and be-bop records, developing an enduring love for Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. Eventually, more contemporary influences – including Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross – asserted themselves, along with eclectic touchstones Laura Nyro and Elis Regina, and everything else from electronica to classical.
Aged 16, Gordon, already writing songs, left home to go travelling. She worked as a reporter in Los Angeles and a model in London, while singing with different bands.
Returning to her native Scotland, she enrolled in Art History, Classics and Archaeology at Glasgow University . Her grandfather, Hugh Paton, and Avril Paton had also studied at Glasgow School of Art . Completing the familial artistic circle, step dad Les Worthington was a student of renowned etcher Sir Frank Brangwyn at Liverpool College of Art. All three, in their different individualistic ways, inspired Gordon’s early passion for painting and visual experimentation.
After leaving University, she began to collaborate with David Galbraith, now her partner and producer. “David always listens. He’s very honest if he doesn’t like something, so you can trust him completely. He is both artistic and technically minded, which is essential for our collaboration. He has no prejudices about music. His taste and knowledge are very wide.”
Together they recorded debut album Songs for Birdman on their own Wonderlust label. The cognoscenti were impressed. Q magazine applauded the collection’s “beguiling hybrid of ambient beats, experimental electronics and vocalising rooted in 40’s jazz”, describing it as “a luscious piece of work”. Caledonia magazine simply declared that Gordon was “blessed with a superb, pure voice” that was “second to none”.
For the follow-up album Someone to Dance With, the two of them relocated to Toronto, having begun recording it in Scotland with Tom McKay & Tony Rabalao – the rhythm section of Canadian rock band Joydrop. Gordon then hooked up with other musicians in the Canadian city, and has continued working with the rhythm section of Vince Macacarone & Roger Williams, as well as the now Jamaica-based sax player Isax InJah for this new release .
In Toronto she began to integrate her visual art creations with her compositions, an approach Gordon fully exploits with a series of animated videos to accompany several tracks from The Lie I Love the Best.
She explains, “In Brussels, aged 17, I chanced upon an exhibition of Cartier Bresson, which had the music of Erik Satie playing. That really started me off with the notion that music and visual art worked well together. Later, when studying art history, the lecturers would project the paintings hugely onto large screens. The physicality of paint blown up to such a size looked amazing, and the lecturers would walk about the stage, sometimes getting the projections over their faces and bodies. The idea began to form to make a stage show like this. All the videos, apart from one, can be projected over the musicians.”
The album – which features a rare appearance by PJ Moore, formerly of The Blue Nile – wrestles with some complex themes over 11 archetypally diverse tracks, from the ambient ‘Sirens in T.O’s’ mini-disc recording of a Portuguese street carnival in Toronto (lyrically impelled by the ups and downs of making Someone to Dance With), to the upbeat ska-flecked break-up narrative of ‘Funny Side’.
“The places where we have lived – our experiences there – have inspired the songs a lot,” says Gordon.
“I have read other songwriters saying that they would write about places once they left them. And this is true for me. For example, the last song, ‘$2 Tuesdays’, is all about the district in Toronto we lived in, called Parkdale, but it was written in Cornwall.”
HIGH VIOLET PR