Robert Miles – Dreamland

There’s a fair chance you no longer remember what “dream music” is supposed to be, because it happened a very long time ago, all sounds pretty much the same, and only ever really consisted of one artist anyway.

But when it came out, Robert Miles‘s debut album Dreamland was actually pretty good. It’s laid back, but also beatsy enough to get played in a club, and honestly it’s a whole lot better than most of the Euro nonsense that was turning up in the mid-1990s.

Opening track Children had already come out in much of Europe the preceding year, and there had already been some experiments with decidedly awful artwork, but it didn’t appear in the UK until early 1996, receiving repeated plays by Pete Tong without actually having a record company. In its full seven minute form, it’s really rather beautiful.

It blends gently into the near-identical Fable. This is the “message version” though, in which someone called Fiorella Quinn has been desperately drafted in to make it sound marginally different from the preceding track by generally freestyling, wailing, and saying “tell me a fable”.

So this is Robert Miles, for the first two albums at least: run a kick drum on every beat, at about 120 bpm. Put a short bass note on the off-beat. Throw in a ripply piano and/or guitar line, some soft pads, a few drum builds and breakdowns, and that’s pretty much all you need.

Once you have understood that this whole album is really just an extended version of Children, it’s a lot easier to enjoy it. Fantasya is more of the same, but it’s pretty nice. It doesn’t take long to run out of adjectives though – Landscape is… nice.

Fortunately, Robert Miles helps a little at this point by making In My Dreams marginally different. It’s still the same piano and pad sounds, but he’s made the bass part slightly trippy and thrown in some extra hi-hats just to keep you awake. It’s nice.

The inclusion of One and One on some versions makes a very big difference. Without this, the album would just be a bit “nice” by this stage, but this third single, originally not included on the album, is exceedingly good. OK, the backing sounds are much the same, but Maria Nayler turns up and delivers an extremely good vocal, and it actually has some interesting lyrics too, so Miles wasn’t entirely out of ideas (even if it wasn’t him who wrote them, which is perfectly possible).

There isn’t really much else to say. Princess of Light is nice. The instrumental version of Fable removes most of the silly wailing, making it just nice. In the Dawn is quite nice.

Just in case you had forgotten how nice Children was, we get the rather more chilled out “original version” at this point, which is nice. Finally, we get Red Zone, which is pretty nice too.

So that’s Dreamland: it’s formulaic in every way, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you want to spend an hour listening to nice music, you could do a whole lot worse.

The version of Dreamland that includes One and One half way through to break up the monotony of niceness is still available here.

Ivor Novello Awards 2013

I’m sorry for the slight delay here – I’ve been meaning to sum up the 2013 Ivor Novello Awards for a few weeks, but have been unavoidably tied up in the real world.

It’s not a widely known ceremony, despite having run for nearly sixty years (since 1955). Part of the reason for this is that the awards are for actual songwriting, rather than things like performing, or wearing dresses made out of meat, like the more commercial award ceremonies. Perhaps one day we should dedicate a post to the history of these awards, but that day is not yet upon us.

This year, the ceremony took place at Grosvenor House in London way back on May 16th, and the nominees and winners were as follows:

Best Song Musically and Lyrically

The nominees:

  • Bat for Lashes – Laura (Natasha Khan / Justin Parker)
  • Emeli Sandé – Next to Me (Hugo Chegwin / Harry Craze / Emeli Sandé)
  • Jake Bugg – Two Fingers (Iain Archer / Jake Bugg)

Winner: Emeli Sandé

Best Contemporary Song

The nominees:

  • Alt-J – Fitzpleasure (Thomas Green / Joe Newman / Gwilym Sainsbury / Augustus Unger-Hamilton)
  • Plan B – Ill Manors (Pierre Baigorry / David Conen / Benjamin Drew / Vincent Graf-Schlippenbach / Al Shux)
  • The Maccabees – Pelican (Sam Doyle / Rupert Jarvis / Orlando Weeks / Felix White / Hugo White)

Winner: The Maccabees

PRS for Music Most Performed Work

The nominees:

  • Olly Murs – Dance with Me Tonight (Claude Kelly / Oliver Murs / Steve Robson)
  • Emeli Sandé – Next to Me
  • Coldplay – Paradise (Guy Berryman / Jonny Buckland / Will Champion / Chris Martin / Brian Eno)

Winner: Emeli Sandé

Album Award

The nominees:

  • Alt-J – An Awesome Wave (Thomas Green / Joe Newman / Gwilym Sainsbury / Augustus Unger-Hamilton)
  • Ben Howard – Every Kingdom (Ben Howard)
  • Lianne La Havas – Is Your Love Big Enough? (Lianne Barnes / Matthew Hales)

Winner: Alt-J

Best Original Film Score

The nominees:

  • Dario Marianelli – Anna Karenina
  • John Powell – Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
  • Plan B – Ill Manors (Benjamin Drew / Al Shux)

Winner: Anna Karenina

Best Television Soundtrack

The nominees:

  • John Harle – Lucian Freud: Painted Life
  • John Lunn – The Mystery of Edwin Drood
  • Carl Davis – Upstairs Downstairs Series 2

Winner: Lucian Freud: Painted Life

Inspiration Award

Winner: Marc Almond

Outstanding Contribution

Presented by Ray Davies. Winner: Noel Gallagher

The Ivors Classical Music Award

Winner: Errolyn Wallen MBE

PRS for Music Award for Outstanding Achievement

Winner: Justin Hayward

International Achievement

Winner: Gavin Rossdale out of little-known Bush

Songwriter of the Year

Presented by Pete Tong. We continue. Winner: Calvin Harris

PRS for Music Special International Award

Winner: Randy Newman


And that’s it for 2013. Somewhere in among the numerous almost-identically-named awards are some quite interesting winners. No “outstanding” anything for Liam Gallagher, for example.

More coverage at DigitalSpy, The Guardian, and The Independent.