WorldService Project: Articulate Arsonists
While Morecroft is now the group's sole composer, there was one tune on Relentless by Clarkson. "We didn't really like it, and it didn't really fit in, so we axed it and banned Raph from writing anymore," Ower says, joking. "Well, I remember saying, 'Can we not play this tune anymore?' and they said, 'No, no, let's play it!" Clarkson retorts.
But, among the many things that define WorldService Project, having a sole composer certainly leads to a group identity, though shaped through the input of the rest of the band. "Dave writes for the people in the band," says Ower. "And because we learn the tunes off copy straight away, in a way they've never really stopped evolving, even when we've been more specific structurally. Even now, they're changing again, and that's possibly from having a new drummer. But from the beginning, little things have always been changing so that after about six months, it's almost completely different."
In the group's Umeå performance of material from Fire in a Petshop, beyond Morecroft's structurally knotty writingmetric shifts, stops and starts and complete feel changes all abounding, often in the space of a few seconds, as in a Carl Stalling soundtrackthe contributions of Ower, Clarkson and Chaplin were fundamental. The interaction between Ower and Clarkson was particularly impressive as they found ways to engage that pushed out of Morecroft's writing but came back to it, as if attracted by a lightning rod, when the time was right. Chaplin may look young and inexperienced, but it belies a deep player who somehow managed to imbue Morecroft's writing with an underlying groove. Clowes, despite now being gone from the band, drove it hard, with a blend of lighter textures and harsher dispositions.
And while there are many touchstones in WorldService Project's music, it's impossible to ignore the influence of classical music, even though it may not be anywhere near obvious or overt. "Well, I did a lot of Stravinsky in my third year of university," Morecroft says. "Loads of stuff to do with him, even extra-musical things ... well not really extra- musical but sort of defying someone's expectations, like setting up a section that is going somewhere, then suddenly changing Stravinsky's kind of block-like structure. That's my one definite thing. Also, I suppose because of my background in drumming, a percussive element that he hasespecially in piano writing and stuff like that. I didn't really get a sort of octatonicism from him, like diminished scales; we do that, obviously, but it came more through modern jazz, if you like, or whatever you want to call it."
"The strongest thing on the album in terms of those things is probably the block-like structure of material," Clarkson adds. "And I remember, as Dave was writing the new material, the economy of the material. And that obviously links to the block-like approach: taking a single riff, gesture or idea that is often a repeating thing, like a rhythmic ostinato. There's a lot of that kind of writing, and then other abrupt section changes being similarly revolving and repeating, being derived from that kind of material. 'De-Friender' is a good example of a very clear diminished section that is very strong and one kind of block idea, which comes back in different forms, but very abruptly, and is played around with. In that tune, there's not a huge amount of variation of the actual fundamental material; it all comes from the same place."
"Some of the leitmotif. 'De-Friender' is, for me, like [classical composer Richard Wagner's 1865 opera] Tristan and Isolde," Morecroft continues, "where you have motifs for grief and despairbut this is for de-friending. That riff is about how you feel when someone removes you from Facebook."