Twice Born Men nominated for the 2009 Mercury Music Prize.
On being nominated Tim said: “I was at work, fitting a toilet seat in Farnham, when I heard about the nomination. The two realities sort-of collided and time and space went funny for a bit, and I may have just repeated a certain expletive at regular intervals for the first few minutes. We are very proud that our record – grown in my shed – has made such a good impression on the judges, and to be associated with the Mercury is a massive honour.”
Presenting the second album Twice Born Men by the Sweet Billy Pilgrim – a wonderful, mesmerising album from this breathtaking British band.
Tinkering about somewhere between the earthy and the ethereal, Sweet Billy Pilgrim scrape strings and tap away at laptops trying to make beautiful things with steady hands and empty pockets.
Their debut album We Just Did What Happened and No One Came, a collection of songs recorded in a warm shed where hope floats and faith taps at the door (sometimes a little too quietly to hear). Mojo magazine awarded it four stars and The Sunday Times called it, “a rather special debut”, making the single Stars Spill Out of Cups one of their songs of the year.
Since then, they’ve turned those careful hands to remixing, most notably ‘bringing a fierce pop quality’ to David Sylvian’s The Heart Knows Better for his The Good Son vs. the Only Daughter – The Blemish Remixes project, and adding drum loops and banjos to Steve Adey’s Mississippi for a remix EP. Steve Jansen’s Conversation Over from the Slope album has also benefited / suffered from their meddlings, Tim also contributing vocals and lyrics to the album for the song Sleepyard.
With the release of their second album, Twice Born Men on Samadhisound label following recent collaborations with folktronica luminary Adem (for BBC Radio 3), Norwegian electronicists Punkt, and successful shows at the Royal Opera House, King’s Place as well as festivals in Spain and Norway, Sweet Billy Pilgrim are building fires to warm their little musical corner while they wait for planning permission to build their ramshackle beach huts on those tiny, storm-bruised plots inside us all. Should it not be grantedÉ they’re prepared to settle for a gazebo.
Presented as ever in a beautiful digipak featuring exquisite artwork from Tacita Dean and designed by Chris Bigg.
The Times. What makes Twice Born Men truly special is the way the indefinable floatiness of the verses is merely the springboard for a succession of delicious pop choruses.
The Sunday Times. Remember how Wilco’s “experimental” album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot turned out to be simply a series of brilliant pop songs? Same thing here.
Independent on Sunday. The trio’s brooding folk-pop, intertwined with Tim Elsenburg’s Guy Garveyish vocals pitches and rolls like a ship on the waves. A dark rum pleasure
Mojo. Pioneering spirit, murky drama, – is this the missing folk sequel to Jonny Greenwood’s There Will Be Blood soundtrack?
Twice Born Men’s opening track introduces a refrain of just a few notes played on electric guitar which is mirrored in the final track, There Will It End. For all the textures, layers and complexity of what lies between, this simplicity and immediacy of sentiment pervades the whole. Twice Born Men is a brilliantly complete record that is captivating, elemental and, at times, heart breaking. This is a piece of music that will stay with you.
The album is a voyage, full of yearning, of life and love, a sweetly melancholic journey brave enough to acknowledge the goodbyes we must make along the way. The lyrics are incredibly evocative, beautifully served by the album artwork, and the music unlike anything else I’ve heard – complex, unusual, melodious, discordant, exhilarating and mournful – all of these combining effortlessly without ever losing the album’s narrative thread.
For me, what makes Twice Born Men so special is that the album achieves the very rare feat of maintaining intensity throughout – it creates its own realm of existence into which you are swept by the exquisite songwriting – so that when the record finishes and the journey is done you’ll feel a little wiser and a little sadder – and a little bit unsure of what to do next. Thoroughly recommended.