Wednesday 23 December 2015

Happy Christmas, New Live Tracks To Download For Free

Hi Everyone,

Here’s a little Christmas blogpost with video link and new live tracks download info!

I want to end this year by saying a huge thanks to you all! I’ve really appreciated all your support over this year, with the album purchases and kind comments and those of you who made it along to the live shows this year! As a tiny token of thanks we’ve added free download tracks of Turning The Day and Restless from our gig at Cardiff Folk Club on the Bandcamp site!

It’s been great getting back into all things music this year with release of Stone’s Throw, Lament Of The Selkie, after my 3 years out with extended injury recovery as well as the birth of our daughter Polly. I thoroughly enjoyed the CD launch gig at Cardiff Folk Club in November. It was a privilege to be joined by such a lovely group of talented musicians and I look forward to continuing to work with them all for various shows in 2016!
Here's a live video Restless and some more pics below...

We have a gig booked in at the beautiful Holy Trinty Church in Nailsea on Saturday 20th February, with more dates to be announced soon.

Aside from music life is full and chaotic as usual! Polly turned 3 and is starting at Nursery School class in January. She is full of boundless enthusiasm and already enjoying composing mixes and tunes on my garage band app!

Bill has completed another busy year as director of People Around Here Arts Charity, releasing his latest toe tapping Sir Silence and The Hush EP End Of The Pier as well as establishing a new portrait business, Hushland Portraits.

So signing off now and wishing you all a peaceful and happy Christmas season!

Rachel x

Friday 4 September 2015

Refugees Welcome Here!! Stones Throw Video and The Refugee Crisis in Europe

Its been an emotional few weeks here... personally we said goodbye and laid flowers in grave of a dear friend last Wednesday... A woman who among her many wonderful and generous traits worked with and supported refugees here in Wales...
The refugee crisis here in Europe has been very much on my mind and heart these last 3 years.
I also released my Stone's Throw Video (premiered on Folk Radio UK) last week.
The song and the video explore themes connected with the emotions of being a refugee.
Below is the description I wrote to accompany the video...

Stone’s Throw is the title track from my new album Stone’s Throw, Lament of The Selkie. I’d been exploring the character and persona of Selkie a shape-shifting seal-woman re-imagined from Orkney Folklore, as she struggled to live her life on land away from her natural habitat of the ocean. More and more Selkie’s internal turbulence seemed to echo the real life struggles of people both in the news headlines and that I met personally. These were the stories of refugees and displaced people, far from home with all the loneliness and chaos, grief and loss that comes with enforced migration. In the legends, in order to marry a Selkie woman her sealskin had to be captured while she was in human form and kept hidden from her unless she find it and take the opportunity to return to her home in the sea. The woman of the legends, taken out of her natural environment, longing for home, misunderstood by those around her that did not understand her culture or her grief and who knew nothing of her life before she lived on land became synonymous in my mind with these real time stories of refugees of the last few years. The video was filmed by my artist husband Bill Taylor-Beales and features Isla Horton who achingly portrays a displaced mother separated from home and family. 

I am personally disgusted at the British government's response to this crisis- I'm saddened and sickened to the core that it's reached the awful extremes of innocent children washing up on Europe's beaches and I know that I'm not alone in feeling this way... My daughter turns 3 next week... and I like so many other parents keep thinking... What if it was her?

There will be a national day of action calling for our government to support and allow refugees asylum in Britain on September 12 with protests scheduled all over the UK-
We will be at our local Cardiff one... with banners reading REFUGEES ARE WELCOME HERE!
Come and join us (or find your local demonstration) to send a message to our government and the world that we care, that we stand in solidarity with our fellow humans and citizens of earth...

I'll leave with a link to some other practical ways folks can help if they want to make a difference to this situation...

If you have children at school who would also like to reach out to children who are refugees please consider becoming involved in The Paddington Project- an initiative set up by my friend Joy French encouraging children to send teddy bears with their own written personal messages of love and support to be distributed among refugee children and families... link here

Thursday 20 August 2015

Stone's Throw Lament Of The Selkie Review and Feature on Folk Radio UK

Delighted to announce a that the new album has received a wonderful review on Folk Radio UK from David Kidman... see below

Rachel Taylor-Beales is one of the true originals in the singer-songwriter world, a doggedly and proudly independent spirit whose extraordinary life-experiences thus far have undoubtedly shaped and defined her talents. Her early years involved a bewildering succession of relocations between Australia and the UK: a situation which any child would find unsettling. By the age of 12, she’d lived in 13 different homes, and the difficulty of coming to terms with this somewhat nomadic existence must have made quite a mark on her psyche, giving her a high degree of resilience and no doubt subconsciously encouraging her to forge a distinctive creative personality. This would also likely have stemmed from the presence of several artists in her family, for, always finding a spare guitar to hand in the household, Rachel started writing songs very early on. The Nottingham folk scene of her late teens was both her proving ground and the venue for a fortuitous meeting with her future husband Bill, a visual artist with whom she was to relocate back to Australia, where, forming a dedicated arts company, they spent four years touring and performing in all manner of venues and situations. Since 2000, however, Rachel and Bill have been based in Cardiff, setting up their own record label, with Rachel rapidly establishing herself as a solo performer with a strongly individual character, along the way greatly impressing master s/s Martyn Joseph and gaining an increasing number of critical plaudits through the production of a series of richly inventive studio albums firmly grounded in her own songwriting. These albums – 2004’s Brilliant Blue, 2008’s Red Tree and 2011’s Dust And Gold – together formed a fantastic “colour trilogy”, over the course of which Rachel’s narratives uncompromisingly recounted her own experiences and ongoing emotional journeys, linking these literately within the context of the universal life struggle and common spiritual quest.
Stone’s Throw, Lament of the Selkie engages directly with these themes too, taking the form of a kind of song-cycle. Some three years in the making, its creation both accompanied and was informed by a series of life-struggles that Rachel had personally undergone, including the effects of injuries sustained from a serious fall from stage, her fears of its impact on her then unborn child and the long and painful period of recovery. And it has turned out a tremendous achievement. Rachel herself describes Stone’s Throw as a dark folklore concept tale based around Selkie (Seal-Folk) mythology from the Orkney Isles, and here – following the scene-setting device of the cycle’s initial song (Seaside), with its wonderful, playfully wry observational character-study of the Selkie and what she has had to become in trying to fit into land-based society – the tragic narrative is related almost exclusively from the first-person viewpoint, addressing the listener directly from the mind of the Selkie herself and its inconsolable reflection, wherein every recalled and experienced emotion draws her back to her unavoidable loss. For her dream of living a life on land with her land-bound partner had become unsustainable, due, she realised, to their incompatible lifestyles, leaving her with no option but to return to the sea whence she came and in doing so leave that partner similarly grief-stricken. Rachel’s unique vocal personality beguiles and mesmerises; its cadences connive and convince, drawing us deep into the Selkie’s character through a timbre that’s breathy but tough and yet betokening a seductive, careful enunciation that lingers and caresses for its natural expressive effect and entices us into full sympathy with her plight while invoking the shifting-quicksand nature of her mental state.
Rachel begins the cycle in a state of relative calm and solace, with the Selkie’s body drifting and glistening in the sun, lazing almost carefree in the pursuit of summer Somersaults (nice wordplay here) when it’s Summer Again and the landscape is beguiling and dreamy. At this point, we sense, the Selkie can almost cope with her landlocked situation – until, that is, the call of the sea is too strong and she cannot but surrender plaintively to its siren-song, its sinuous beckoning reel (which neatly links the track onward into the cycle’s postlude). And May It Be signals the Selkie’s more abrupt recognition of her loss, with the first instance of the cycle’s depiction of her wandering mind. Uneasy string arabesques form a telling counterpart to piano chords that threaten to anchor her thoughts. The “voiceless voice” of the (hitherto unvoiced word) Restless takes over for the next song, adopting that very word as its title in a torrent of suffocating imagery and rumbling keyboards invoking the protagonist’s powerlessness in the face of her situation. Stone’s Throw (the title song itself) seems to bring this situation into sharp focus, a desperate perception of rootlessness and an all-too-abundantly-clear realisation for the Selkie that “this beach I sit upon I can’t call home”, a beach that even then is being submerged by the sweeping tides. Her acute desolation may up to this point have been partly assuaged by the sharing of a common experience through a mutual identity with her struggle and loss.
Yes, the initial effect of the Selkie’s intimate confessional may be therapeutic, but by the time we cross over past the cycle’s central point, into the heart-rendingly sensuous, kantele-dappled plea of Selkie’s Song with its wholly inevitable realisation that “the skin won’t fit like it used to, these bones won’t hold it so well”, there is infinitely more pain than gain in the process, and thereafter, things are never quite the same for the Selkie. The strangely warmly glacial winter-scenario In The Cold depicts the defeated Selkie left emotionally out in the bitter, cruel climate with hackles and voices “raised, like banners”. In a masterstroke of emotional seesawing, the Selkie’s vulnerability is conveyed in the ensuing would-be-comforting hymnal of Fall Into You, enveloping and cocooning her delicate voice in a veritable sea of voices and violins. Its uncontrollable ecstasy is short-lived however, as it almost suffocates before the mournful Until The Snow brings a step back into a fresh perspective of detachment in the Selkie’s necessary separation from her partner. This freshness is cleverly conveyed by the introduction of the limpid, crystalline-clear tones of harp into the texture, before the forward-driven chorus section takes over with its determined mantra of “we’ll play and we’ll play And we’ll play these chords Until the snow, until the snow”. After which, Turning The Day is a kind of summation and epilogue, a wishful, outward-probing prayer that chases the light and eventually, via a cathartic chord-change, turns the corner into the fearless resolve of its final section, declaring the Selkie’s deeply-harboured desire to bend space and time just to see her partner’s face again. On the brief instrumental reprise-cum-postlude (Ghost Of A Reel), we hear the fiddler playing for the dance at the end of time, fading from our consciousness as if to signify the cycle beginning over again perhaps? It’s a powerful yet transient image, that’s for sure.
Throughout the album (as indeed had been the case with its predecessors), Rachel’s music commendably refuses to acknowledge specific allegiance to any defined genre or sub-genre but is undoubtedly influenced and inspired by many: among them folk, roots, indie, blues, jazz and even (I’d venture to suggest) a pronounced element of pop-psych from the late-60s/early-70s. Rachel’s highly-developed singing, writing and multi-instrumental talents both seem to know no bounds and observe no boundaries, as she shape-shifts with consummate ease between modes and idioms. And yet, while this tendency renders her music indescribable in the absolute, literal sense, her vision is invariably as clear-sighted as her bewitching vocal delivery. The mildly unconventional (at least by recognised genre standards) structures of the songs may be deceptive in this regard, for there’s always a clear sense of direction to Rachel’s writing, and her imagery is both precise and tantalising in its expression.
On a purely musical (production) basis, Stone’s Throw often exhibits a partly elusive, slightly opaque quality in its rich and aromatic mixdown, imparting an engaging aura of other-worldliness, a feeling of inhabiting a slightly off-kilter alternate universe. This brilliantly mirrors the slightly queasy collation between the worlds of the everyday, Rachel’s own life-story and the time-honoured folklore of the central Selkie legend, and the nature of the lyrics, which are replete with joyously inventive wordplay, as rewarding as they are successful in conveying the essential magic and mystery of the tale. The distinctive conjured soundscapes come courtesy of Rachel’s trusty eclectic collective group of musicians, with a special tonal signature that’s largely characterised by the weaving, keening, almost spectral lines of Lucy River’s violin and the burnished embellishments of Rachel’s own electric guitar and some atmospheric guitar playing from Dylan Fowler and Bill Taylor-Beales, with further important contributions from Rosy Robinson (cello), Paul Gray (bass) and guest appearances from Rachel’s brother Shane (percussion) and Angharad Evans (backing vocals). I’d swear you can hear and feel those Orkney seascapes, the rushing and foaming and ebbing of the waves. Ethereal yet very much present; masterfully conceived and presented, and (is it fanciful to suggest?) this is very probably the sound of space and time bending (if only?… but hey now, be careful what you wish for, Rachel…).
Review byDavid Kidman
See link below to view on Folk Radio UK

Thursday 9 July 2015

Note's On My New Album, Stone's Throw - Lament Of The Selkie

Selkie is the Orcadian word for ‘seal’ and many stories surrounding shape shifting seal people exist within Orkney folklore. In order to take on human form a Selkie had to shed their sealskin. The Selkie men in these stories are often seducers and unfaithful in their relationships, while the Selkie women are usually entrapped by a human stealing and hiding their skin. The Selkie women are generally faithful in their relationships with humans for many years but ultimately their love for the sea and own kind always wins out as they leave their human homes when they rediscover and reclaim their sealskins. Some Selkies have families on land and in sea, for others their children are born on land with webbed feet and hands and in one account the Selkie’s children cannot survive on land and have to be set back into the ocean.

Stone’s Throw ~ Lament Of The Selkie released on Hushland Records 2015 is a reimagining of these traditional Orkney Selkie stories.

Notes On Stone’s Throw, Lament Of The Selkie
Back in the winter of 2011, I was working on a musical collaboration with my friend Gillian Stevens. The project was called ‘Counting The Waves’ and was an exploration of sonic palette involving ancient medieval instruments and modern loop making technology and electric guitar. During this process Gill introduced me to selkie mythology of the Orkney Isles. I had never come across these stories before and found myself captured by their muse. Counting the Waves began to take on a narrative based on the amalgamation of the various selkie myths taking the ancient legends and transposing them into a modern context. I started writing songs from a female selkie perspective and our project was due to premier in the early summer 2012. During our collaboration I discovered I was pregnant with my daughter Polly and so plotted our dates to work inline with my own due date and maternity leave. It was an exciting time, but sadly this specific project was not to be.

Three years ago in early May when 5 months pregnant I had a bad accident. I was on tour in Italy and fell from a high (approx 1.5 metre) stage onto ceramic tiled flooring. Fortunately my daughter was unharmed, but I sustained injuries that left me virtually immobile for the duration of my pregnancy and caused further complications for the birthing process. It was to be a full year and 2 months before I would be signed off by the physio and the implications of it all had a further impact on my singing as my core strength had vastly diminished in this time and so I began a long process of rebuilding the atrophied muscles to enable me to be able to carry a song again.

With my musical projects stalled indefinitely by the logistics of my situation, Bill and I decided to invest in our own recording studio which would enable me to work on a much more adhoc basis as and when I was able to. Slowly I began to work on my songs again and found that the selkie muse was stronger than ever, more and more tracks to her life were being completed.  

Aside from the birth and joyful presence of our daughter Polly for which words can’t adequately express the wonder, over these last years life around me has held much loss and lament. During my pregnancy and the subsequent few years, several of my closest friends have had miscarriages. We experienced the tragic loss of a friends and family both through natural causes and suicide. Marriages have broken down around us… Globally the wars in Gaza and Syria and the outrageous killings of so many innocent young civilians, the endless rise in refugees of war, economic and ecological circumstance…. have all played heavily in my heart and mind. As I sought to process these experiences I found that Selkie became a vehicle to filter all these internal laments as I continued combining elements of the tales into an arc narrative.

With the title track Stone’s Throw, I imagined her as a refugee in a foreign land, a beautiful exotic being now working in a seafront kiosk, selling seaside tat and chips and tea. To me she was a refugee both in circumstance and in spirit. Having read reports of a baby seal being found hiding under a car on the streets of California earlier this year as a result of the warming oceans and as a consequence of the changing availability of food sources, this image of the seal-woman refugee has solidified in my mind. In my narrative, the break down of her relationship with a local man followed on from her extreme heartache that their children could not survive on land. This became a way of expressing my sadness and pain for the situations of my own friends going through hard times in their relationships and with their own loss of children. Her restlessness and longing to feel comfortable in her own skin resonated with my own struggles of trying to rebuild my battered body and as I wrote I realized to my surprise that I was working on a full length concept album.

 I must admit to being afraid that it would all be just too depressing, the tale of a seal-woman, who’s life and loves break down to the point where she falls back into the sea leaving a devastated partner to grieve her… and I wrestled with the urges to lighten the content, but in the end the muse won out. To be authentic in this process I had to surrender to the fact that it was a dark and tragic folklore that I was working on and to the belief that there is a need for lament in art that can enable us to find expression of our own stories within in it, just as Selkie myths had done for me.

Ultimately it is the Selkie’s need to be true to herself that wins out as she returns to the place where she is unfettered and truly her own person as the refugee in spirit and in circumstance finds a way back home. In some ways I think this was a driving force these last years, the pursuit of authenticity in the face of ever changing circumstances, some tragic, some joyous and through it all this new album Stone’s Throw ~ Lament of the Selkie has found its place and been created.

The album features an eclectic bunch of brilliant musicians, who have been great to work with.
Paul Gray (formerly of The Damned/Eddie and The Hot Rods /UFO) makes a guest appearance on bass for a few tracks. Lucy Rivers has provided beautiful violin throughout with additional cello strings from Rosy Robinson. Dylan Fowler has contributed slide guitars and sonic textures with his unique sound and Angharad Evans has sung additional backing vocals on many tracks. My brother Shane Beales guests on percussion and Bill Taylor-Beales (aka Sir Silence and my husband!) plays more bass, assorted guitars, percussion and a bit of organ- leaving me with main electric/acoustic guitar, piano, organ, ukulele, and lots of vocals...

I very much hope that folks will enjoy the finished product that will be coming very soon...

Below a few pics of the journey along the way!

(pic left working with Gill Stevens and her amazing medieval instruments in 2011, I hope to be able to revisit a collaboration in the future!)

(Pic below the stage I fell from in Italy 6th May 2012!)

(Pics below Pregnant before and after 2012!)

(Raising a glass of sparkling wine to the wall of sound!)

                                                   (Recording Begins 2013- 2015)


(Future Recording Artist?! January 2015 aged 2)