Wednesday, 4 November 2009

'Harsh, Final.' review - 8 out of 10 on Foxy Digitalis, and more...

8 out of 10 on Foxy Digitalis! Woo-Hoo!!! Nice mention for Rachel Goodyear's cover art too.

Danny Saul "Harsh, Final"

Let’s get potential “selling points” like the fact that this album was mastered by Valgeir Sigurdsson out of the way, and head straight towards the fact that this is, quite simply, a magnificent album. Danny Saul, who appears to be a mainstay in Manchester’s music scene, may be known to some as a former Xela collaborator. At a time when shoegaze-influenced pop sensibilities are more than a micro-trend, “Harsh, Final”, Saul’s solo debut album after almost ten years of live collaborations and ill-fated band projects, should help him gain wider recognition.

With beautiful three-minute miniatures and epic ambient pop pieces that clock in at around the twelve-minute mark, “Harsh, Final” covers a lot of territory between the opener “Your Death” and the album closer, a deeply melancholic version of “My Escape”. The latter is a cover version – the original being by Hotpants Romance – but Saul’s rendition is so intimate that it’s obvious he’s made it all his own. At the other end of the album, “Your Death” has the listener expect a more ambient album, before, almost six minutes into the track, Saul’s voice has its first appearance. When I first listened to the album, I almost jumped for surprise.

What is it, then, that has kept “Harsh Final” on my playlist constantly for about two months? Its fascinating blend of relaxed guitar strumming and highly concentrated, deep arrangements. But also the dynamics of the longer pieces, the cunning take on the singer-songwriter format this album presents. It’s clearly a pop release, but at the same time way beyond any radio format. And Rachel Goodyear’s intriguing watercolour drawing/painting on the cover doesn’t hurt either. 8/10 -- Jan-Arne Sohns (3 November, 2009)

Additionally, here's another wacky google translation of another nice review, this time from Jan Willem Broek at Caleidoscoop:

Danny Saul the past 10 years with various musical projects in the weather. Together with Greg Haines he Lion Daler example, earlier this year with a fine live album, but also plays (or played) he formations as Easter, Polythene, Stranger Son Of WB, Barbarians and Tsuji Giri. In Manchester, where he comes from, they even say: "as a band in Manchester continues long enough, Danny Saul will sooner or later join them." All these are no references to his solo work, because Danny is simply always own way. On his new CD Harsh, Final results in very special and experimental singer-songwriter music. In the opener "Your Death", no it is not a happy album, he combines acoustic guitar and captivating vocals to shreds glitch. This provides wonderful poignant, mesmerizing and enigmatic above ambient in which the imagination and little by little the secrets gives. The songs "My Escape" and "Clockwork" let him occasionally silent moments so you become more focused and you know how to get even deeper. The art of omission. He also mixes a soft noise and other electronic sounds by, while he carried on, gently played with his lyrics still bring. "Harsh" is his most explicit song, but it sets it remains mysterious, enchanting atmosphere exhale. All in all it is a modest cross-fertilization of Celer, Seasons (Pre-din), Machinefabriek, Boduf Songs, Jasper TX, Fennesz, Richard Young, Mark Hollis, At Swim Two Birds and David Sylvian. Wonderful songs, you know to nail to the ground.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

More Reviews for 'Harsh, Final.'

Massive thanks to all who reviewed the album, and all of you who bought it.



Manchester-based singer-songwriter Danny Saul doesn't hedge his bets on his debut album Harsh, Final. The one-time member of rock outfit Tsuji Giri and current partner to Greg Haines in Liondialer opens the album with a bold twelve-minute set-piece (“Your Death”) that starts out as a bucolic acoustic guitar folk instrumental but then extends into experimental territory with acoustic and electric guitars melding into a blur, a move that makes the music feels like it's lifting off from earth for ever-ascendant heights. Halfway through, chords penetrate the haze, followed by staggered layers of Saul's singing voice, after which the music again incrementally decompresses until it concludes with the same acoustic guitars with which it began. It's an auspicious introduction to a collection that identifies Saul as someone who may share certain things in common with the singer-songwriter tradition but shares just as much with explorative electronic practices too. The combination of vocals and guitar-generated sound sculpting makes for an unusual and arresting mix, and one that helps Saul's album separate itself from the competition.

If anything, Saul plunges even deeper into experimental territory when he uses an industrial churn of scrapes and creaks as an unsettling backdrop for his cryptic vocal musings during “My Escape.” Strip his impassioned vocals away from “Clockwork” and you'd be left with a grainy, guitar-based ambient meditation overflowing with stuttering effects and phasing treatments; as it is, the two components work together in reinforcing the track's mood of desperation. Framed by two brief instrumentals (“(harsh),” “(final)”), the recording's longest piece (its climax, really), the thirteen-minute “Cannonball,” ups the emotional ante even more by escalating the aggressive attack to such heights the music could be called shoegaze during its loudest moments. The album ends with the Hotpants Romance composition “Stop Escaping” (from It's a Heatwave ) that Saul delivers in a more traditional singer-songwriter style—not an unwelcome choice given the consistently untraditional pieces that come before it. Each of the album's seven pieces flows into the one after, making the fifty-three-minute recording feel as if it were laid down in real time, all of which helps make Saul's Harsh, Final come to life with an enhanced sense of urgency and immediacy.

November 2009

All Music:

This, Danny Saul's debut solo album, is a thing of beauty. And just like true beauty, it takes its time to unfold, disclose itself, and charm. It's only once you let yourself fall under the spell that its beauty becomes obvious to you. Saul is a singer-songwriter, but he works in a time span usually avoided by his fellow folksters. On Harsh, Final, the average song lenth is 10 minutes. Moods get set, electronic textures are developed, arrangements build up, and only then come the vocals (almost six minutes into "Your Death," for instance), subdued, soft-spoken, but emotionally-charged. The songwriting, attention to atmospheres, and equal importance devoted to the song, its delivery, and its studio dressing strongly evoke David Sylvian and Fovea Hex, with a hint of Peter Broderick thrown in, and maybe an influence from Peter Hammill's quieter, studio-centric side (Fireships, Thin Air). Ben Frost's The Theory of Machines also comes to mind, although Saul makes prominent use of the acoustic guitar as a foundation instrument. The highlights are "Clockwork" and "Cannonball," the latter a slow-boiling 13-minute song escalading to a powerful bottleneck guitar climax. Tacked at the end of the album, almost as an afterthought, is a cover of Hotpants Romance's "Stop Escaping," approached in a raw guitar-and-vocals way that makes too much of a contrast with what came before. That minor point aside, Harsh, Final is a focused effort, each track flowing seamlessly into the next, in a hazed disbelief-suspended mood. Beautiful and very impressive.

Thaddi Hermann - De:Bug Magazine (Berlin) (November Issue):

(rough translation through Google Translator!)

If this man shakes off the darkness, chewing the cud, his DSP escapades scale back a bit, then he becomes a star. Danny Saul, from Manchester has what it takes. His first album is a collection of introspective songs with a timid vocals. The rest is guitar. In each tone has as much space as he needs. Depressed and in the tails slightly distorted, so the frustration ebbs in our ears like the tides. Gently, yet only irrevocable. This is fascinating and just a little excessive. As if he wants to hide something is not quite sure if it fits everything so well. Let it out, Danny, you want to call out to him because it fits perfectly. So why did he build this protective shell remains unclear.

Finally, a link here to the review on Fluid Radio - same review as God Is In The TV.

Friday, 16 October 2009

First Reviews for Harsh, Final.

From God Is In The TV:

The debut solo album from Manchester ‘singer-songwriter’ Danny Saul is an intriguing affair, as is immediately apparent from the beautifully haunting artwork. This is an aesthetic which carries across in to the music. It begins with a slow acoustic guitar which is soon accompanied by a bed of swirling celestial tones gradually building layer upon layer of beautiful textures, the crowning one being that of Saul’s resonant vocals. What begun as a fairly straightforward track fans out in to a sprawling sonic collage full of crackling tape hiss, and establishes Saul has more of an experimental ambient artist than your standard acoustic warbler.

My Escape follows a similar blueprint; with a slow creeping ambience punctured only by Saul’s dulcet vocals. The slow, laconic nature of the music gives it a semi-improvised feel which compliments the length of the tracks, there’s an understated majesty to these songs which is reminiscent of David Thomas Broughton. Many solo artists and particularly singer songwriter types make the misguided decision to crowd their songs with as many overdubbed instruments as possible to engineer some feeling of grandeur, it’s great to hear someone embracing the limitations of the one man band and in fact using to great effect. The minimal nature of the compositions at times make them seem more like incidental music than songs, the kind of thing you can fully imagine being used in a slow burning psychological horror. Of course the unsettling atmosphere and the ambiguous morbidity of the lyrical content help to inform this perception; My Escape makes use of wonderfully sinister imagery such as “your bleeding eyes’.

Cannonball is very much the centre piece of the album, clocking in at 13 minutes. It begins with distant sliding electric guitars drenched in reverb before blossoming in to a sprawling piece of salacious acoustic guitar work which is then draped in layered vocals which gradually swell with repetition until it is gleefully stripped right back to nothing. It then builds again, layer upon layer, sounding like a less dazed version of Grouper until the introduction of a wall of dissonant electric guitar pushes the track over the edge; it’s a moment of genuine euphoria and you can’t help but feel as though this is the moment that the whole album has been building towards. Arguably the most beautiful track on the album though is also one of the shortest, and precedes the main event, (Harsh) is again a meld of slowly picked acoustic guitars paired with a deep reverberating bass line, it is an entrancing master class in minimalism which recalls Set Fire to Flames, or GY!BE at their most languid.

The closing track is a cover of Manchester lo-fi trio Hotpants Romance. This is more standard singer songwriter fare, and having listened to the original Saul has done well to even craft this from it. Try as he does though he cannot bring to it the tortured eloquence which he can his own material, and ultimately it is the poor link in an otherwise excellent album and would have been better saved for another release. At times the record can feel frustratingly slow, but for the most part it is wholly captivating.

...and from Monsieur Delire:

A very strong debut effort from Manchester’s Danny Saul. I could describe him as a singer-songwriter, but his songs are so long (ten minutes and over) and so textural that he is better aproached from the experimental pop angle. David Sylvian and Ben Frost are good points of comparison, but personally, throughout the album, I’ve been thinking of Fovea Hex’s ethereal songs. I really like this CD. The cover of Hotpants Romance’s “Stop Escaping” is somewhat askew, even tucked at the tail end of the record, but that’s minor flaw

...and also from Seb Bassleer:

Danny Saul is een talentvolle, atmosferische songwriter uit de onderbuik van Manchester die daar al een tijdje in het circuit meedraait. Het is daarom stilaan tijd dat men hem buiten Greater Manchester en Groot Brittanië leert kennen. Na 2 eerdere ep's ('Balance' en 'History +3') en het gruizige Liondaler project met mede Mancunian Greg Haines is het eindelijk de beurt aan zijn volle debuutalbum. Achter de knoppen van dit album zat Valgeir Sigurðsson, toch niet de minste producer als het gaat om heldere en experimentele geluiden. Toepasselijke IJslandse zwalmzuchtelementen van Sigurðsson glijden door zijn muziek als zachte passages. Met momenten dwalen de klanken zelfs af richting Sigur Rós door meerstemmige en krakerige geluidsschemeringen. Zijn composities voelen als landsschappen, gevuld met resonanties, drones, ruis en noise flarden die nooit scherp aanvoelen. Een werk van multi-gelaagde effecten alsof het geschreven is voor uitvoering in een katedraal. Op momenten heerst er een uitgestrekte country sfeer met een bijrol voor fingerpicking. Invloeden die hierbij grip hebben gehad op Saul zijn Bob Moult, Steve Albini en met name Richard Thompson. Als men 'Harsh, Final' wilt vertalen naar muzikale parallelle houvasten, dan luisteren Sylvian Chauveau, Grouper en Boduf Songs zeer dichtbij mee. Saul maakt zijn muziek immers met electroakoestische gitaar, loop en delay pedalen en een geprepareerde laptop, hetgeen aanzet tot het bouwen van instrumentele laagjes die bijgesteld worden naargelang de compositie duurt. Saul's zang is melancholisch lijzig en lijkt soms bijna gesproken door de traagheid van zijn woorden. De song 'Cannonball' is de crux van deze prachtige verstilde plaat met IJslandse en dronesque country sferen. Een zachte zalving voor de naderende donkere dagen en gemoedsstemmingen. In het machtige online archief van het VPRO programma Dwars kunt u trouwens een mooie live sessie horen, eerder dit jaar opgenomen. (

Which through google translator, comes out like this:

Danny Saul is a talented, atmospheric songwriter from the underbelly of Manchester who for a while in the circuit veteran. It is therefore about time that he was outside Greater Manchester and Great Britain to know. After 2 previous ep's ( "Balance" and "History +3') and the gritty Lion Daler project with fellow Mancunian Greg Haines was finally turn his full debut. Behind the bars of this album Sat Valgeir Sigurðsson, not the least producer in terms of clear and experimental sounds. Applicable elements of Icelandic zwalm sigh Sigurðsson slip through his music as soft passages. With moments wandering off towards the sounds even by Sigur Rós polyphonic sound and squeaky-engined twilight. His compositions feel like country shelves, filled with resonances, drones, noise and noise patches that never feel sharp. A work of multi-layered effect as if written for performance in a cathedral. At times there is a vast country atmosphere with a supporting role for finger picking. Influences that have had this grip on his Bob Saul Moult, Steve Albini and especially Richard Thompson. If "Harsh, Final 'to translate into musical parallel tenons, then listen Sylvian Chauveau, Grouper and Boduf Songs very close to them. Saul makes his music because of electro acoustic guitar, loop and delay pedals and prepared a laptop, which encourages the building of instrumental layers to be adjusted depending on the composition lasts. Saul's drawling vocals are melancholic and sometimes seems almost spoken by the slowness of his words. The song "Cannonball" is the crux of this beautiful quiet country dronesque plate with Icelandic and spheres. A soft anointing for the upcoming dark days and mood. The powerful online archive of the VPRO Dwars program you can also hear a great live session earlier this year. ( (s.b)

Thursday, 8 October 2009

'Your Death' played on Stuart Maconie's Freakzone

Pretty darn self explanatory really innit! Biggups to Stuart Maconie for playing 'Your Death' on last Sunday's show. The show is online for a few more days to listen to here. Thanks for the support yo!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Debut Album 'Harsh, Final.' drops October 26th.

I'm pleased to announce the release of my debut solo album 'Harsh, Final.' which will be (quite obviously from the title of this posting), available to buy from October 26th from a number of places. Here's one of them. The album is distributed in the U.S. exclusively by those nice folks at Forced Exposure.

'Harsh, Final.' features cover artwork (see above) by the spectacular Manchester based artist Rachel Goodyear (2 Girls courtesy of private collection), and was mastered by Valgeir Sigurdsson (Bjork, Bonny Prince Billy, Ben Frost).

There's a nice first review of the album here on Canadian blog Monsieur Delire.

'A very strong debut effort from Manchester’s Danny Saul. I could describe him as a singer-songwriter, but his songs are so long (ten minutes and over) and so textural that he is better aproached from the experimental pop angle. David Sylvian and Ben Frost are good points of comparison, but personally, throughout the album, I’ve been thinking of Fovea Hex’s ethereal songs. I really like this CD. The cover of Hotpants Romance’s “Stop Escaping” is somewhat askew, even tucked at the tail end of the record, but that’s minor flaw.' - Monsieur Delire

Hopefully more to follow soon...

Thursday, 30 July 2009

VPRO Session

Back in early March, the final day of the Liondialer tour was pretty fraught - Greg and I left Drachten in the early hours of the morning, having had very little sleep, and as usual, too much alcohol. The last gig was later that day in Antwerp, but I had been invited to do a radio session for VPRO, which meant a detour to Amsterdam. We were there for four terrifyingly stressful hours, but we also managed to squeeze in a Liondialer session. The end results are now up on the VPRO DWARS page to hear. Seems like the session came out better than I remembered it, but then again, I have a bad habit of listening only for mistakes and faults...out of solo practice, out of tune, time, tired...Christ, I've gotta get over myself! Huge thanks to Berry Kamer for the invitation.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

A Pleasant Blast From The Past....

Maybe (hmm...), a couple of years ago, I submitted a cover of The Afghan Whigs' song 'What Jail Is Like', for possible inclusion on a tribute album to be released by Summer's Kiss. I've been a huge fan of The Afghan Whigs ever since I took the plunge in my teens with 'Congregation' (Sub Pop), an album I still consider to be a masterpiece of American alternative rock. The group's subsequent works went from strength to strength, moving towards an altogether slicker, soulful, 'Stevie Wonder-style', funk driven alt-rock sound - all the while maintaining frontman Greg Dulli's spectacular ability to conjure up some of the most prurient, self-serving lyrical imagery I've ever had the pleasure to encounter. Suffice to say the more vile aspects of Dulli's songwriting influenced my own in a huge way.

My version of the track wasn't included on the final compilation, however I'm very pleased to discover that Summer's Kiss liked it enough to include it (alongside a few other highlight submissions), as a free download on their site, in anticipation of the release. I'm equally flattered by what they had to say about the cover:

'Manchester’s Danny Saul recorded a simple, poetic version of “What Jail is Like”, changing the propulsive rhythm of the original for the subtlety of arpeggio-driven acoustic picking. “What Jail is Like” garnered more submissions than any other song in the Afghan Whigs’ catalog. Danny’s was by far the most subversive and stylistically unique take of those we received and has become a personal favorite.'

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Liondialer in this month's Mojo Magazine.

Here's a nice bit of press for a couple of drunks in charge of laptops...for those of you with beers goggles on, click the image to enlarge.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Liondialer LIVE! has Full Toss on CD.

"I'll be traveling between ambient drones and comfort are disquieting, to people not familiar with this music will be head and shoulders above the fully turbulent. I draw that." (Google translation of Livedoor, Japan text)

It's almost two weeks since the Liondialer album came out, and I'm pleased so say it's gathered a decent amount of coverage for a first release. You can read the words that people took out of their brains with typie-fingered activity for yours and ours benefit will do nicely on font screens with almost magnificent propelled complacency. By which I mean, when you use google translator to read a review, it's like taking bad psychedelic drugs, but in a good way.

note: at no point here am I taking the mick out of the reviewers - it's all about that genius google translator (however, the Milk Factory review does have a pretty fucking odd take on the English language to my 'untrained heye', that is...hey, we're grateful for all the coverage - thank's for the support y'all).

Big-up to Stuart Maconie at BBC 6 Music for giving us airplay on his spectacularly adventurous show The Freak Zone, Tom Robinson for airplay on 'Introducing' and Steve Barker for the 'On The Wire' show. Oh yeah, before I forget we're also reviewed in the recent Big Issue, and we will be featured in next months Mojo magazine in the Mojo Rising section. Woo-hoo!

Check out the reviews here from The Milk Factory, Mapsadaisical, Soundscaping, Boomkat, Smallfish, my favourite translated review from Subjectivisten/Kaleidoscope, and also Livedoor in Japan.

Friday, 27 March 2009

News 2009 - Why I Got Me Some Crazy Product Out Right Now...

Ok, 2009 has started with a fair old burst of activity for me, and as a result, I figured it was time to find a way to document/publicise exactly 'where I'm at', as it were. This seems like the most appropriate way to get the job done, seeing as how I haven't updated my website for quite some time, so here goes.

The tail end of 2008 saw the completion and also the birth of a few projects I have been involved in; first up was the Stranger Son of WB recordings I played bass on. The limited edition 12" release of 'Engine' (WHITEBOX 001) is not only a very saucy pressing, but also soon to be sold out, as in gone forever (with the possible exception of being able to obtain a grubbied copy from ebay for up to... maybe £5 (in real money). Those in the know should get it while it's hot.

Following this, the Stranger Son of WB album 'Einstein's Getaway' was released in February, also on White Box (WHITEBOX 002 - you following this?), and is in my opinion, a killer CD of kick-ass songs from the depths of Gareth Smith's (Stranger Son's main man) warped mind - who'd have thought 4 car mechanics from Ashton were capable of such depravity? Proud to be a part of it...

The end of February saw Greg Haines and myself head out across Europe to promote our forthcoming Liondialer CD. 'LiondialerLIVE!' (WHITEBOX 003 - still with me? Pattern? Indeed), is our first album together and is a sequence of music which was edited by the mysterious Arkhonia, culled from hours of raw improvisations, performed in some of the least welcoming environments to experimental music that Manchester has to offer. Liondialer have been ignored with an almost professional level of commitment by some of the Manchester scene's biggest offenders, and that's the way we like it. I'd like to think that some of those in attendance actually took something positive from the gigs, but with the exception of those we call our friends, I hold out little hope. It also came as no surprise to find that in the three weeks of gigging outside the UK, we were given a warm and attentive welcome everywhere. Click here to read my rather extensive tour diary (which I still have to complete), on the White Box Blog.

Having made several new friends and having drunk more beer than is secretly sewn into Eddie Hitler's jacket, I returned to Manchester as Greg departed for some solo gigs in Italy. We are currently seeking out gigs for around September/October time around Europe (solo gigs) and...(gulp!) the UK (Liondialer gigs). Any interested and committed promoters out there would be most welcome to contact us.

The 'Liondialer LIVE!' album is released this Monday 30th March.

In addition to all of this, I have finally completed work on my first solo album; 'Harsh, Final' will be released in one form or another later this year - August/September time to be precise. The album was recorded at home by little old me, and I'm very pleased to say has been mastered by the superb Icelandic artist and producer Valgeir Sigurðsson.

Last but not least, I have been roped into playing guitar for none other than Elvis Presley. Under the banner of 'Elvis In Disguise', the King has indeed resurfaced in, of all places, Manchester - he did not (as most die-hard fans would have you believe), pass away in '77 - instead he had simply chosen like Scott Walker, to become something of a recluse. Fortunately for all of us, he's back and starting from the ground up. Together with his new band, the live actions so far undertaken have been almost guerrilla-like in approach and have, for those lucky enough to be in attendance, been hailed as out 'n' out victories in Elvis' campaign to win back his Throne.

So that's a pretty good start to 2009 I think. As always, lots more to follow.