Billy Mill Is Dead represents a home-coming. It finds the globe-trotting Man Power reflecting on his roots, his Tyneside birth place. The album is a hauntology of sorts. Improvisations constructed not with vintage analogue gear, but a laptop – and throwing itself further back in time than the genre’s usual 60s and 70s focus. Back to the first quarter of the 20th Century. Before the closure of the shipyards and the mines. To when Newcastle was still the “powerhouse” that had fueled the previous century’s industrial revolution. Sampling dialogue, stories, from both his personal archive and Youtube. Capturing simpler lives – those lived out on production lines, or cut tragically short on the coal face. Where glamour was a Saturday night broadcast from an American ballroom. A burst of big band jazz picked up on a bakelite receiver. And dreams were distant vessels too far out on the horizon to be discerned. But where family and community were a real, physical thing.
A long way from Man Power`s usual dance floor dynamite, these are minimalist sepia snapshots. Memory palace cues found in the crackle and static of old news reels and radio shows. Fragments of near forgotten TV themes – jaunty black & white matinee strings. Horns repeat like a stuck record, then are dropped into echo, and stretched into drone and drift. Beatless arpeggios, slow bass pulses. Tumbling tones in with the Victorian clockwork, the factory bustle. Building cathedral-like metallic ringing constructions around ballads recounted by toothless derelicts. A narrator explains, with anger, how new slums replaced the old. A children’s choir singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow is cut off in mid-note.
Wistful creations that look back, not in anger, or with regret, but with fondness. That hark after, attempt to hold on to, history before it`s lost. When fame is the spur, flight is often essential. Man, it`s good to travel, to taste that success, but how does it really feel to come home, and how much, regardless of our journey, does home define who we are?