Skittish – Intro (vert)

I used to be a people person, a social animal, the sort that would turn up to the opening of an envelope. Always meeting people, always doing things, never short of a place to visit or a gig to go to, 2020 could have been impossible.

It’s been anything but. 

I check in with friends and they tell me that lockdown hasn’t been easy. They know me of old and acknowledge that if it’s been tough for them it must have been triple-hard for me. 

But I’ve been lucky in lockdown. The day job has kept me busy and I’ve felt comfortable in the isolation of it all. When compared to the many millions around the world who have very real health and finance concerns, I’ve got off lightly so far. “I cannot grumble“, I tell those friends.

Two years ago, when I lived for long periods of time alone in this remote Spanish villa, I’d be the first to admit that I didn’t deal with the solitude especially well. I needed the bright lights of a big city to get my kicks, a frenzied time at a festival to wear me out before a week of villa-nada. 

Perhaps that year was simply good practice for this, a dress rehearsal before the pandemic.  I like being alone with my thoughts and a world of  music to listen to. Take that away and I’d be fucked. 

Skittish has a new album out today. Savannah Sessions was recorded when Jeff Noller, the driving force behind Skittish, rocked up to live in Savannah. He dragged in many local musicians to augment his ambition. 

This is Skittish’s seventh album apparently. That’s a lot of catching up I have to get through on Spotify. But catch up I will for the impressions I get from hearing the singles from Savannah Sessions is that Skittish is an act I will grow to love. Literate and observational with power-pop swirls and folk flourishes, it’s stuff that’s right up my street. 

Take album opener, Intro (vert). A pun of a title gives way to a beautiful break-up song beneath. “This was the first song I wrote when I got to Savannah. Two days after I arrived a hurricane passed by and shut down the city. I enjoy my solitude very much, but am worried about living that way too long, which is wrapped up in the chorus line ‘it’s a trial of solo vs. So long‘” – a chorus made for my villa reflection it would appear. 


The other single from the record, Car Crash Companion, chimes in with a singalong chorus and vital power pop riffs. It also has a video with style, humour and awkward editing. “I make all of my videos for less than a hundred dollars“, says Skittish. 

And with that you know that you’ve unearthed another lo-fi gem. 



For Those I Love – I Have A Love

I’ve headed to Alicante for the weekend. Regular readers of Sonic Breakfast will know that this is my happy place. I love the solitude that I get from the villa out in the country but need the buzz of a city from time to time. 

And Alicante gives me that even if the 2020 version is a muted and mutated version of what has gone before. I walked down the esplanade en route to my hotel yesterday and had it all to myself. The hotelier tells me that he might only have money for a couple of weeks more trading. These are desperate times. 

But last night out in the old town I sat under the stars and watched the world go by. There was still an energetic and contagious buzz; we remembered how to smile and laugh amidst the infectious giggles. 

I headed back to my hotel and listened to a piece of music that totally knocked me sideways. I’ve now watched this video a dozen times on repeat and I plan to watch it a dozen times more. 

I remember the very first time I listened to Original Pirate Material by The Streets. Mike Skinner introduced himself as a talent to behold with his gritty, humorous observations about working class life in Birmingham and I adored it. For Those I Love achieve something similar, albeit working class life in Dublin, with this track I have a love’. I can pay no greater compliment. 

For Those I Love is the life project of Dave Balfe. He wrote this piece to honour the memory of his best friend and former band mate, Paul Curran, who died suddenly a couple of years back. In one fell swoop, the beautiful, observational spoken-word poetry builds over a growing electronica swarm to establish a more than fitting tribute for a friend. The video, laced with footage from their friendship, manages to be both beautiful and sad. I defy anyone watching to not feel the lump in the throat as the song builds to its point of no return. 



Dave puts it better than I ever could when he says, “When it happened, and life froze over, the only way out was through the songs.
How else can I show my love, how else can I remember what we had and what we made, but through the art itself.”

The Phoenix Foundation – Landline

Hands up who misses the landline? Bonus points if, like an alcoholic with drink, you remember your first ever encounter with the fixed phone device, especially if it was one that you had to prompt into action with a circular swoop of the finger. 

I recall my Saturday mornings as a young child well. I must have been six or seven and I was desperate to ask a question on ‘ Multi Coloured Swap Shop’.Each week I’d spend hours, when others were watching Noel Edmonds pose questions to the latest pop sensation, sitting on the hard parquet floor in the hall laboriously dialling and re-dialling. The TV was in another room. I wouldn’t actually be watching the programme itself. I had more important business to conduct.


I never did get to ask my question. I never got beyond the engaged tone. My Dad, in a vain attempt to curb my obsessive behaviour, did take me to a wet field in Wycombe where Cheggers (RIP) had set up stall with his roaming swap-shop. I swapped a favourite toy for something that was broken in a box; my deal-making, business acumen laid bare for all to see from an early age. 

But I’m rambling. There is no point talking about foolish attempts to woo girls in my teenage years from the now-carpeted steps leading off from the hallway; the clock-watching waiting for 6PM to pass and the cheap rate to begin. I can barely believe that I once told a young woman who was blatantly not interested in a date that they would ‘regret that decision one day’. I’m sure she never has. There are many more landline misdemeanours that I could draw upon but I won’t.

In years to come this prose will seem archaic, distant, confusing and perhaps quaint. Maybe, some younger, more mobile readers are already wondering what the point of this weird invention, the landline, could ever have been? 

The Phoenix Foundation, a sextet from New Zealand, have just released a song called Landline. The tune itself is an upbeat slice of happy funk-bounce. Laced with a healthy dose of 80’s psychedelia yet sounding thoroughly right for 2020, it’s worth three and a half minutes of anybody’s time. According to the bands co-frontman, Samuel Scott Flynn, this “ridiculous song is about trying to keep real connections with your friends in this bollocks time in human history but in the video I’m a human telephone trying to stab a Spy Vs Spy version of Luke. Makes sense.” 

A video to make you smile, a song that draws upon feelings of nostalgia to make sense of today’s crazy world. This is right up Sonic Breakfast’s street and I’m sure it’ll be up yours as well. 

J.E. Sunde – Love Gone To Seed


J.E. Sunde has been building up to the November release of his new album, 9 Songs About Love, by teasing us all with some great singles from it. It’s going to be a late contender for album of the year if the quality of those three tracks is typical of the rest of the record. 

I took some time out after work today to have a look at the video for ‘Love Gone To Seed’. This third single is a sublime piece of jaunty, country-influenced folk. It’s got the anguished simplicity of a Buddy Holly heartbreaker and the melodic beauty of Paul Simon at his least complicated. 

Sunde says it’s about “a relationship ending. Probably one whose ending is for the best. However, the fellow can’t really see that and is futilely attempting to hold the relationship together when the other person isn’t interested in that. It also mentions, seemingly as justification for the end of the relationship, the tempting lie that for love to be true and worth pursuing there should be no need for you to compromise in any way”.

We’ve all been there right? That unspoken desperation that characterises a relationship coming to an end, the unseemly addictiveness of the push-pull that gives a sliver of joy within a vista of hurt. In truth, I’ve not been there for a good, few years now and my memories of it are probably more distant than Jonathan Edward’s (that’s what the J.E. stands for) but I can still relate to the feelings when two atoms repel.


The Second single, I Don’t Care To Dance, is on the surface, a more melancholy piece, a slow, woozy dance late one evening, aided by gin and tonics. Sunde’s voice goes all Andy Shauf on us (this is a very good thing) as he ponders how the effects of a toxic masculinity influence his being. 

As J.E. says, “It’s about a man finding hope that love might be possible for him after having resigned himself that it wasn’t. It also speaks to the broken expectations and models that are given to men in how they should pursue relationships. Models and expectations that so often turn toxic”.

There is hope. This is music that helps me to smile, to cry and to fly. I hope you’ll like it as much as I. 


Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate – Nostalgia For Infinity

My good friend Paul is an occasional contributor to Sonic Breakfast. He’s just recovering from his third hip replacement operation. Even the poorest of mathematicians should be able to work out that means that one is a replacement of a replacement. And that’s serious by all accounts. 

He’s recovering well even though living in Leicester represents something of a double-whammy lockdown. Malcolm from Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate asked Sonic Breakfast if we might review their latest album and I knew the man for the job. Paul likes prog and counts this band as one of his modern-day favourites. It’ll keep him out of mischief I thought. 

Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate

Nostalgia for Infinity


There are albums for long car journeys. This is an album for a journey into deep space – take-off is anxious and exciting, distances are vast and empty, and when we arrive we have to save humanity.

Nostalgia for Infinity is a concept album in the great tradition of prog rock – a message full of contradictions, uncertainties and desperate pleading. There is infinity, and plenty of it. The throb of the universe, the dark, the cold, the endlessness. The silence. But there is nostalgia, too, and that has always been an important part of English prog music – the lark ascending, the cricket, the cucumber sandwiches, the Carry On films. Comfort in times of change; reassurance where there is disorientation.

The sleeve notes tell us that much of the album is based on, or inspired by, the works of the British science fiction writer Alistair Reynolds. This is interesting background information, and it is quite right for sources to be acknowledged, but the pieces are strong enough to stand on their own.

Six of the 12 tracks are instrumental. Track 3, Ark, is one of those, and it’s outstanding – melodious, thoughtful, always growing and developing. It moves from tinkling modest optimism with gentle piano, to steely determination with bold guitar, to becalmed introspection with understated keyboard, and finally to a quiet letting go, with piano again. It has echoes of Van der Graaf Generator’s Plague of Lighthouse Keepers.

Nanobotoma is a song about a disease caused, not by bacteria or viruses, but by nanotechnology – tiny machines that spread and divide in the body, ‘fly on the breath’ and ‘sparkle in the spit’. We need to get the R number down – self-isolate for 14 light years.

Following on from Nanobotoma, Chasing Neon comes as quite a relief. It’s a dancy instrumental track, a joyful theme for a chase sequence between space ships, or just a space joyride.

There’s not much respite, though. Doom is back on the agenda with Glitterband, where glitter turns to rust, and it looks like the earth is done for.

Three instrumental tracks follow. The guitar leads the way in Conjoiners, and we’re happy to go along. The going gets tough in Scorpio, with jazz riffs, and then we hit the desolation of Inhibitors, with wind effects and scratchy flute sounds and primal gasps – a world willing itself into existence. No discernible lyrics, but a faraway female voice that could almost be keening.

The next track is the title track. It is about guilt. Specifically, the guilt of the captain of the space vessel, who has made some bad decisions and who is now starting to meld organically with the nuts and bolts of his ship. His crew aren’t happy.

The fusion of flesh and machinery is a theme through the album, be it at molecular or architectural scale.

After the instrumental track Voyager, the final track is Sixth Extinction. The earth has already seen five mass extinctions, the fifth being 65 million years ago. The sixth extinction will almost certainly be anthropogenic.

Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate are Malcolm Galloway and Mark Gatland on vocals, guitars, bass and tech, and Kathryn Thomas on flute and much-too-sparing vocals. Their music is ethereal, emotive and moving. It will help us in this journey.

Paul Champion

September 2020