A journey into space with Hannah Peel’s elderly alter ego
Hannah Peel’s musical arc continues to ascend in unusual and intriguing directions as news of her third album appears on the horizon. Having already captivated audiences with her 2016 album Awake But Always Dreaming, an album that drew on her own family experiences with dementia (see TEC review here), Peel has wasted little time in shaping up album No. 3 in the form of Mary Casio : Journey To Cassiopeia.
‘Mary Casio’ is a side project that Peel has been cultivating for some time. When a brass band commissioned Peel for a new musical project, she felt that her Mary Casio alter ego was the best face to put on it.
Drawing from her influences of electronic pioneers Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire, Peel’s back story for Mary Casio is as an elderly stargazing electronic musician. Her lifelong dream is to leave her mining town home of Barnsley in South Yorkshire and journey into space via home-constructed, hand-made machines that ‘buzz and whirr’ alongside her ever-growing collection of antiquated analogue synths, which she started collecting ever since her father gave her a Casio keyboard as a child.
This combination of brass and analogue synths was originally premiered in Manchester in 2016 as Tubular Brass, which featured a performance of Mike Oldfield’s classic album performed live with a 28-piece brass band.
Mary Casio : Journey To Cassiopeia will see Peel embark on a record described as a “seven-movement odyssey composed for analogue synthesisers and full, traditional 29-piece colliery brass band”. If the idea of such disparate sounds strikes you as bizarre, then the lead track ‘Sunrise Through The Dusty Nebula’ might convince you otherwise. There’s an engaging quality to the quiet beauty in this composition. The brass instrumentation lends the track a certain romance, with chord changes that captivate the imagination.
The tracks on the album were recorded live on location in Barnsley with a complete brass ensemble and the collaboration of Peter Gabriel’s Real World studio team. The result is an emotional journey through 7 tracks, including a sample taken from a 1928 recording of Peel’s own choirboy grandfather. Through tracks with titles such as ‘Goodbye Earth’, ‘Deep Space Cluster’ and ‘The Planet Of Passed Souls’, Peel charts a story that may be Mary Casio’s actual journey, or simply a fantasy conjured up in her head.
Either way, Mary Casio : Journey To Cassiopeia is sounding like one of the more intriguing albums that 2017 has to offer – and also suggests Hannah Peel’s own musical journey is bound for the stars.
Mary Casio : Journey To Cassiopeia is released on 22nd September and can be pre-ordered via https://hannahpeel.tmstor.es/
Hannah Peel has several live shows lined up for this year including:
1st July New Music Biennial & BBC Radio 3: Mary Casio: Journey to Cassiopeia, Hull. 2nd July Solo Show at FRÜIT, Hull. 8th July Bluedot Festival: Mary Casio & Tubular Bells, Cheshire East. 9th July New Music Biennial Southbank: Mary Casio – Journey to Cassiopeia, London. 29th July WOMAD Festival: Hannah Peel & Tubular Brass, Malmesbury.