Feature: Jack Foley
NAIL Tolliday and Simon Mills, aka Bent, consider themselves
artists who like a challenge.
Hence, while they wouldn’t blink an eye at half-inching
a Nana Mouskouri vocal sample, or appearing as deranged doctors
for The Everlasting Blink album, their musical map has
always directed them down the road less well travelled.
Hence, the curious box of delights that is their third album,
Whereas, in the past, Nail and Simon were happy to act the sonic
fools, indulging their strictly (non-ironic) love of thrift store
beats and junk shop samples, Ariels is the sound of Bent
turning their backs on such skulduggery for real music, played
on real instruments, by real people.
As Nail explains: "We just wanted more of a challenge. Apart
from samples being very expensive, we arrived at a different game
plan from in the past."
Continues Simon: "We wanted to move on musically. Working
with musicians became more of an inspiration. It’s not like
we’ve disowned everything modern though. We still like Luke
Vibert as much as Motown."
Seeking a consistency and cohesiveness that they admit wasn’t
always readily apparent on their first two albums (2000’s
Programmed To Love and The Everlasting Blink)
they sought out the assistance of Nottingham’s like-minded
As a result, songs were written instead of tracks, and, in places,
guitar chords became the starting points for their recordings.
Decamping to the sleepy environs
of Lincolnshire, they took refuge in a recording studio in an
The net result is nothing less than remarkable. Far exceeding
their desire to make 'an emotional album', Ariels has
a passionate and intense fragility that isn't often found in modern
It can be joyous, dark, beautiful and brooding - not least in
part thanks to the vocal talents of Steve Edwards, Sian from Kosheen,
Rachel from Weekend Players and longstanding Bent cohort Katty.
And whereas Bent’s first two albums made a virtue of being
all over the shop, Ariels is steadfastly cut from a different
The gentle acoustica of Sunday 29th, for instance, is
described in the publicity as 'Portishead if Bristol was bathed
Essentially, however, with its abundance of moods, textures
and sunshine styles, it’s head music par excellence with
no obvious contemporary parallels: a rare feat in these homogenous
times - even though the duo confess to influences as varied as
Aphex Twin, Bread, David Bowie, Kate Bush and Maurice Fulton.
Another bonus is that, owing to the fact the duo have written
and recorded the album as a band, transferring it to the live
arena shouldn’t be a problem.
In the past, playing live was something of a necessity rather
than a stated aim.
No more, though, as the rapturous reception from this year’s
Big Chill event, in Prague, confirmed.
Success, it seems, could now be a heartbeat away.
For while Bent have suffered in the past for their anonymity,
and their music has soundtracked numerous adverts (Carlsberg,
Vodaphone, Nissan, Inland Revenue, Absolut Vodka and Volkswagen
Beetle) and appeared across TV, on shows as disparate as Six Feet
Under and BBC gardening programmes, they haven't, as yet, enjoyed
the limelight they deserve.
Strapping on the six-string and indulging those cock rocker
fantasies could well remedy that.