Creak. Rattle. Twaaaaaiiinnnngongongogogogong.
Welcome to the whispery, hoarsely-hollered world of Julian Gaskell, who pronounces all his rounded vowels as though he's got a throat chock full of bitter molasses mixed with Marmite and is attempting not to gip. Pulsing, thrusting, scratchy guitars and scrapes of slithering mandolin ebb and surge dramatically - hungrily - throughout seventeen tracks, whilst squelches of saliva and leering consonants scuttle about above.
From the creepy wink of 'Learn From Your Mistakes', in which ghostly black spiders scramble at cracks in the walls and floorboards moan, where the innards and guts of ancient clocks spill out onto the floor, to 'The Sweet, Sweet Smell of Decay', where yellowing crumbs of plaster peel, of their own accord, from the bricks of a deserted old room locked away at the back of a derelict country mansion, you slowly begin to build a picture of Gaskell as a murky nomad, hunched over a withering book, gruffly reading to an ominous melody. Somewhere, by the dripping moonlight seeping in through fogged-up, muck-coated grey windows, blasted by the moors, his face furry with isolated weeks of stubble and his voice aching yet warm like a willowing candle, he crouches, spirit-like, on a moth-eaten, garish, ruined old sofa - some thrown-out throwback from a bygone era - plagued with rubbed patches of faded, threadbare material and pitted with holes chewed through by generations of rats. A bit spooky, yes? Yes. But in the best of archaic, somehow-comforting ways.
All shaky corridors and drunken harmonicas, 'Technology Will Make Us Better' was recorded in Falmouth, solely with the natural aids of charity shop bits and pieces from across the world. Surrounded by squalor and the sea, the album groans with spray from the shores, soaring gulls and murky, thoughtful pools of deepest, darkest blue-black algae. At once burrowed in the silted-up, folky myths of a land time forgot, then buried alongside barndances at midnight, his sound varies from the brooding (nearly all tracks) to the twinkly and carefree, the likes of which 'It's Been Said' is an example, with its lighter, prettier, flowing tones and dusky, dusty underlays of quiet organ.
Speckled with drone-based instrumentals and gasping breaths of piano, Gaskell's solo project is a humbly beautiful collection of gnarled wobblings and picturesque, pastoral warblings.
24-7 Magazine, April 2006
He's shot away, he drawls like a cockney cowboy junky, he picks and slides on his acoustic guitar like he's straddling Satan's stretch rack, his name is JULIAN GASKELL and his 17-song album 'Technology Will Make Us Better' is what happens when Tom Waits falls into a Cornish tin mine, collides with Nick Drake on the way down and bangs his head in the wrong - or perhaps, right - place. It's brilliant, original, full of character, full of sin and nothing whatsoever like the usual insipid acoustic-based guff you often hear in South West bars. I'm just sorry that we've only recently received the CD as it's been out since October, released through Top Of The Hill Recordings in Hayle. Great stuff. (www. juliangaskell.co.uk)
City Life (Manchester) 30th November 2005
Julian Gaskell - Technology Will Make Us Better
First impression: a nutter in the tradition of John Otway or our own Edward Barton, and nothing wrong with that. On second hearing, you get a deeper impression of Gaskell's troubled personality, one that is in a constant state of agitation and anxiety. The songs have echoes of bluegrass, blues, world music and good old punk attitude. He plays most of the instruments himself and hence sounds like a one-man garage orchestra. 'The Sweet, Sweet Smell of Decay' is the ranting of a mind at the end of its tether and is utterly compelling. Not only does Technology... purposely exclude itself from the Mercury Award Shortlist, it seems designed for the oblivion so lovingly invoked on 'We Never Said'. (MB)
Rating: 8/10 Standout track: 'If You Can't Be Pleasant To Me' Influenced by: Lambchop, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy Related artists: Skip Spence, Richey Edwards
www.diskant.net - August 2005
Julian Gaskell is part of the Icons of Poundland collective that wreaked musical havoc in the north-west with their home-baked folk/skiffle/punk mischief. He now resides in the more sedate climes of Falmouth and writes spooky, upbeat songs that sound like Tom Waits strung-out on fresh-air! The four tracks that make up 'Demonstration Recordings' aren't a million miles from Mr Waits' often-potent light jazz/dirty blues cocktail, and rattle between whacked-out, lowdown gritty stompers like 'Learn From Your Mistakes' and the gothic, gypsy-blues of 'Gather! While Ye May'. His voice is full of bedraggled, smoky mystery and he plays guitar, harmonica, balalaika, banjo and zither. For anyone who doesn't know what at least one of those instruments sounds like, the answer is: pretty special. This CD bubbles along like a particularly bucolic avant-folk experiment. If you like your avant-folk experiments bucolic then you've come to the right place.
www.moles.co.uk - 25 January 2005
I'm compelled to review tonight's gig for two reasons; one - it's good, and two - there's nigh on no bugger here to hear it first hand. With audience levels peaking at nine or ten, it feels more like winning one of those 'private gig in your living room' things. With a quite commanding, eccentric stage presence, Julian Gaskell fills the support slot. An accomplished studio producer and engineer, Julian's live set is full of reality and endearing humour. Blunt lyrical genius such as "House doubles make me wanna puke" compliments his adventurously technical guitar work. With a very conversational approach, he has those who are present hooked, which is especially impressive with so many sparse sections bringing it down to a whisper, before pelting off on one again. He drops hints of gypsy-folkisms, and gives the rather unique overall effect of a folky, bluesy Damon Albarn playing a barmitsfah.
Cuckmere Delta guitarist and singer Julian Gaskell was born and raised in Seaford, Sussex and moved north to Salford in the 1990’s to escape a life of I.T. support.
Here, he studied music and produced recordings for various artists (including an ‘I am Kloot’ single, an album by Tom Hingley (from ‘Inspiral Carpets’), a single of the week in “Kerrang!” for local garage-punks ‘Jackie-O’, and various projects with ‘Loose Canon’ and the ‘Akoustik Anarkhy’ record label).
Despite all this, he kept his enthusiasm for writing and performing music, fronting his own bands ‘Icons of Poundland’ and the earlier ‘Loafer’ for 3 ‘self-released’ albums, various singles (including “Lost in Euston” on Manchester’s Uglyman label) and hundreds of live appearances around the north-west. Despite critical acclaim (compared favourably with The Who and The Clash in local press), and a performance at Glastonbury Festival in 2004, ‘Icons of Poundland’ ground to a halt in 2005, frustrated by their inability to make a living by selling albums for a pound each.
At this point, Julian moved back south, this time to Falmouth, to enjoy some well-earned peace and quiet working as a Postman by the seaside. It was here that he re-invented his music, with the recordings that make up ‘Technology Will Make Us Better’. Moving on from the garage-punk styles of previous work, and taking on English and European folk, blues and country influences, these bedsit recordings use various ‘found sounds’ (a harmonium from a Camborne charity shop, an evicted piano, a
Russian souvenir shop balalaika, a ‘zippy zither’, Falmouth seagulls etc…) along with some newly-rehearsed guitar finger styles borrowed from the likes of Bert Jansch and Nick Drake to come up with some odd-sounding but original music, which has been described as “a folky, bluesy Damon Albarn playing a barmitsfah” and “like Tom Waits strung-out on fresh-air