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Radical Face
The Family Tree: The Bastards
Radical Face / Nettwerk Productions Ltd.

I simply love the happy-sad moods and the sweet melodies presented through the music of Radical Face (a.k.a. Ben Cooper). First there was a Ghost, then he started his Family Tree trilogy bringing us The Roots (2011) and The Branches (2013). While we're still awaiting the final part of the series, The Leaves (due out in early 2016), here's The Bastards compiling the four 'Bastard' EPs (The Bastards Volumes 1-3, plus the 'brand new' Vol. 4), presenting a total of eleven 'bastard' songs. The inbetweeners, the offspring tunes, the out-takes which were given away free to the fans (via downloading) from the Radical Face site. In Ben Cooper's own words: 'These EPs are just the songs that didn't fit on the proper records, but they are still a part of the whole Family Tree project. And the songs aren't throwaways. I'm actually quite happy with them. They just didn't fit the album in terms of pace, or tone.'. So, Cooper released this 'fan piece' compilation/collection including two previously unreleased tracks (a.k.a. Vol. 4).

Alright, here's the background story (according to Nettwerk): 'More than 10 years ago, Cooper started crafting the story of a fictitious, and sometimes otherworldly 19th century family. He brought those characters to life in a three-part album series based around the family he created and recorded alone in the shed behind his mom's house in Jacksonville, Florida.' Yes, 'otherworldly' is also a word to descibe some of the songs of the series. The opening "Sisters" (off Vol. 3) is a true beauty, with its mesmerising piano 'riff'. "Babtisms" (also from Vol. 3) stands fine together with "Sisters", as does the third Vol.3 track: the longer (almost 7 minutes), more sentimental sounding "Nightclothes" which closes The Bastards album. The 'twin songs' from Vol. 1, "All Is Well (It's Only Blood)" and "All Is Well (Goodbye, Goodbye)" are quite different to each: "Blood" is slow, while "Goodbye" is quicker and lighter. "We're On Our Way" (the last off Vol.1) is also more light-hearted, almost carnivalesque (featuring tambourine!). The Vol. 2 tracks, "Second Family Portrait", "Letters Home (Aftermath)" and "West" are all of the slower, darker kind, while the two 'new-comers' - the swirling "Servants And Kings", plus the sweet "Small Hands" - also blend in nicely with the rest. All the songs are each and eveyone of them a little, stand-alone 'thingamajig' on a very good 'album', even though the three Vol. 3 tracks stand out and shine the most. Along with the Vol. 4 pair. To quote Cooper: 'Certain instrumentations and melodies were used to represent various "family members" and each album was recorded using only the instrumentation available during the era represented.' We'd better sit down to wait for the final Family Tree chapter, shall we?

Copyright © 2015 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Radical Face articles/reviews: Ghost, Parkteatret, Oslo, Norway, 17 November 2015, Sunn, The Family Tree: The Branches, The Family Tree: The Leaves, The Family Tree: The Roots.

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