In its own way the music of British duo brothers Mark and Clive Ives—known creatively as Woo—seemed destined for a digital world that the internet offers. They began making music together decades ago, but it’s only been within the last decade that they’ve started to receive the critical acclaim they rightly deserve. Their music is largely instrumental (though not always the case) and is perhaps the best example of “mood music” I can think of. Occasionally it’s meditative and somber, while other records are reflective and hopeful. Comparisons to everyone from Laraaji and Brian Eno to Durutti Column and Penguin Café Orchestra could be made with a varying sense of accuracy. In the case of their latest collection of archival recordings, All Is Well, the music is absolutely playful. It’s lighthearted, jovial, and in its own way, it serves as a balm to the stressful times we live in. We sat down with brother Clive to discuss this superb new collection, one released digitally this past January, but just now seeing a physical release via German record label Slowboy.
How did All Is Well come about?
Over the past seven years, since Drag City re-released It’s Cosy Inside as an LP and Woo emerged from twenty years of obscurity, Mark and I spent a lot of time exploring our archives from 1975-2000. During these years we produced approximately 1500 tracks. All Is Well is one of half a dozen albums we have made from these early recordings. With the self-indulgence that comes with having your recording studio at home, we had the freedom to explore many styles of music. In the process of re-listening to these old recordings we would create folders of tracks that we felt had something in common. From these folders we created shortlists that slowly came together as an album. The running order and how each track flows from the previous track being the major focus.
We made All Is Well simply to be available on our Bandcamp page. But when Jan from Slowboy Records said he would like to release it as an album, we used it as an opportunity to do some overdubs and add a couple more tracks to make the most of the time available on an LP.
I really enjoy the album’s cover art. It’s light and lighthearted and really adds to the vibe of the music
When Mark was a boy, he would do lots of large drawings with stick men in vast battle scenes. We were both very inspired by films like The Vikings and Ben Hur and films about the Second World War. We spent most of our childhood fighting or pretending to shoot each other!
He still occasionally creates some drawings, this one he did a few years ago. It impresses me that his drawing style hasn’t really changed! All these happy faces–there are two miserable ones–this is Mark’s vision, a world where people are not taking themselves too seriously and therefore having fun and enjoying each other. Mark likes to be playful and play music, and I think this album shows this aspect of his personality.
I made a video for the title track with close ups of Mark’s drawing simply panning left to right, to give the viewer time to enjoy all the different characters.
Tell me a little bit about the music found here.
The first thing to say is this album is primarily Mark’s compositions and inspiration. The only one I wrote was :’1234.” With all our work we collaborate, and often it seems an equal input. With this LP, my input is less apparent.
Compared to the other compilations we have made of our older recordings, this one came together very easily and quickly. For example, Another Place Another Time took about a year to complete. Finding a track order that feels right can elude you. With All Is Well, everything just feel into place without the need to endlessly rework it,
The newest recording on the album is “Meet Me On A Star,” recorded in 2015. It was a song Mark wrote many years ago based on a poem written by a friend. It makes the big finish to the album.
The oldest track is “How Does Sound Travel,” recorded in 1976 in South London, on a Teac 4 Track. It was one of the early tracks where we were having such a good time discovering what could be done with multi tracking. It’s interesting that these tracks from different eras can sit together. Not sure what it means, but it seems to work for us.
“See My Brother In Surbiton” was written and recorded by Mark, one day in 2003 while I had gone to work. When I arrived home he had finished the whole thing. The lyrics are about the contrast of the music we had been working on compared to this old fashioned song. I had recently bought a Notron sequencer and we were creating super electronic sequence music–very synthetic, fast, erratic, midi music. Mark wrote this song making references to our working process with the Notron. It’s such a cool looking thing, once described in a review as looking like a Klingon toilet seat!
The third section of “Trio” has a reworking of “When You Find Your Love” from the album Into the Heart of Love, but this time in a more upbeat, up-tempo style. When Jan offered to release this LP, we decided to add this song along with ‘The Chalky Plateau,” which is another recent recording, which sound palette seemed to belong to this collection.
Almost all these tracks have some overdubs, reworking, remastering that we did earlier this year. It’s very exciting to be able to take our old recordings and tempo sync and rework with super new technology from Native Instruments and Cubase. Things we could only dream of forty years ago are now at our finger tips………………
Please enjoy the new Woo album, All Is Well: