The Fiction Aisle’s Heart Map Rubric is out now across all platforms, but to purchase from iTunes or Bandcamp would be to directly support the group.
Visit The Fiction Aisle Facebook for more info and shows.
Each And Every One, Soon Enough The Morning Comes, Outskirts:
Each And Every One
Heart Map Rubric Reviews and Interviews – click links to read in full
brightondome.org What are the main influences on your sound?
The band takes cues from all sorts of things. We’re all massive Broadcast fans – Trish Keenan has been a huge influence on all of us over the years. Likewise Goldfrapp has had an enduring influence on my songwriting, though one of my biggest influences over the past few years absolutely has to be The Clientele. Alastair Maclean’s writing and guitar playing hit me straight away, and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. During the very early stages of putting the band together I listened to a lot of Noel Coward, Chet Baker and Irving Berlin. The greats of the jazz age played a huge part in crystallising in my mind what it was that I wanted to achieve with this group.
How would you describe your sound?
The group is probably best described as a cross between a jazz band of the 1930s and a psych-rock group of the 1970s. There’s orchestral instruments in there – clarinets, trumpet, piano – but we also have three electric guitarists, and the sound can get very layered, so there’s always lots of contrasting elements playing off each other.
brightonsfinest.com Tom has now made a big jump away from his previous endeavours, forming The Fiction Aisle in 2014 with no less than nine musicians from the who’s who of Brighton artists including Alan Grice (Octopuses and Fierce Friend), Adam Kidd (Fragile Creatures), Louis Macgillivray, Gemma Williams (Woodpecker Woolliams and Becky Becky), Holly Fitzgerald, Jordan Duggie (Actress Hands), Iain Worrall (Spectrum and TV One) and Craig Chapman. The sound is more jazz inspired lounge music than the alternative rock or punk that featured in previous projects – being described “as a cross between a jazz band of the 1930s and a psych-rock group of the 1970s”. This really excites me and it should excite you too, as it is bold and far away from anything you would have heard of recently.
Heart Map Rubric really is a theatrical masterpiece of orchestrated wonderment and it is sure to make you want to seek its outcome more and more as you listen. Tom has obviously put a lot of thought into how the songs flow, mould and fit together, utilising the large amount of talent involved to get what started out in his imagination onto an audio file. He has created a gorgeous soundtrack of self-inspection that is reminiscent of the easy-listening High Llamas or the lush sounds of Goldfrapp, but done in a way that is so unique and weirdly current that it will make you obsess.
jammerzine.com White has perfected a knack for complex musical arrangement and maximalist melodic counterpoint, an approach that reaches its logical, mind-boggling conclusion with The Fiction Aisle’s audacious, sprawling debut album. With echoes of 1940s jazz at its most louche and lush, the 10-piece group infuses that seductive atmosphere with stark modern ambiance – skittish drum breaks, distant brass and layered guitars providing an unsettling backdrop for deeply personal ruminations on life and love.
For 62 compelling minutes, The Fiction Aisle thread disparate themes into a complete whole – cavernous walls of distortion underpin meticulously arranged orchestral passages, lone voices emerge wide-eyed and pure amid the cacophony, the precise and exact in harmony with the vague and ambiguous, calling forth past eras yet pregnant with possibility in a bright, beautiful present.
musicforlunch.com The record is lazy, subdued and patient from start to finish but despite the vocabulary I use to describe it, it’s far from dull. Every track is a sonic journey through jazz, alternative rock, lo-fi and lounge-core. Every track gives the band’s entire host of instruments a chance to shine. Every track blossoms with time, beginning simplistically, easy to digest then the layers of instruments develop thickly, and the innards of each track hold lovely surprises.
Heart Map Rubric is record is a gem and I’m proud to have it sitting in my musical collection. The lyrics are simultaneously serious, comical, melancholic and celebratory describing love, lust, internal strife and reflection and they sit so very perfectly atop the rich and overflowing instrumentals.
neverenoughnotes.co.uk The Fiction Aisle’s avant-garde, exquisite approach to dealing with a whole load of shit is something to be admired. Frontman Thomas White, of Electric Soft Parade and Brakes fame, describes his ‘Heart Map Rubric’ album as a dumping of his twenties when he struggled with self-destruction, self-realisation, and a whole lot more.
“The record is really one massive, fuck-off break-up record. I’d spent my twenties in a series of by turns beautiful, and rather destructive, relationships. I got to about 26 and came out as gay. As I remember it, pretty much overnight. In fact I met a guy while out in Egypt on holiday, and I think that romance gave me the courage to come back home and be myself, be totally open about my sexuality. He was an amazing guy. I remember him very fondly.
Incidentally my father came out at almost exactly the same time. Not an easy few months. The album details a lot of what I experienced during my first proper relationship with a man, the relationship itself and also the break-up and my immediate life following it. I won’t go into detail out of respect, but it ended pretty horrifically. We both hurt each other in unimaginable ways. Me as much as him. I guess when I first broke through that psychological wall I was in ecstasy – I’d spent so many years dreaming of being with a man, to finally find the strength to just fuck what other people think and be myself, that’s a hugely liberating feeling.
The record quite directly documents the last year of that relationship and the following year, which turned out to be pretty fucking crazy for me too. Drugs, lots of drinking, some pretty nuts times. Not an easy ride, turning thirty. Running parallel to all that was a bunch of musical stuff that just wasn’t going where I wanted it to go, hence the record is a massive musical left-turn for me. I’d pretty much spent my twenties ploughing this indie-pop furrow, and I was just done with it, totally done.
A switch flipped when I heard Frank Sinatra’s version of ‘London By Night’. I just thought, “What am I doing? Where is this stuff going?”. It suddenly didn’t feel right to be doing what I’d done for the past ten years, and I think at its core ‘Heart Map Rubric’ is me drawing this big, fuck-off line under my twenties, in every possible sense.”
normanrecords.com Sad bunch The Fiction Aisle wince the night away with a series of boldly sentimental indie pop tunes lit with the fiery guitars of Coldplay and Embrace plus the melodic delicacy of Death Cab and the Shins. This anthemic, twilit sound bridges that gap between towering post-Britpop Heart Map Republic and low-key rock, with hints of the band’s beloved jazz and prog. That big music.
ondarock.it Alan Grice (Octopuses, Fierce Friend), Adam Kidd (Fragile Creatures), Louis Macgillivray, Gemma Williams (Woodpecker Woolliams and Becky Becky), Holly Fitzgerald, Jordan Duggie (Actress Hands), Iain Worrall (Spectrum and Tv One) and Craig Chapman are the eight musicians involved in the new band of Thomas White, which many will remember at the helm of the Electric Soft Parade, and then a member of Brakes (as well as the author of three solo albums including the valuable “The Maximalist”).
After a year of recording the debut of the Fiction Aisle takes shape, giving us the authentic surprise at the end of the year, which arrived in time to overturn the usual sound budget. The cover, in perfect Keith Haring style, traces the native city of Brighton through a symbolic neural network, almost evoking the difficult and turbulent relationship of love and hate that White lived with a man met in Egypt, raw material of the texts of ‘album.
The love of jazz in the 40s and 50s is the real novelty for the English musician, who takes over part of the melancholic “Idiots”, a sporadic record return of the Electric Soft Parade, unfortunately ignored by the public and critics.
In “Heart Map Rubric” there remains that fascinating romantic grandeur that connected Burt Bacharach and Noel Coward in a single lyrical fresco, with Thomas White skilled architect of melancholic and nostalgic ballad, where the refined psychedelic of Pink Floyd reappears (“The Color Of Morning” “) And the solar geometry of the orchestral pop of the Clients (” Blue “).
Frank Sinatra and his album “London By Night” are the model that the Fiction Aisle aspires constantly, keeping the most indie-pop instincts at bay, and exploring the boundaries of the most cultured songwriting, imbued with romanticism by a perfect crooner. In fact, jazz is the primordial source of one of the pearls of the album, or the succulent sonorous wedding of piano, organ, strings and guitar of “Love Come Save Me”.
Scrutinizing the pages of “Heart Map Rubric” you can enjoy the original contaminations of paso doble in “Major Seventh”, which find space between an uptempo melody and delicious arrangements of wind, taking possession of the piece and completely altering the lyrical destination.
Similarly audacious “Each & Every One”, ennobled by inflections of bossa nova and jazz, which evoke “La Dolce Vita” by Fellini and the first smoky jazz-clubs; the Fiction Aisle then further sink their hands in vintage romanticism, with double bass and acoustic guitar engaged in a precious duet (“Fears”) in which residual traces of psychedelia and the indolence of the Beach Boys shine.
White however cleverly keeps away from the lounge temptations that could arise from the contamination between jazz and indie-pop, this is due to the lack of stylistic compromises designed to deviate the planning, even when electroacoustic effervescences seem to excel (“What’s A Man To Do?” ) the music is disturbed by obscure noir-psych plots.
Refined and seductive, the sound fabric sewn by Fiction Aisle does not show smudges, timbres and colors stand out sharp and full of contrasts, sometimes fading towards a black and white photographic.
Cinematic, almost theatrical, “Heart Map Rubric” is made to love with every listening, without ever losing depth and class. In fact, the longest tracks that capture the most attention: “Outskirts” reconditions the canons of melodic rock with an electroacoustic minimalism that is fed by dark vibrations and an almost elegiac pathos, “The Sea Rolls On Forever” offers instead lightness and lighthearted lyrical, despite the precious and original harmonic counterpoints that triumph in the rampant final refrain.
The maturity of the songwriting is even more evident in the acoustics “New Year’s Day” and in the concluding “Soon Enough The Morning Comes”, an ambitious ballad by the baroque neoclassicism, which puts a precious seal on one of the best albums of the year.
propermusic.com Brighton’s own, and the latest in a long-line of projects from the mind of Mercury Prize nominated Electric Soft Parade frontman Thomas White, The Fiction Aisle bring together a fine assortment of Brighton’s best musicians to create a truly glorious sound. It’s epic, progressive pop of the highest level. The Fiction Aisle released their debut album, Heart Map Rubric, late in 2015 on Thomas’s own label imprint (Chord Orchard), garnering 6Music’s attention alongside a slew of glowing reviews for both the album and their live shows. Combining a love of classic song-writing, with hints of jazz and lounge, alongside schizophrenic nose-dives into the heavier territory explored by 70s prog rock, this unique group are not to be missed.
rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.co.uk The Fiction Aisle’s debut HEART MAP RUBRIC is a beautiful record, orchestral, moody, genuinely pretty arrangements and melodies, fans of the Lilac Time/Prefab Sprout/Trashcan Sinatras will like this. The low register vocals may remind one of Elbow as well… My favorite tunes after a couple listens – Sleep Tight, Love Come Save Me, Major Seventh, The Colour of Morning, Outskirts.
roots-and-branches.com A new 10-strong project from former Electric Soft Parade and Brakes singer Thomas White, this isn’t quite what you may expect from his past outfits. Out go the psychedelic colours and in comes shades of 40s jazz and lounge, with lush orchestrations of brass and strings, and whispery, soft crooning vocals (on Sleep Tight he recalls McCartney a la Fool On The Hill). Here the dreaminess of the bossa nova styled Each & Every One or Broadwayesque piano ballad The Colour of Morning sit alongside more cacophonous moments such as Major Seventh and What’s A Man To Do while New Year’s Day offers more folksy acoustic guitar and an eight minute The Sea Rolls On Forever and Outskirts suggest Lloyd Cole and early Bee Gees, respectively. A definite and audacious musical sea change, this may have old fans baffled and bemused, but, inspired by Sinatra’s recording of London By Night, it should find him a whole new audience among those whose CD collections include Alison Goldfrapp, Babybird and Edwyn Collins.
theargus.co.uk Part of that exploration came early on, when White was played Sinatra’s London By Night [from the rare album Sinatra Sings Great Songs From Great Britain] by Alex, who also drums on the Fiction Aisle album.
“It was one of those situations where I realised I had written myself into a corner with how I write,” says White.
“Writing on a laptop makes it so easy to map out arrangements. If you’re using a four-track or analogue equipment it’s much easier to end up with something a little bit more serpentine.”
The major inspiration was White deciding to de-tune the high e string on his guitar.
“I discovered this odd jazzy chord I had never used before and started experimenting with going to it from other chords,” he says. “It’s all over the record – on [album opener] Blue and The Sea Rolls On Forever.
“It was one of those breakthrough things – I’ve been playing guitar for 15 years and I’ve found a new chord.”
“It’s really heartening to see people in the band who have never really played in a group before. They started really nervous, but they are now really taking ownership of the songs as their baby.”
“This band has got to reflect how all over the shop I am in terms of what I listen to and what I want to play. I would like the group to evolve on each record quite radically.
“It’s really exciting – when I started this I thought it would just be me sat in my bedroom as usual, but it has turned into something completely different.”
theartsdesk.com This album is a gorgeous New Year surprise. Much of it is a delicious investigation of old-fashioned pre-rock songwriting, but done from the heart rather than for kitsch kicks. Sometimes this means it wanders into easy listening which, after all, was originally just swing generation musicians continuing in their own sweet way long after the world had followed The Beatles instead. Then again, there’s also something of The Beatles here too…
Heart Map Rubric mostly veers away from his psyche and indie side. It’s the first output from White’s new nine-piece collective, fired up by his rediscovery of Sinatra and the personal rollercoaster he’s been on since he came out as a gay man a few years ago. He seems to have taken a battering, with heartbreak writ large…
theartsdesk.com Overdue vinyl release for the debut from Electric Soft Parader Thomas White’s latest incarnation, which came out at the start of last year. Think Smiths-era Morrissey or Lloyd Cole writing a coming out album of heartache, but doing so via the elegance of pre-rock’n’roll songwriters, and a smidgeon of Robert Wyatt. It is, in other words, original and touching, lathered in strings in places. Arriving on two discs in lyric inner sleeves, it’s heart-on-sleeve stuff but not mopey and maudlin. White looks everything in the eye with a clarity that’s both moving and pop.
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