In The Nursery’s new studio album takes inspiration from the historic, literary and personal events of 1961.
4-panel digipak version with embossed front cover.
Nigel – October 21, 2017:
In The Nursery’s ‘1961’ – an ode to a memorable year
As memorable years go, 1961 has lots going for it. Gagarin became the first man in space, the foundations of the Berlin Wall were laid and Amnesty International was founded. It was also the year that Nigel and Klive Humberstone, the twins behind In The Nursery, were born.
They’ve celebrated it in a series of musical pieces, which range from ambient master works like ‘The Earth Is Blue’, to songs like ‘Pacify’, with a narrative about the futility of war.
The latter song references Catch-22, which was first published in – yes, you guessed it – 1961. As was Solaris, the sci-fi classic, which is the inspiration for the track of the same name.
The album has a more open feel to it than some of their recent pieces, the result I’m sure of some of the recordings being made in a studio as opposed to created on a computer, and is their most accessible work for some time.
Oh, and my absolute favourite thing to celebrate about 1961 is that it was the first strobogrammatic year since 1881; the next one being 6009. I’ll let you work out what that means…
9/10 – Mark Perkins / EXPOSED MAGAZINE
1961 is typically ambitious. Taking as its theme historical and personal references to the year they were born, from the period Ford car engine that serves as a backdrop to the solemn chords of Consul to the sweeping drama of the Berlin Wall-inspired Torschlusspanik, the album is characteristically wide-ranging in scope and tone. Innovative and sometimes surprising, 1961 marks a high point in a thirty-five-year-long musical career that has forged its own path rather than follow trends, and remained fresh and exciting because of it.
Simon Beckett, August 2017.
Nigel – October 23, 2017:
In the Nursery – or ITN as they’re sometimes referred – have been in existence for some thirty-five years but the Sheffield act centred around core duo of brothers Klive and Nigel Humberstone have existed well beneath the radar for the duration of their career. This hasn’t prevented their music being featured on Game of Thrones, Interview with a Vampire, The Aviator, and Beowulf, amongst others, and 1961, which follows over two dozen previous albums after some six years’ silence, showcases a set with a cinematic quality which is ideally suited to TV and movie soundtracks.
While the album’s title and overarching theme is significant on a number of levels, not least of all it being the year of the birth of the Humberstone brothers – as well as landmark historical events including the construction of the Berlin Wall – its sound exists out of time, and if it does betray a link to any period, it’s the 1980s. Post punk collides with orchestral grandeur across the album’s nine tracks, which explore a broad array of atmospheres and spaces, with judiciously placed samples and – occasionally – vocals bringing variety and range.
A stocky bass enveloped in eddying synths, cool and spacious dominate the marching beat of ‘Until Before After’, the album’s opener, which hints at the kind of brooding, atmospheric post-rock of early iLiKETRiANS. If the comparison seems dissonant in terms of time-frame, it’s testament to ITN’s ever-shifting sonic form and their endless capacity for evolution.
If the idea of a choir of soaring operatic vocals reminiscent of Karl Orff’s ‘O Fortuna’ atop a sweep of dramatic strings by what sounds like a full orchestra sounds ostentatious, the execution of ‘Torschlusspanik’ elevates it miles above pretention to true art.
Rippling pianos, soaring, graceful strings, chiming guitars and murky percussion all form the fabric of an intriguing album: ‘Grand Corridor’ conjures a claustrophobic intensity worthy of Joy Division, while the acoustic guitar led ‘Pacify’ has echoes of Bauhaus on Burning from the Inside and ‘Solaris’, with its pounding percussion and a bassline that’s pure Peter Hook, is a major standout.
There’s a lot going on, and it’s all good: 1961 is a spectacularly articulate album that never ceases to reveal new layers, new corners, new depths.
Christopher Nosnibor / Aural Aggravation
Nigel – October 26, 2017:
I’ve learned something today, 1961 is a strobogrammatic number. The next year that has the same property is 6009, so pretty rare. 1961 is also the year that the Humberstone twins that form the core if ITN were born. This therefore is a special album for ITN, and they have put something together that is quite special. I have followed the band since the release of ‘Twins’ back in 1986 and I’ve lost count of how many releases and soundtracks there have been since then. It is safe to say they have a special place in my heart and I was thrilled to catch them live a few years ago. So, the album takes its cues from events and achievements of that year, from the building of the Berlin Wall, (Torschusspanik), space travel (Retrofire, The Earth Was Blue), the release of Keller’s Catch 22 (Pacify), the formation of Amnesty International (Prisoner of Conscience) and even the sounds of a car manufactured in that year (Consul). It is a sterling concept, and it works admirably as a record. Sonically I think this is ITN at its best. They use every trick in their book and weapon in their sonic palette at some point in the album and perhaps a few new ones too. The neoclassical elements are of course present and proudly so, and these are joined by guitars and bass which lend a raw and live feel to some of the tracks. Add voices to the mix on Solaris and Prisoner of Consciousness and you have a record of vast breadth and depth. So good.
Jonathon Watkiss / MIdlands Metalheads
Right from the opening bars of first track “Until Before After”, its strikingly clear that you’re listening to something quite special. In The Nursery’s latest album, 1961, doesn’t deviate massively from what one might expect from the band, but it does serve as a prime example of what the band are capable of. The cinematic sounds, the dark folk influence, the industrial sound design – all of that is present in abundance on this album. And it all flows together seamlessly, perfectly. This album is a master-craft of controlled musicianship and restrained emotion; something only experience can convey.
The brothers Humberstone have been releasing music as In The Nursery for over 35 years and have amassed two dozen plus releases. They’ve had their music featured in trailers for films such as Interview With A Vampire, Along Came A Spider, Gran Torino and also TV shows Game of Thrones and La Femme Nikita.
Intriguingly, the band are also working as research partners with Professor Annalena Venneri & Dr Mike Shanks from The University of Sheffield, designing immersive binaural recordings, with the goal of creating a serene sound space for people with dementia, aiming to relax, calm, reduce anxiety & agitation, and enhance cognition in patients. The project is called Aprirsi and more information is available online here http://aprirsi.group.shef.ac.uk/
Diving deep into 1961 is a very rewarding experience. The album is based on numerous philosophies and events surrounding the year itself which, coincidentally, is also the year of birth of Klive and Nigel Humberstone. Take for example track two, “Torschlusspanik”, where stylistically, tension and release are used to tell the story of the construction of the Berlin wall. “Pacify” is one of the more energetic songs in the album, In The Nursery’s art of melding orchestral, neo-classical arrangements with dark folk resulting in a beautiful anti-war anthem. The stunning “Prisoner Of Conscience”, featuring longtime collaborator Dolores Marguerite C who first appeared on ITN’s 1987 Trinity EP, sees the vocalist perform a self-penned lament that references Amnesty International’s establishment in 1961, following an article written by its founder Peter Benenson that same year. “The Earth Was Blue” is truly epic in scope and sound, and when you learn that the track is inspired by Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard’s space travel endeavours, visualising the astronauts looking down on our planet, the song becomes even more grandiose.
Overall, there is a lot of space and breathing room within this record, making it a far from impenetrable experience; the dark and somber textures lure in the listener to the overall melancholic tone, with repeated listens leading to an even greater love for the album. Incredible. Very highly recommended listening.
Nigel – November 14, 2017:
For over three decades, the duo of Klive and Nigel Humberstone have not merely doggedly pursued their artistic trade as In The Nursery, but approached a sui generis state – there really isn’t any other act quite like them. Inspired by punk’s aftermath, originally tagged goth or industrial or post-punk or more during their initial run of releases in the 1980s, they never entirely stopped in one place, with lush string-driven explorations of identity, language and the self, commissioned soundtracks to classic silent films, or a fascinating reincorporation of rougher rock textures as well as contributing their own vocals without ever simply going back into their past.
That said their newest, 1961, is indeed about going back, but in a conscious and clever sense – 1961 is the year of their birth, and in exploring a variety of historical and cultural touchstones from the time via their own lens, this is the next in their series of careful, thoughtful concept albums that have also been a touchstone of their work. The opening ‘Until Before After’ may seem more 1981 than 1961 but in many ways that’s a key point – long-divorced from its specific context, the idea of ‘post-punk’ as bass-driven gloom renders it something that can be reshaped anywhere as desired. The steady, slow rumble, set against sweeping, almost majestic acoustic and electronic orchestration, as well as live drums from David Electrik, who features intermittently throughout, sets a compelling tone, as does the reappearance of their most regular collaborator, Dolores Marguerite C, on one of her three vocal performances on the album.
As an overall aesthetic experience, 1961 is centered around the sense that something’s going wrong somewhere – its centrepiece, ‘Grand Corridor,’ references old abandoned hospitals and reports of hauntings, and feels as much an elegy to the NHS as it does to a physical location. ‘Pacify’ takes its inspiration from Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, and it’s the closest thing the album gets to a stirring folk song, perhaps appropriate given that era’s interest in the form. Yet there’s gentle humour implied in 1961 as well as looming fear – the understated, almost church-organ-like ‘Consul,’ for instance, is described in the linernotes as built around recordings of a 1961 Ford Consul rather than, say, any sense of echoes of the Roman Empire.
There’s also awe. ‘Retrofire’ features recordings from Yuri Gagarin, referencing his descriptions of the experience of reentry from orbit as synths and growling bass intertwine, and the concluding ‘The Earth Was Blue’ returns to the theme of the space age from the point of view of both Gagarin and Alan Shepard considering our planet from above. Piano-led, with soft strings and a quick pulsing bass part, it captures distant regard of something that could yet verge into catastrophe. That thankfully wasn’t the case then, although now perhaps the echoes are a little too clear.
Ned Raggett / The Quietus
Steel City twins serve up soundtrack to the beginning of their lives, literally.
Just so you know, 1961 is a strobogrammatic number (it reads the same when rotated through 180 egress). It’s also the birth year of the multi-instrumentalist Humberstone twins Nigel and Klive, aka In The Nursery.
The pair have been a significant part of the Sheffield scene for decades. Since the early 90’s, their dramatic compositions, often orchestral but incorporating much in the way of electronic treatment and rock interventions in the modern neo-classical sense, have appeared on some famously great films and TV shows such as ‘Interview With A Vampire’ and ‘Game Of Thrones’, while they’ve also composed some impressively heavyweight re-scores for classic silent movies like ‘The Fall Of The House Of Usher’ and ‘The Cabinet Of Doctor Caligari’.
Why they’ve chosen to commemorate their birth year 56 years on is anyone’s guess, but we’ll let it go because the quality of the music, and thematic story that pulls it all together, makes is a mostly – barring the overblown, goth-edged ‘Grand Corridor’ – excusable indulgence.
It all resonates throughout with deep personal, historic and literary meaning; an audiological memoir almost, but centred on that one specific year. And so from the engine hum of a 1961 Ford Consul (which, fact fans, when idling resonates at the frequency of 65 Hz – the note of C) that adds a deep bass drone to the funereal ‘Consul’, to the arrestingly powerful sample of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s voice on ‘Retrofire’, such weighty reference points add heft and poignancy to ITN’s signature grandiose sonic vistas.
As ever with ITN, it’s the guest contributors that make the difference. The most noteworthy appearance here is the string quartet courtesy of the Up North Session Orchestra. Their contribution to ‘Torschlusspanik’ (a German expression, meaning time is running out) makes for a standout. It’s a darkly thrilling depiction of the construction of the Berlin Wall and all that signified (and continues to mean for those that lived in its shadow of course), and conjures up its own filmic Cold War mind’s eye feature.
And if you think all of that sounds ambitious, you’d be right. But those twins, they don’t half pull it off.
Carl Griffin / Electronic Sound
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