Martha Tilston will release her new album Machines of Love and Grace on October 22. The new album will be accompanied by the single ‘Stags Bellow’, and a headline UK tour, including London’s Bush Hall on Thursday, November 8.
The daughter of folk legend Steve Tilston, Martha Tilston found herself drawn to folk’s protest spirit and its themes of social justice from an early age. She crafted her own anti-war anthem, ‘Saddest Game’, in 2004, for Big Issue’s Peace Not War compilation, an early foreshadowing of the eloquent, politicized questioning that suffuses her latest LP, Machines Of Love and Grace, a collection of subtly charged acoustic folk songs tinged with electric guitar and touches of electronica. The title is a nod to a beat poem by Richard Brautigan and the BBC2 documentary that lifted the poem’s title: All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace.
“The programme blew me away. It tackled a lot of the questions my peers are asking: how the finances are run, how we’ve let machines take over and how those machines run us”. Martha Tilston
Like Mitchell’s Woodstock, which painted an image of exploding bombs transforming into butterflies, Tilston’s Machines ponders the conflict between human life and the machinery of modern age.
Tilston underpins her pastoral narratives with meaningful contexts, such as lead single ‘Stags Bellow’, a stirring paean to freedom and the wild deer that roam the Royal Parks. Tilston’s songwriting eschews the hoary ‘moors and maids’ folk imagery of old for gentle, probing meditations on modern concerns such as consumerism (“More”), urbanization (“Suburbia”), unheard voices (“Silent Women”) and with “Wall Street”, the disastrous ebb and flow of stock market tides, a paced, determined number Tilston wrote inspired by the then-emerging Occupy movement.
“A few years ago, folk went very mainstream. It was good in a lot of ways, because it meant loads of people were taking up instruments and learning the old songs. But the world was in crisis and it felt weird that folk, which has always been the people’s music, was totally avoiding that and not acknowledging it”. Martha Tilston
Martha’s background – Martha began her musical tenure in folk duo Mouse, with Nick Marshall, releasing debut album Helicopter Trees in 2000 and a follow up, Mouse Tales, in 2001. She released her lo-fi debut, Rolling, in 2003, while touring Ireland as support for folk troubadour, Damian Rice. Inspired by Damian Rice’s self-produced, home-recorded hit debut, O, she funded the pressing of her next record, 2005’s Bimbling, through the sale of the album’s canvas-painted artwork. 2006 saw her team up with band The Woods, an outfit that includes Lamb bass player Jon Thorne (who guests on Machines) to release Ropeswing, and by 2007, Martha was opening the Acoustic Stage at Glastonbury with songs from her album Milkmaids and Architects, garnering a nomination for Best New Act at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. By 2009, Tilston’s vocals had been courted beyond the folk world, by producers such as J-Spool and Tru Thoughts Records Mawglee and Mangatout, and pop group Zero 7, who invited her to guest on their 2009 album, Yeah Ghost.
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