Unloved (David Holmes, Keefus Ciancia, Jade Vincent) – HEARTBREAK (Heavenly Recordings)
“Sometimes it’s hard to say how you feel,” says Jade Vincent. “These songs are vulnerable stories for me to tell — they’re things I couldn’t say out loud. But I found that I could sing them. And then I closed my eyes when they would listen.”
Listening to Vincent’s songs were her partner, the producer/composer Keefus Ciancia, and the DJ and producer/composer David Holmes. Together, Vincent, Ciancia and Holmes make up Unloved, the musical project that evolved out of a late-night Hollywood bar in 2015, released a stunning debut album the following spring, and this year crafted the soundtrack to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s acclaimed new series Killing Eve.
This autumn Unloved bring us their second full length record HEARTBREAK, a record emboldened by its predecessor to be more emotionally exposed, more musically, lyrically, and vocally audacious. In the words of Holmes: “We just get together, had a load of ideas, and Jade went off and wrote and wrote. She got deep and deep. She has an amazing story. They are amazing songs. She excelled herself.”
To enter the world of Unloved is to surrender oneself to a great musical immersion, one that seems to occupy the space somewhere between past and present, where thoughts soften and ideas mingle with twisted mancini-esque orchestrations, where music binds the dawn and dark.
To begin, you need really to understand two music venues, some 5000 miles apart: firstly the Rotary Room in Hollywood, where Ciancia – known for his collaborations with T-Bone Burnett, including the soundtrack to True Detective, and his unprecedented project with Jeff Bridges, Sleeping Tapes, among others – and Vincent, held a long-running music salon at which their fellow musicians could experiment, collaborate; each night curated expertly to the diverse array of genre and film influences by the MD of the night. The pair – known for their experimental group, The Jade Vincent Experiment, and Vincent & Mr. Green compositions – met in Los Angeles some 25 years ago, when Ciancia arrived in the city from Colorado, and Vincent, a displaced Arizonan, was singing in the city’s clubs and looking for a piano player.
The second venue is the Maple Leaf Club in Belfast, home to Holmes’s night God’s Waiting Room. Holmes, who earned a reputation as one of the world’s most innovative, inquisitive and ingenious DJs, recast himself as a master of sound and image providing his debut score for Steven Soderbergh’s 1998 Out of Sight, followed by Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen, HBO series Mosaic, Steve McQueen’s Hunger, and BBC series The Fall and London Spy (both collaborations of Holmes and Ciancia; London Spy earning them an Ivor).
Like the Rotary Room for Ciancia and Vincent, God’s Waiting Room was a place for Holmes to explore music and film and to invite thrilling artists to play — Jane Weaver, Jarvis Cocker, Andy Weatherall and Sons of Raphael among them. That they should one day meet and dovetail into a wholly new musical project seems a particularly serendipitous stroke of fate.
Introduced to Ciancia through soundtrack work, Holmes found himself invited to DJ one night, to curate another, and another at the Rotary Room. To invite Holmes to DJ is to unleash a kind of whirling dervish of musical enthusiasm but through those nights the trio discovered a shared love for 60s’ girl groups and French pop and film noir soundtracks, Brigitte Fontaine, Shuggie Otis, George ‘Shadow’ Morton, Bruno Nicolai, Lee Hazlewood and Jack Nitzsche, along with a tremendous desire to work together.
Their debut EP Guilty of Love, and the full-length, self-titled album that followed in the spring of 2016, offered a quite remarkable thing: a sound at once hauled out of the silty depths of the past, and simultaneously wholly modern. There was the soft hiss of a lo-fidelity recording, the murky crackle of sample, beats, half-remembered, long-lost favourite tunes. But much of the songs’ success belonged to Vincent’s sublime voice and lyrics, both possessed of an aching, rich-smoked tone of loss and love.
Unloved’s second album HEARTBREAK is about love. The album plays out each song like a vignette of nothing but love. The songs that rose up were in some ways surprising, but also felt insistent. “They’re real feelings and real experiences that I had the guts to finally say, but always ambiguous, this is very important to me.” she explains, “and always about love, one way or another.”
Crash Boom Bang has us lost asea: undulating flutes, whispered voices brush your cheek, readying you for the tumult of the ‘bang’ steady headiness of the beat incessantly claiming you a bad ass member of the Lonely Hearts Enthusiasts.
Heartbreak, drum roll: she’s telling it like it is in sweet refrain and you take it because the music is so heavenly, almost angelic, and the groove infectious and the sass of the drums are all it takes to give in, taking the sting out of the sadness of heartbreak again, and again.
Love : straight up rock n roll old school style, shake a tail feather and don’t dare stop kind of beat, this is a love spell of the voodoo kind with mello-twang, driving bass and heavy brass to match the sass of the chants, “Love, love, everybody wants that love, love . . say you do – ooh – you know you do.“
There were, Vincent says, “two that really stung badly. Bill,” she remembers. “sent me into a really strange place, reminding me I’ve lost my Dad. It seems like yesterday, but it was a long time ago. It was a shock, and it was sudden, and he is a very big influence on my life, so I hate to remember this, in this way. His death changed everything, and that seeps into everything I do. And so – Love Lost,” Vincent describes as being ‘like a conversation with someone who just has to leave’ pivoting around the line ‘The hardest thing I ever did, was to let you go – something I’ve been meaning to do,’ “the hardest kind of love. At the time David was losing his sister,” she explains. “And his experience with that weighed heavily on me, for him. It’s a very hard place to revisit, to accept. They’re laments is what they are.”
It is Vincent’s voice that guides Unloved. “There’s a maturity to Jade’s voice and a maturity to the songs that sounds like this is someone who’s lived, and properly had her heart broken, and is full of love,” says Holmes. Indeed it was her voice, too, that led the soundtrack he and Ciancia made for Killing Eve. “We started using her voice as an instrument” he explains. “And it’s such a potent instrument,” adds Ciancia. “A lot of times it’s just the sound of her humming, her voice has the ability characteristically and sonically that becomes it’s own unique instrument.” An experience carried over from the recording of the new songs: “I felt a little more confident in my stride with this album,” she says. “I let myself completely go lyrically — and vocally as well. I would sometimes laugh at myself, about where I would go. I’d go high into the world of opera and come back in low. I just threw myself into it and felt uninhibited. It was freeing. And I kept layering, to get to as many emotions as possible. It was like painting: I was layering to add to the immense, vastly wild landscape of music given me from Keefus and David.”
“This music was dangerous and bold and tested me, tempted me and led me on a path I’d never go with company, if you know what I mean, like I was ‘sleep-singing’ and I couldn’t help what came out of my mouth. Their music does this to me, like a dare. The alchemy between them is heavy, entrancing, like they ‘dare me’. To use a pretty word, they ‘inspire’ me, and as corny as it sounds, I feel like I’m the luckiest woman in the world to be writing with these extraordinary composers, nobody like them. It’s not easy at all, no one of us would say so, but then where’s the thrill? Just three nutsos jumping off a cliff into the deep end with nothing but our influences and experiences ‘on’.”
For Vincent, singing has always been a curiosity, “For this record I have to tell you I was most definitely deeply in love with Elvis,” she laughs . “But this is more than Vincent trying to replicate the contours of Presley’s voice. “When I’m singing along with Elvis I’ll jump into his background with the Jordanaires or his love for Jackie Wilson, exploring every influence, taking it all inside, another place, another time,” she explains. “I’ll sing and sing and sing. It’s like eating really delicious cake and you want more.” She laughs again — slow, deep, breathy, dark. “Singing to me is the feeling you get watching a film and you leave the earth for a while,” she says. “It’s like an escape into another world.”
Killing Eve OST – David Holmes and Keefus Ciancia featuring the music of Unloved.
Unloved’s music formed the inspiration for David Holmes’ and Keefus Ciancia’s score to the new BBC America TV show ‘Killing Eve’ starring Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy) and Jodie Comer (Thirteen). The critically acclaimed series is about to wrap up its’ captivating freshman season in the USA…draped in blood and guts and intrigue – set to a landscape of music by Unloved – who are Holmes, Ciancia and singer / songwriter, Jade Vincent.
“When people ask me how do you make a soundtrack, the only answer you can give is that you have to instinctively feel your way through it,” says David Holmes. “After I was approached to make the soundtrack for Killing Eve what we said to them was: ‘This should be the music to Killing Eve, and that it should fit like a glove. It should be different and it should be interesting and it should be bold and we should take chances.”
Where Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s “unclassifiable” Killing Eve “undermines every rule of TV” (Rolling Stone), the score undermines the rules of soundtrack: twisting and writhing music and melody to an unclassifiable sound that evokes familiarity yet plays against it. This is a lethal combination of film and score, aiding and abetting each other, inspiring witnesses to empathy and stimulating voyeurs at once, an affair that whispers ‘danger’ invitingly and can only endure heartache, but why not? It’s working.
Killing Eve follows the story of MI5 operative Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) assigned to follow lethal hired gun
Villanelle (Jodie Comer) across Europe, in a tale of darkly humorous absurdity, assassination and infatuation. Central to its soundtrack was a distinctive female voice, and Holmes sent the production company “a huge folder of every song that could possibly fit that.” Among those songs were several tracks by Unloved, the project he launched in late 2015 with LA-based musicians — producer, composer and keyboardist Keefus Ciancia and singer / songwriter Jade Vincent. When the Killing Eve production company duly sent Holmes the first episode, they had included three tracks by Unloved. “And they worked so well,” he says, giving them license to use more..
It is Vincent’s voice that *** on Killing Eve. “We started using her voice as an instrument” says Holmes “And it’s such a potent instrument for the show,” adds Ciancia. “Her voice has the ability characteristically and sonically that became it’s own unique instrument.”
Unloved’s debut EP Guilty of Love, and the full-length, self-titled album that followed in the spring of 2016, offered a quite remarkable thing: a sound at once hauled out of the silty depths of the past, and simultaneously wholly modern. There was the soft hiss of a lo-fidelity recording, the murky crackle of sample, beats, half-remembered, long-lost favourite tunes. But much of the songs’ success belonged to Vincent’s stunning voice and lyrics, both possessed of an aching, rich-smoked tone of loss and love.
Holmes and Ciancia navigate and play our emotions, globetrotting through the obsession and psychopathy of Killing Eve. Ciancia masterfully orchestrates in his distinctively eerie and evocative style, combining seamlessly with Holmes’ mastery of sound and image. Curating from his distinctive and extensive library of rare vinyl Holmes ended up supervising the rest of the music on Killing Eve, painting the plot’s musical scent ‘red’ across Europe. “The diversity came from all the different countries we visit in the show”, says Holmes “In France we were looking to artists like Françoise Hardy, Serge Gainsbourg, Anna Karina and Pierre Cavalli for inspiration. In Germany; Kraftwerk, Die Wilde Jagd and contemporary techno from Phil Kieran etc. In Russia; Tarkovsky’s composer Eduard Artemyev etc and in Italy; Nino Rota, Morricone and Alessandro Alessandroni. Because of the influence all these artists had on the score and all the unloved tracks, the continuity happened very naturally.” By the end of the series the soundtrack featured a total of 27 Unloved songs.
“When you make a soundtrack you create all of these threads without actually realising it,” Holmes continues, “Jade’s voice is obviously a thread, and a lot of the instrumentation Keefus and I are using is a thread. And then you put a different spin on it because you’re in a different country in each episode, but the threads bring it this lovely continuity. The music to Killing Eve pushes boundaries, creates it’s own tapestry, a new soundtrack.
Killing Eve will begin shooting its second season this summer, with Holmes, Ciancia and Unloved once again providing the soundtrack. Unloved will release their second album this autumn, including songs from Killing Eve season one. We should brace ourselves.
FORMAT: CD Includes a 12 page booklet
LP First press on red vinyl
6 Devils Angels
9 Fail We May Sail We Must
10 Love Lost
11 Crash Boom Bang
12 Boy and Girl
Heavenly CD: HVNLP162CD