It seems KPM have long been fans of Smith & Mudd and, after being introduced to each other by mutual friend Andy Allday, the peerless Balearic maestros were invited to contribute to the library label’s digital-only “Album Shorts” project. The results are predictably wonderful.
With past projects under our belt working with everyone involved so far it made perfect sense for Be With to take on the vinyl release of this instant library classic. But why is it called Tea With Holger?
“Holger” is of course Holger Czukay and the whole LP is dedicated to Smith and Mudd’s time spent with him and Ursa Major at Can’s famous Inner Space Studio in Weilerswist, near Cologne.
When not recording it seems they spent a great deal of time sat around being entertained by Holger’s stories and drinking many cups of different sorts of tea from all over the world. These moments provide some their fondest memories of their visits:
“Looking back, it was pretty incredible that we spent part of our lives with Holger in one of the most magical places we’ve ever known, Inner Space Studio. We have our memories and, of course, the Bison album we made with him. But to honour the time we spent with him, we wanted to dedicate an album to him called ‘Tea With Holger’. The names of the tracks are about that time.”
The album was recorded over several years in London, Margate and Gorthleck, a small hamlet in the Scottish Highlands. Mike Piggott, who played with Bert Jansch, handled the strings and played violin whilst Sam Creer lent his virtuoso cello work to the proceedings. The sessions employed a key recording technique from their time with Holger: hit record and play. They wanted to capture magical improvisational moments live and not do the work later on in editing.
In their own words (and in classic library record sleeve style) these tracks are collectively described as “Balearic themes including breezy soul, sun-dappled melodies, warm pianos and sweeping strings”. You want to hear this, right?
The album is vintage Smith & Mudd. The gentle piano ushering in opening track “The Gardener” is soon joined by low, bubbling drums. When the time is just right, lush guitars glisten above a Welsh language vocal, performed by Huw Costin, that floats like silk. Easy as a sea breeze. “Innerspace” is of course a nod to Can’s aforementioned studio. Dark, heavy piano meets rolling drums before warm chords and luscious strings take over, gliding over moody grooves to drive you home. Closing out side A, “Weilerswist” delivers more beautifully rolling piano and guitars over thumping cellos and building drums.
Side B opens with the full, string-enhanced version of “Away From Me”. This is Smith & Mudd’s preferred version and it’s only available here on this vinyl issue. For us it’s the standout on this all-highlight album. Tribal tones, piano and cello set a melodic staccato for violin to soar over while rolling piano lines and gospel organ chords descend into a drum drop that leads to a glorious vocal lead finale.
Distant synths introduce sun-drenched guitars and uplifting strings in “Kölner Street”, before a spacey Moog solo leads to a spellbinding, sci-fi drop. The sunshine returns before the track ends. The album closes with “Tea With Holger”. Airy vocal swells are punctuated by plucked cellos and picked guitars, all wonderfully warmed by a soulful piano.
Cut by Pete Norman and pressed in the Netherlands by Record Industry, Tea With Holger comes in a classic KPM green sleeve complete with track descriptions from Smith & Mudd themselves. The finishing visual touches come courtesy of Richard Robinson. We’ve given this record the same care and attention as we give to each of our KPM re-issues, and it’s just as essential.