I first landed on Ross Hawkins' Ideal Tiger blog when Technorati alerted me to someone talking about me and Jake Thackray on the same page. Since I'm a huge Thackray fan, I was delighted to read Ross' appreciation of the darkly funny Anglo-chansonnier, which locates Thackray as much within the perimeters of Lord Whimsy's "affected provincialism" (thus neatly side-stepping tiresome questions of authenticity) as my own slapstick glitch vaudeville sketches (Hawkins compares Thackray's "Pass Milord The Rooster Juice" -- a song you can hear him covering on his MySpace page -- to my "Corkscrew King").
It was when I found myself mentioned again -- this time in the context of a splendid meditation on the English garden and its connections to Mark E. Smith, Brian Eno and Carsten Nicolai -- that I decided to take a listen to the mp3 files at the side of the page, recorded under the name The Idle Tigers.
The material intrigued me. It was gently deviant -- "delicate with a purpose," as Ross says of his friend Anne Marie Varella, "like all atmospheric art".
Hawkins seems to be a young man suffused with delicate, carefully-structured lust, a neo-Victorian from Bradford, England who's relocated -- possibly for the purpose of study -- to Toronto, Canada. The world of his songs, though, has stayed rooted in England, or rather, the imaginary, filtered England that rises up in the spirit of an exile, replacing the reality with something more mythical. Here Lewis Carroll meets Brian Eno, and music hall meets the avant garde. Listening to The Shadow Falls Across The Fridge, Frank I was reminded of my first listens to Toog or The Divine Comedy (if they'd listened to a lot more Pierre Schaeffer) or, much further back, The Passage. These songs seemed to come from the odd place where the breezy meets the zany, and it's there we can have adventures in wonderland.
Unlace Me Behind the Hedge is a touching, absurd account of a sexual encounter which somehow reminds me of Artery's mysterious song "Into the Garden" (a Peel favourite in the 80s, it concerns sibling sex). "I reckon that sex is just special effects," the fey-voiced Hawkins sings against piano arpeggios, "a rite, a performance by the fireworks department". His song Jonah could almost be something off my own first album, Circus Maximus.
On my fantasy record label, Idle Tigers would record their debut album (if they haven't already) with prepared pianist Hauschka (see him live here).