I am blessed to have the friendship of Debs Mc Coy. Ask anyone who knows her, and like me, they will tell you that she is one of the loveliest, gentlest, funniest and gorgeous people they know. “A beautiful spirit”, I think is how one mutual friend recently put it.
I know Debs for a while now; we’re ‘Derbs’, the ‘twin-gal-pal, mad mod’ moderators for ‘Fresh on the Net‘, the ever expanding website resource for emerging artists, set up by Tom Robinson some years back, to run in tandem with his weekend gig at BBC6 Music.
One afternoon, during one of our regular #Dropbox conversations, we got to talking about Debs’ own music. She happened to mention that both she and Jon Cox had reworked an Oli Arnalds track, ‘Only The Winds’, by weaving McCoy’s ‘Black Winged Taker’ composition through it. The result, as you will shortly attest to, is nothing short of stupendous.
I knew Debs’ work was good, VERY good, but it wasn’t until I came across this certain piece, that the enormity of her un-presuming talent began to dawn on me. I now felt compelled to tunnel down through crust and mantle, until I reached the inner core of her work.
Yes, feeling sure I had only just scratched the surface, I took a lengthy meander through the works of this wonky tonk woman, a surreal stroll that left me stunned by the extensive diversity, and seemingly endless scope, of Debs’ portfolio.
Due to the voluminous size of the McCoy musical library, it is impossible to showcase everything here, so I’ve selected a few varied samples of her work to reflect and indulge upon.
First things first though….just who is Debs McCoy?
Debs is a Geordie lass and, as if that wasn’t enough (woah!), she is also an artist, photographer, poet/lyricist and multi-instrumentalist. Jealous? Too bloody right I am, aren’t you? No? Liars!
Debs obviously queued up more than once when the talents were being handed out. So what does this uber talented, chatty mod have to say for herself? Take it away Debs….#armflourishthingy
“I started taking classical guitar lessons when I was 6, followed by piano a few years later, but I stopped playing both for a long period of time, as I felt that I was really struggling to marry my lyrics with the music I’d written. Funnily, I could successfully write poetry and instrumental pieces separately. Some years later, after a fractured period in my life, somehow both lyrics and music were easily coming together, in a way they hadn’t in the past, and I’ve continued to write music ever since.!”
Therapy Sessions 1
If you could put music to the endlessly bleak moors, the isolated loneliness, and the tragic sense of loss and despair in Wuthering Heights, Therapy Sessions 1, would be it. I can imagine #TS1 as a musical backdrop to the scene in which Heathcliff is buried next to Cathy (the side of his and Cathy’s coffins removed so that they will forever lie together side by side). With hints of a Scottish lament, it is a brooding, doleful, yet somewhat tender piece, given to intermittent bursts of uplifting, almost sparkling, piano sequences.
It opens with a low drone which pervades throughout, providing a tense, forbidding undercurrent, continuously murmuring underground. Dark minimalist piano erratically dots a melancholic string sequence; it’s almost as if the piano is conveying a sense of someone having lost their way. There is a feeling of confused desperation about it’s presence in this section, leading us awry amidst dusky shadows. Even when the piano does lighten, it still doesn’t illuminate the way. There is however, a subtle change in the soundscape, as the piano becomes suggestive of ripples of water. Droplets of rain splish down onto a bubbling stream, a warm ray of light filters across the sky. The mood fleetingly lifts, but too soon the clouds close over, and the lonely darkness once again falls. We are covered in by a rising blanket of tormented strings, shadowed by skeletal bass piano, until that too fades into the grey, flat-lines, and slowly disappears into another world.
More about Debs!
“I studied Fine Art for 4 years at university then went on to do a post-grad for 3 years in Art Psychotherapy. I’ve always been fascinated with inner and outer experience; music and visual art bridges the gap between the two, tapping into the unconscious. Music helps me to make sense of my experiences and the world around me. If others can also find some connection and personal meaning from what I create then that’s lovely and a bonus.”
When I was selecting tracks to feature here, I asked Debs to make some recommendations and the next piece – ‘Revolver’ – was one of her suggestions.
‘Revolver’ is exactly three and half minutes of rich, sumptuous musical velvet. Utterly captivating, it is a luminous composition made up of intricately woven threads of strings and piano, in which a wondrously warm and mellow shot of single malt cello, counterpoints a looping Philip Glass-like crystalline pianissimo reverie. The music envelopes the listener with it’s cyclical chord sequences, delightful as a spring morning, arousing as youthful love, spirited as a musical merry-go-round. It is an exquisitely executed keyboard carousel – enchantingly hypnotic, hypnotically enchanting – exuding radiant hope. It exemplifies the beauty within Debs’ soul; only the pure of heart, could compose something as innocent and beautiful as this.
It’s Debs again…(she is a chatterbox innit!)
”We’ve all got our own histories and experiences so different stuff taps into ‘us’ in a different way, sometimes with great immediacy. It’s like when you go into a gallery and look at a painting you know nothing about, you just accept it for its aesthetics, and have an instant reaction to it, whether that’s positive or negative. BUT then if there’s a title to the painting, a little piece of text or, a little bit about the artist and how they came to make the work, it takes on a completely different meaning.
You can look at the most spectacular modernist painting, in the most beautifully vivid colours and think “wow, that’s a really skilled bit of painting”, even if it’s not really your bag. Then you read that a 5 year old child painted it in 2 hours, and has produced hundreds of similar works, or a blind person has created it, or, someone who’s in prison – it turns everything on its head.”
And by way of introduction to our next track…
“‘This is a Jon Cox rework/remix of my track ‘Rose Madder’ with Underworld’s ‘Capa Meets The Sun’ for USA record label Nuova Forma for a podcast he curated for them.”
When you hear a song as wondrous as this, with such vocal fragility, is there a need to say anything? I think I’ll let this one sing for itself.
Magical…! A sonic web has been spun!!
My penultimate choice is another collaboration – this time with cellist Leah Coloff, who has played with such heavyweights as Damon Albarn and Nancy Sinatra!
‘The Weight’ in Debs’ speak is ” … improvised piano, guitar, and cello, with some other instruments (synth etc) … “
It has an eery intensity, an almost Gothic feel of Usherian restless spirits and “The Others” other worldliness. This is music by which to read Poe (and spend the subsequent early hours awake because every creak terrifies you!). Aside from #thedark , there is a cross continental sound to the string sequences of this song. At times Russian, at times Spanish, but at all times Bohemian, gypsy even, the string arrangements (both guitar and cello), add an eclectic flavour to the plaintiveness of the piano arrangement.
This piece is the product of a perfect collaborative synchronicity and, I really do hope that Leah and Debs get together in the not so distant future, to create some more spectacular pieces of music. #hinthint
And so, to the piece of musical genius that brought us here….
Only The Winds // Black Winged Taker
There are very few times in life when you have what I call a ‘Radiohead’ moment – that moment when you hear a voice, a song, a piece of music and you just know, this is a titanic moment in your musical life. Few artists have given me those shiver filled moments – obviously Thom Yorke with Radiohead has obliged, Mark Hollis likewise. Kate Bush was the first to hit a nerve, and has since been followed by the Manics, Olafur Arnalds & Nils Frahm, Dvorak and most recently, Cortney Tidwell (tbc!). Few then, have roused such passionate emotion or violent reaction within, for my world to screech to a musical halt.
But, it happened again the other day. Not with another big name, not with an high profile super group, legendary lyricist, or, even a toilet brush impresario. Nope, it happened with Debs…which, to be honest, made it all the more stupefying. And it happened when I played this final piece, which sprang into the music-verse when Debs Mc Coy, beautiful dreamer, took this divine instrumental by Olafur Arnalds, and along with Jon Cox, turned it on it’s head.
There really isn’t anything to say after that is there, so I’ll leave you with some final words from Debs….
“I once had a tutor at art school. He made us make a three minute film, which we had to show to our fellow students, but, we were not allowed to say anything about it. Nothing! When we complained, he got really angry and said …
“…ART should speak for itself…it doesn’t need words” “
You can learn more about Debs McCoy’s music via the following links:-
You can find out about her collaborators here:-