Firstly, full disclosure: I feature on the track ‘Pick It Up’ on Miodes’ new album, ‘Neutron Star’. It’s an epic (19 tracks, not including many that are comprised of two or three songs/movements; and lasts one hour and fifteen minutes) and my guest appearance is indicative of the recurring conversational style and overlapping voices that distinguish the album.
Miodes is the music made by Bernadette Hinde, whose earlier albums ‘City Folk’ and ‘Salty Water’, tread a very acoustic feel that is very folk-friendly as she sings melancholic character vignettes. ‘Neutron Star’ has that element as well but features a wide breadth of genres to tell its tale of forbidden love between Luna and a boy from another world. Tracks like the three-part ‘Halcyon/Your You Plus One/Faker Moon’ go from choir-like dreaminess to pop to the ambience of overlaid speaking voices without missing beat. ‘My Instruction’ is reminiscent of early Cabaret Voltaire, whilst ‘Ugly Bird’ has a little reggae lilt and ‘The Thick of It’ and ‘Bus 13/If I get Lucky/We Are All Aliens’ include full-on singalongs. And that’s not including the excursions into dancefloor beats. There’s even recorders reminding of the kind that feature in ‘70s kids shows and ‘The Climb’ features the percussion of ping-pong balls. It’s distinguished by a playful experimentation throughout. There’s a hint of Fiery Furnaces to the pile-on of musical styles. This often brings many different vocal inflections and styles from Bernadette that haven’t quite been heard on those earlier albums, although her clarity and direct connection to emotion remain intact.
It’s a “sci-fi musical piece intended for dance theatre. It follows the story of Luna, who falls in love with a boy from another world. But an evil being pursues and separates them. In their quest to reach and save each other...they fulfill a special destiny.” But don’t be put off by how simplistic the love story sounds. Beneath the sci-fi exterior, Miodes interest in the scruffy, down-to-earth perspective and characters of London life lies intact, and the intergalactic plot hardly downplays her humanitarian agenda or the subtext of immigration and integration: after all, it does end with ‘We Are all Aliens’. There are the usual Miodes' bag ladies and buses (well, a spacecraft of some kind treated like a bus), Rastafarians, London and Irish accents and a grounded feel that ties everything down, no matter that she sings of losing her heart in an interstellar storm.
Frequently surprising and often moving too, the work put into this is self-evident, as is the influence of a range of music. For all its lengthiness, ‘Neutron Star’ is continually fascinating and diverse; and for all its experimentation, it never loses an underpinning pop sensibility that means this is an accessible indulgence of an ambitious and thoroughly engaging kind.