Composer Michaela Polakova and singer/lyricist Natalie Kocab have united as a formidable musical force, transcending genres and cultural differences to construct a genuinely breath-taking album, one, which though shrouded in shadow, is staggeringly beautiful and affecting. Choosing not to rely only on their own skills, they drew up a dream list of guitarists they’d like to play on the album, striking gold with the musician at the very top of their list. Nick McCabe’s post-The Verve career has produced some of the most interesting work of his career, and is now rightly hailed as one of the most innovative UK guitarists of the last 20 years. Initially agreeing to appear on only one or two tracks, this soon ballooned to eight, so impressed was he with the dark, musical worlds they had created.
Nick discusses his involvement:
Ellis Island’s creeping, lustrous sound is based on Michaela’s intricately-weaved piano and string quartet compositions, with Natalie’s Patti Smith-esque vocals adding even deeper pools of intrigue and tension. The sound they create is reminiscent to Nick Cave’s explorations of the mind and the human spirit: dark and emotionally involving certainly, but also inspiring and defiant. Though based on classical foundations, Ellis Island is very much a contemporary experience, drawing on the art of cerebral storytelling through song of the 1970s and 1980s and the fusion of orchestra and guitar music which saw its resurgence in the 1990s.
Watch the video to “Underwater” here: https://youtu.be/omx-6V6hbk8
The project is the brainchild of Michaela Polakova and Natalie Kocab, both hailing from the Czech Republic, though Michaela now lives in England. Michaela was classically trained at Prague’s conservatoire, also studying composition at King’s College, London. Natalie, a renowned writer of both books and plays in her homeland, and Michaela first met during the making of the album, “Hummingbirds in Iceland”, which received rave reviews in Europe.
Also appearing is Fernando Saunders, who played bass alongside Lou Reed through much of the 1980s up to his death, not to mention significant experience working with some of music’s great storytellers, including Marianne Faithful and Tori Amos. The album was mixed by John Catlin at Flood and Alan Moulder’s Assault and Battery Studios. “Ellis Island” is a perfect listening experience for lovers of 1990s indie music; orchestral rock; Nick Cave; Tom Waits, and Lou Reed.