Organ Thing of the Day: Some glorious new music from the ever beautiful always wonderful thing that is The Last Dinosaur, this latest piece of musical treasure is something called Wholeness and the Implicate Order, a piece taken from the forthcoming album, Wholeness, released October 23rd on Phases. Have things got a little more epic this time? A little more widescreen? He, or they, are always rather good, he being Jamie Cameron and whoever he happens to be working with –
“Following the recent announcement of his new album ‘Wholeness‘, The Last Dinosaur (the brainchild of songwriter, Jamie Cameron) returns today with a new video for his latest single ‘Wholeness and the Implicate Order‘.
The expansive instrumental album opener ‘Wholeness and the Implicate Order’ is an ruminative and wistful listen. Combining harmonious piano and strings with a tempestuous brass section and subtle woodwind and electronic elements, it’s a dynamically complex and incredibly poignant introduction to the new album.
Speaking about the video and single, Jamie says “This piece began it’s life in 2012 and was finally finished this year. A collaboration between me, Luke Hayden (piano), Rachel Lanskey (viola) and Lewis Daniel (brass and wind). A mess of memories. The magic to the mundane to the malevolent. Eventually the music is overwhelmed by the elements. Instruments continue playing until they’re lost to the wind, static, footsteps, electricity. Transitory bullshit ultimately designated insignificant by the relentless and overwhelming order of nature.
The video is a stark, black and white visual filmed on location in the derelict buildings of Kolkata by award-winning director Aniket Dutta. A narrative of two characters from different dimensions who are stuck in the same house. It’s a testament to Aniket’s talent that he could create such a compelling piece of art during a global pandemic.”
‘Wholeness’ is due out 23rd October via Phases
More on ‘Wholeness’:
“I lost my job. I lost confidence. I lost my mind. I made this record.” This is how Jamie Cameron sometimes explains the existence of his third album as The Last Dinosaur, and it’s a testament to his tenacity that it exists at all. Though it’s a succinct 26 minutes long, Wholeness speaks to the heart with such intensity that it says more than many artists manage in a lifetime, not that you’d guess the stories behind it. Intricately detailed, painstakingly arranged, and imbued with an unforgettable, bitter-sweet tenderness, it refuses to restrict itself stylistically, yet its integrity is worthy of its title, even if that was originally chosen to celebrate the completion of the profound odyssey that led Cameron to make it.
From its orchestral introduction, ‘Wholeness And The Implicate Order’ – its victorious nature ultimately overwhelmed by an eerie recording of pylons “emitting a strange sound, as if the wires were whipping electricity” – to the strangely affecting instrumental, ‘The Wheelbarrow’, its rippling pianos punctuated by the chatter of the daughter of two old friends from whom Cameron had once been estranged, Wholeness tracks a complicated but redemptive path through recollections of a withdrawn childhood and an adulthood crippled by insecurity, tragedy and death. “The album,” Cameron confesses, “symbolises a personal journey, after years spent in a creative wilderness underlined by fear and doubt, to rediscover and reconnect with a pureness of creativity and creative autonomy.” No wonder it opens with a triumphant brass fanfare.
“Music has always been everything to me,” Cameron elaborates. “It was all I ever truly cared about.” Born in 1984, he grew up a shy, sensitive child in a seemingly contented family in the Essex countryside, drawing comics, making home videos, developing an interest in photography, and immersing himself in a wild variety of different sounds. Initially inspired by his father, who took the family to Cropredy every year to nurse his passion for English folk music – from Fairport Convention to Fotheringay – Cameron soon expanded his horizons to include bands like The Blue Nile, Tears for Fears, Dead Can Dance, World Party, Crowded House and REM, all acts notable for their sincerity, though their effects on his own music are otherwise opaque. “Melody and harmony do something magical to me,” he explains. “I used to sit at the back of the people carrier on drives to France, quietly singing along to the holiday mixtape to myself in a soft falsetto, harmonising with the main vocal.”
Sadly, Cameron began to struggle with mental health issues, and music took on greater significance. “It’s been the only outlet,” he confesses, “for a lot of circling pain, thoughts, questions, and for sifting through all the babble, fixing on the sticking points. It allows me to write sympathetically, or with empathy, about situations or people where anger and hurt are dominant emotions. Also, it’s an attempt to self-actualise, to create a space where the person I’m hoping to be, and the life I’m hoping to have, already exist.”
If this sounds melodramatic, wait up: Cameron’s struggles have been as hard as anyone’s. Though The Last Dinosaur’s first album, 2010’s Hooray! For Happiness, was “merely” a breakup album – about his parents’ difficult split, and his own with his girlfriend – 2017’s The Nothing found him digging far deeper inside himself in an attempt to come to terms with the death, when he was only 18, of a childhood friend with whom he’d just released their first album. “James and I were sitting on the side of the car where we were hit,” Cameron recalls sadly. “He took the extent of the impact. They had to put me in a chemically induced coma. Once the drugs were wearing off, I would start gaining consciousness, but I didn’t understand what was going on. Despite my condition, my mum thought the right thing to do was to explain to me what had happened. It terrified me, beyond anything I can really describe.”
What The Nothing’s seven-year gestation failed to address, though, was that Cameron’s unhappiness was yet more complex still. While the loss of his musical partner and friend absorbed his emotional attention, he remained in denial about the impact the unusually distressing breakup of his family – and the ensuing departure of his mother, with whom he’d previously been very close – had wrought upon him. That The Nothing had ended up – to his mind, at least – creatively disheartening didn’t help. To make matters worse, he swiftly lost the job for which he’d at last moved to London from the Essex countryside. “I’d finally found confidence and satisfaction after seven long years deteriorating in a Blockbuster,” he says, “but when this happened I lost a creative fire I’d never previously questioned. I was also deeply entrenched in the effects of post-traumatic stress. I was devastated, and I didn’t know who I was anymore. There were points where I thought that The Nothing might be the last thing I’d ever make.”
Fortunately, it wasn’t. Whether it’s in ‘Shower Song’’s Sparklehorse-like intimacy, or ‘Spirit Of The Staircase’s Cinematic Orchestra flavoured poignancy, the stream-of-consciousness ‘Errant Child’’s brave reminders of Mark Hollis’ frail solo album and its remembrances of Cameron’s mother, ‘Untitled Piece For Piano & Viola’’s bucolic innocence, or even ‘In The Belly Of A Whale’’s enigmatic ode to friendship, whose poetry, penned by close friend Amy Acre – “You turn the tap and I’ll cup my hands” – recalls Prefab Sprout’s masterful I Trawl The Megahertz, Wholeness speaks to all who’ve at some point been forced to overcome what once seemed insurmountable obstacles. Born of sadness and suffering, sprinkled with field recordings whose personal significance is as inscrutable as it is fundamental – the sound of his walk home through London’s Clissold Park on ‘Shower Song’, the typewriter keys nodding to Max Richter’s The Blue Notebooks on ‘In The Belly Of A Whale’, the dog tapping across the floor on ‘Untitled Piece For Piano & Viola’ – it’s nonetheless as wholesome and positive as its name suggests. Some may argue – if perhaps not Cameron – that it’s enough to make the adversities worthwhile.
Whether that’s true or not, these songs – which also feature regular collaborators Rachel Lanskey (viola), Luke Hayden (piano) and Lewis Daniel (woodwind and brass) – have guided Cameron to a crucial epiphany: “Inspiration is temporary, anxiety is temporary, consistency is temporary, insecurity is temporary, failure is temporary, pride is temporary, hopelessness is temporary.” It’s hardly surprising, then, that he clings to Pablo Picasso’s famous quote, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” He remains characteristically, almost agonisingly self-deprecating – he describes his work as “like film music mixed with whispery, miserable songs about my life” – but even he surely recognises that this time he’s achieved something special.
“I like to think that my motto is “Never write the same song twice,” he concludes. “I just really like experimenting. I think that’s when I feel most confident, most proud: when I’ve produced something and I can’t explain where it came from, and I can’t even credit myself for it. I just try to create that indefinable feeling which I can only describe as a heady, exciting rush of euphoria and adrenaline at the sudden realisation that right this second, you’re alive, and anything is possible. Music really is incredible.”
The Last Dinosaur’s Wholeness matches that claim.