Noctorum is a collaboration between guitarist/singer-songwriter Marty Willson-Piper and producer Dare Mason.
“Noctorum should please any fans of dark, atmospheric guitar rock, with lyrics that question life and its intricacies. ” (Sean Koepenick, Ear Candy)
Dare and Marty grew up together on the Wirral, near Liverpool, listening to Prog, Krautrock, Spacerock, New Wave, Punk, Artrock, Funk, classic 60s Pop singles, Glamrock and Heavy Rock, probably the reason for their diverse and eclectic sound. Moving to Australia in the 80’s, Marty joined The Church and, for a while, All About Eve, while Dare concentrated on becoming an engineer and producer, founding the VIP Lounge studio in Penzance, Cornwall. They formed Noctorum in 2002, releasing their first album, Sparks Lane (Album Credits) on Heyday Records, an independent label in the US. Their second album, Offer The Light (Album Credits) was released in August 2006 on Heyday and re-released as a digipak in 2010 on Second Motion Records. Their third album Honey Mink Forever (Album Credits) was released on Heyday Records on Dec 1st 2011. They are currently working on their fourth album The Afterlife, which will be released on Schoolkids Records in the autumn of 2018.
The Afterlife (2018)
Noctorum’s fourth album The Afterlife will be released in October 2018!
“So stylish, so British. Noctorum’s long-awaited fourth offering definitely chimes, sparkles and shines. Recapturing the trademark sounds that initially made Sparks Lane and Offer The Light so attractive. Dare Mason and Marty Willson-Piper have come up with their strongest, most cohesive album. One of The Afterlife’s strengths lies in its homogenic orchestration. The listener can’t get enough of the outstanding harpsichord / flute / trumpet / violin / female vox arrangements, defining a sheer signature sound, beyond any of their previous efforts, despite usual eclectism.
The enticing pop flavours of the catchy Piccadilly Circus In The Rain are to die for (Olivia Willson-Piper’s backing vocals really transcending this lovely tune). A Resurrected Man’s moving lyrics appropriately close side one of the album, Marty delivering one of his most poignant ballads ever in this love song to his muse. The more classic-rock vibes at the core of the record feel great too, with Marty getting the load out of his chest and using a large palette of vocal styles. Dare gets to sing the lead on a couple of songs, and man does he rock! The epic Head On brings the coup de grâce. As if it wasn’t enough to begin the song with a tasteful detective story vibe and instrumentation, Marty always sounding great in this vein (Noctorum fans fondly recall Ask Again), then comes the revelation of Olivia’s mysterious and sexy lead vocal in what turns out to be a compelling duet (one of the best ever heard, casting the same magical spell as Lee Hazlewood / Nancy Sinatra or David Sylvian / Stina Nordenstam, to name a few…). It might be hard not to think of Nico in Olivia’s cues. And there is so much more to cherish Head On for, its prog outro being another prowess in itself. Among the standout tracks are The Afterlife, utterly poignant and soaring magnificently, with its guitar treatment luring the listener into thinking that Tony Banks is guesting on keys…This takes nothing away from the simple, tender, soothing and poetic In A Field Full Of Sheep, which really fulfills its mission of bringing a sense of relief.
With great consistency in the writing, performance and production, it’s clear that Noctorum have lovingly crafted and matured each song on this beauty of a record, intensely generous.” (Arno Sojo, Sweet Gum Tree)
Making Of Noctorum – The Afterlife
Honey Mink Forever (2011)
The third Noctorum album featured another eclectic selection. The mega productions on songs like False Flag gave the album a luxurious sound (it gets lost when converted to mp3 though). Better Hope You’re Not Alone featured a spontaneous jam at the end of the song that we liked so much that we decided to keep it. The breezy Running Through Your Fingers attempts to address the environment and Mao Tse Tung Kiss the rise of China. Dare wrote the lyrics for False Flag and Victorian Vignette, a beautiful duet with local Cornish singer Julie Elwin. The album has some really beautiful guitar tones throughout, especially on the aforementioned False Flag. The album concludes with a giant jump into Jazz as two worlds meet with local Jazz players doing their thing as I attempt to add a left wing rock guitar element making this an interesting hybrid. The cover art is a photograph from the artefacts window in the physical In Deep Music Archive taken by Simon Green. The title? – Well you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.
Offer The Light (2006)
The second Noctorum album was an altogether longer affair. By this time my trips to Cornwall were extended as I had decided to bring the In Deep Music Archive into the recently vacated room next to Dare’s studio. This meant we had more time to work on the project and so we took it. We continued the eclectic theme, purposely writing songs that were different to each other and this explains tracks such as Lover’s Head with its dance beat and unnerving lyric in contrast to poignancy of the homage to the bygone years of old fashioned football players in The Striker. The lyrical themes were strong on this album, one of the most appreciated songs was the last track Hopes And Fears with its romantic portrayal of love in the atmosphere of factories in Northern England. So this was an album that inquired into history, also incorporating nostalgic French film with a paean to Alain Delon. It included another pop gem in Stop Crying Your Eyes Out, a powerful rock song in Let Me Tell You A Secret and the delicate The Muse, Already Dead brutally wrenching your way to an execution in an American prison. It was an eclectic journey, inhabited by fascinating characters from all walks of life. The album cover is a picture taken by Dare at the Tate Gallery in the turbine hall during his visit to the Olafur Eliasson sun installation in 2004. If you look closely you may recognise him. The title, well – Cricket!
Recording of Hopes And Fears, live on The Andy Cousin Show, 9 August 2017 (with Olivia Willson-Piper & Marty Willson-Piper).
“Offer the Light is the second release from Noctorum, Willson-Piper’s collaboration with multi-instrumentalist and producer Dare Mason. An increasingly strong singer, Willson-Piper is also an expressive, literate lyricist. And as any fan of The Church already knows, he’s one helluva guitar player. Noctorum’ s sonic blueprint doesn’t stray too far from The Church’s blend of Velvet Underground menace and the Byrd’s glorious jangle. “Let Me Tell You a Secret” combines Willson-Piper’s cool vocal with his frenetically expressive guitar work, the latter equal parts Lou Reed squall and My Bloody Valentine wash. Equally fetching is the Beatlesque “Stop Cryin’ Your Eyes Out” with its “Don’t Think Twice“ (Bob Dylan) lyrical motive. Any fan of The Church or Marty Willson-Piper should be thrilled with Offer the Light. Recorded in 2006, it’s seeing its first comprehensive American release on Second Motion Records. ” (Steve Wilson, KC Free Press)
Sparks Lane (2003)
The Noctorum project began as a way to bring Dare Mason into the writing process. We had made lots of records together but generally it was me who wrote the songs. This record was written and recorded at Dare’s VIP Lounge studio in Penzance, Cornwall, in just one week but you’d never know it, as it was a lush production. It was a more sophisticated record, mostly leaving behind the acoustic elements although it continued on an eclectic path with some long experimental tracks. It featured the moody My Museum and the poptastic High As A Kite, the hit that never was (although according to Chilean radio it was No. 1 in 1980). The cover art by Greg Daville was composite images put together to form an unlikely reality. The device featured in the picture is called an orrery and is a real thing – a working mechanical model of our solar system. The title has no connection to the picture, it was simply the name of one of the roads in Thingwall that connected our parents’ houses to each other when we were growing up as teenagers. It seemed appropriate as this was our first writing collaboration since our school band in the early seventies. We were called Opal Butterfly and were influenced by the more Progressive bands of the day, then in the late seventies we had a New Wave band called The True 100’s named after a cigarette. Later I discovered that the name Opal Butterfly was already taken but for some reason The True 100’s name is still available?
Photos: Simon Green, Olivia Willson-Piper, Danny Watkins