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John Metcalfe banner artist

Composer, producer, classical violist, guitarist, pioneering A&R man and arranger to A-list pop stars, John Metcalfe has always been a name worth seeking out, however small the print. Even when he is working in the background, as an arranger for Coldplay, Peter Gabriel or Blur, his contributions are always special. His ear for timbre and his instinct for musical drama make him a good collaborator – empathetic but never unassuming.

Originally from New Zealand, Metcalfe moved to England as a child and took up the viola. Raised on a dual-mono diet of Kraftwerk and Joy Division it was the latter that influenced his move northwest where he studied at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. He joined The Durutti Column, and, with Factory Records co-founder Tony Wilson, launched Factory Classical in 1989.

One of a number of musical incarnations, The Duke Quartet, led by Metcalfe’s violinist wife Louisa Fuller, soon attracted acclaim, with its gutsy appetite for twentieth-century repertoire and an adventurous programme of new commissioned work. Since his work on Morrissey's no.1 solo album Viva Hate, John Metcalfe has also become one of the UK's top arrangers working for artists such as Bat For Lashes, Blur and and Pretenders. He provided all the strings for the Concert for Linda at the Albert Hall, working with George Michael, Johnny Marr and Tom Jones and Chrissie Hynde.

In 2008 he took part in a project so audacious that those who took part still find it hard to believe – a live improvised collaboration with The Bays and the Heritage Orchestra. Starting with a blank page on an electronic score pad, Metcalfe, along with fellow composer Simon Hale, wrote an entire orchestral score in real time – a kind of musical ‘extreme sport’.

Soon after that, Metcalfe took on another challenge – arranging and co-producing Peter Gabriel’s orchestral albums Scratch My Back and New Blood. When the project subsequently toured the world, Metcalfe was its musical director.

As the dust settled from working with Gabriel, Metcalfe was ready to make Kites and Echoes, which demonstrates his confidence on a bigger stage, both literally and metaphorically. “This is me on my own, and there’s nothing between the audience and me. It’s my efforts, it’s my emotions, it’s my sensibilities on display”.

‘Kites and Echoes’ special edition for Society of Sound

We are offering two versions of the John Metcalfe album, not only the full album at 24 bit/44.1 kHz but a special exclusive edition called The Vinyl Experience. This is to provide listeners with a high resolution 96kHz recording of the actual vinyl LP. Jamie Neale at Real World Studios explains:

“The vinyl transfer began with obtaining an unplayed, early test pressing from the pressing plant. This got us as close as possible to what was originally cut to the lacquer at the mastering house, with minimal wear on the ‘parent’ stamps from production.

The vinyl transfer was then was done at the highest quality using a VPI turntable, Audio Technica moving coil cartridge and a very low noise phono equaliser and pre-amplifier. All of the blemishes like the surface noise and distortion, which make the vinyl experience so special, were captured.

Although this system is a sort of technical ideal, the character of its sound is still undeniable. For instance - something which I noticed while editing the transfer was a very faint twinkling just after the needle falls, which I later discovered is the sound of a small spring in the turntable’s needle slow-fall mechanism settling after laying the needle onto the disc”.


Read John Metcalfe's production notes of 'Kites and Echoes'

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