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Brett Anderson and Charles Hazlewood Unveil Orchestral Covers Album, 'Death Songbook'

The 12 're-imaginings' of tracks by Suede, Depeche Mode and others was recorded live with the Paraorchestra during lockdown.

death songbook brett anderson
Source: Kirsten McTernan

'Death Songbook' was conceived by Hazlewood during lockdown.

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Suede frontman Brett Anderson has teamed up with award winning conductor Charles Hazlewood for Death Songbook, an album of orchestral “re-imaginings” of music by Suede, Echo & The Bunnymen, Depeche Mode, Mercury Rev, Japan, Skeeter Davis, Jacques Brel, and others.

The lead song from the album, a soaring, shivering version of Echo & The Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon”, is released today – watch a live performance video here.

Music is provided by the Paraorchestra (of which is Hazlewood is the Artistic Director). Describing their mission as “to reimagine what an orchestra – and ‘classical music’ itself – can be,” the Paraorchestra is the world’s only ensemble consisting of both professional disabled and non-disabled musicians playing an unconventional mix of traditional orchestral, acoustic, and electronic instruments and using assistive technology.

Also featured on the album are Nadine Shah, Gwenno, Seb Rochford (Sons of Kemet) and Adrian Utley (Portishead).

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death songbook paraorchestra
Source: Kirsten McTernan

The album was recorded live on the world's largest opera stage in Cardiff.

Death Songbook was conceived during the pandemic, when Hazlewood approached Anderson with the idea for making an album of “very delicate re-imaginings” of some of the most morbidly beautiful and poignantly somber songs ever written.

“So much of the greatest art, certainly from my point of view, is intrinsically melancholic,” Hazlewood explains in a released statement. “Music which is about death, or the death of love, about loss, about anxiety, there's a transcendence in that music. My go to, whether I’m feeling happy or sad or somewhere in between, will be melancholy music because that's where the catharsis is, that’s where art is most resonant.”

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charles hazlewood death songbook
Source: Kirsten McTernan

'Music which is about death, or the death of love, about loss, about anxiety, there's a transcendence in that music.'

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Anderson sings across all 12 songs on the album, joined by Shah for versions of Mercury Rev’s “Holes” and Skeeter Davis’ “The End of the World”. Gwenno also features on an interpretation Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence”.

Speaking about the album, Anderson says: “Death Songbook was an idea Charles came up with during the bleak days of lockdown. As soon as he suggested it, I was sold. I loved the idea of curating a suite of songs about loss and sadness and regret. I've always found happy songs depressing, it’s been the murkier themes that have somehow sounded more joyous to me. Songs about doubt and fear and grief confront feelings we all struggle with, so to know that we are not alone in that fight can be quietly life-affirming.”

Nadine Shah added: “I’ve worked with Paraorchestra on a few occasions now, one on the hottest day imaginable at Glastonbury. Their talent is insurmountable and I love to sing with them. I’m a great admirer of both Brett Anderson and Charles Hazlewood so an opportunity to do this all again on Death Songbook was one I would be sure not to pass up. A moment of melancholic magic with a bunch of fellow goths.”

brett anderson death songbook
Source: Kirsten McTernan

Brett Anderson sings across all 12 songs on the album.

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Much of Death Songbook was recorded live in an afternoon at the peak of lockdown, socially distanced across Europe’s largest opera stage at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff. The project returned to the Millennium Centre for a live performance in October 2022, where they recorded three additional songs.

Death Songbook will be released on April 19, 2024, but you can pre-order here. Additionally, two special live performances will accompany the album’s release, firstly at London’s Roundhouse on 24th April, followed by a show at Manchester’s Aviva Studios, home of Factory International, on 26th April. Tickets are available here.


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