The 3rd of July, 1999, was a very sad day for lovers of truly inspired and original music everywhere. It’s the date that marks the on-stage collapse (and subsequent death due to heart-attack) of Mark Sandman
, singer and bass player for the incredibly talented Boston three-piece known as Morphine
Anyone not already acquainted with the sultry, sexy, bass-heavy stylings of Morphine would do well to become so before another minute of their miserable Morphine-less existence ticks by! The home-made two-string bass of Sandman, the alternately booming and lilting saxophones of Dana Colley
and the organic, jazz inspired drumming of Billie Conway
created a sound that was, and still is, completely it’s own (dubbed by the band as “low-rock”). Alas, the aforementioned tragic death of Sandman spelled the end for Morphine, but from its ashes rises Twinemen
– a band comprised of Colley, Conway and female vocalist Laurie Sargent
, who sang with them in “Orchestra Morphine”, a temporary 9 piece orchestra put together to celebrate Sandman’s life and work immediately after his demise.
Twinemen have just released their debut, a brilliant, moody, self-titled full length album that sets an exciting precedent.
Although comparisons are bound to be made to Morphine, Twinemen are a band with their own creative manifesto. The introduction of female lead vocals on the majority of tracks on this album is probably the biggest departure in style from Morphine. There are also multiple samples and many instruments used to create an intricate, layered, very polished sound on most of the album, which is also in contrast with the lo-fi, uncluttered approach used on most of Morphine’s tracks. That said, listening to Twinemen is still the closest you will come to hearing the continuation of Sandman’s musical vision for Morphine. Colley’s trademark saxophone work on multiple saxes is there, playing so many types of sax now that the liner notes simply credit him with the plural “saxophones”. Conway’s drums either let you know the party is still kicking or help to rhythmically hypnotize you along with the sax and rich bass lines. Sargent’s vocals, the “x-factor” of this release, if you will, actually work well to balance out the low, warm tones produced on most of the tracks. For Morphine fans, it’s definitely a change – it took me a little while to adjust, but when I did, I realized that Sargent has the ability to infuse this music with just the right atmosphere and energy with her soulful execution. Her work has that sultry, breathy style that Jazz singers seem so good at. The three band-mates each play guitar on various tracks, and Colley and Conway also open up their repertoires to include some vocals and other instruments, such as piano and bass. Colley also sings lead on the tracks “Golden Hour” (my personal favorite) and the dreamy “Learn to Fly”. Some people may have missed his voice doing backup vocals on many of Morphine’s songs, but it’s intimate and deep like Sandman’s was, and the Twinemen sound would not be complete without it. Conway even gives singing a try on the tentatively titled closer “Who’s Gonna Sing?”
"The beacon for creating these songs was to make music that couldn't be easily categorized," Conway explains. "I like the open endedness of this group. We left the door open for any direction we wanted to take." A statement which not only describes Twinemen’s approach well, but leaves me salivating for their next release.
One last item worthy of note is that the artwork for the album (which was also the source of the band’s name) was done by Mark Sandman and used by permission of one Sabine Hrechdakian
. What Sabine’s relationship to Sandman was is unclear, although doing a little digging I found there was a Sabine that sang vocals on a few rare Morphine tracks and who had her own self-titled outfit that released one self-titled album and one EP. Anyway, the pieces contain elements of both innocent joy and a resolute sadness, not unlike Sandman’s music, and even though I’ve been listening to his music for some time after his death now, I felt both disturbed and privileged to witness something so personal “from beyond the grave” as it were.
The tracks I’ve posted here are the rockin’ opener “Spinner”, the atmospheric "Golden Hour" (Colley on vocs), and the very schmoove “Signs of Life” from Twinemen’s debut…
Twinemen - Spinner 6.3mb, 192kbps
Twinemen - Golden Hour 8.4mb, 192kbps
Twinemen - Signs of Life 7.6mb, 192kbps