Track X Track: Boa Morte - The Dial Waltz
Having kept fans waiting nearly eight years for a follow-up to their acclaimed début, Cork slowcore quartet Boa Morte must surely know album number two, The Dial Waltz, inside-out at this stage. As a big fan of the band's pared-down sound, Ragged Words was naturally delighted when drummer Maurice Hallissey offered to give us a first-hand guide to these twelve new tracks.
1. Rail Song
We thought this song would be a good opener. The vocals don’t kick in until about a minute and a half into the track, so it’s a good introduction to the musical interplay of the band and the overall feel of the album. If you were to read a textbook on putting an album together, chapter one would tell you to absolutely not do this, as there is a danger of people switching off! But we don't go along with this, and hope that this opener draws you into the album and maybe creates an air of expectation. The song itself is simple and pared-down. The drumming is primal, and overall the track is quite dark but never devoid of hope.
2. Wooden Floor
The album was recorded on 2-inch tape in Sun Studios in Dublin. All the basic tracks (drums, guitar and bass) were recorded live using isolation booths. Daniel Presley, the producer, insisted on using vintage valve pre-amps, and bypassed the desk completely to record straight to tape, giving a live analogue feel to the album. We captured the room silence on mics in the studio and used this to add the space between the tracks. So the album never drops to digital silence in the gaps between each track. It’s not like we went all John Cage on it, but we hope that this knits each track together, at least on a subliminal level. 'Wooden Floor' is dictated by the drum pattern, which is quite unique I think. It’s relatively uptempo, but still retains its folk origins. We chose it for YouTube, and it’s been played on different radio shows a bit, so perhaps it's as close to a single as we're going to get. I particularly like the interplay between the piano and guitar in the instrumental sections, which came about by accident just trying different melody lines.
3. Night and The Return
We decided to add short instrumentals between some of the tracks, just as we did on our previous album; this hopefully prevents the album becoming too overbearing. This one is Paul playing a repeating guitar riff, almost like a post-rock riff.
4. Priceless Prize
This is a Cormac vocal that comes in immediately at the start of the song. Extra twangy guitar was overdubbed to create a dark country vibe. Lyrically, like many of our songs this contains a lot of natural imagery, but there’s a particularly outdoorsy feel to this one. The track changes significantly at the end as it becomes a chant, with Paul adding chanting harmonies. Then the layered strings kick in and it reaches a different level again, I think. For some reason I imagine this as a really slowed-down Arcade Fire song - why, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s the repetition at the end or something...
5. Tears on A Full Moon
The tempo is set by a repeating guitar chord that continues for the entire song, almost as an errant click track that fades in and out and totally fails in its job of keeping time. It’s there during the silences, but when other instruments come in it's obscured. The piano was overdubbed in Pulse Studios, and it was only when the piano kicked in that we realised the track was complete. The horns coming in at the end add some drama to the closing section. In terms of feel, maybe this is close to Bonnie 'Prince' Billy territory; it's probably the saddest-sounding song on the album, and it's one of my favourites.
6. A Distance
This linker track is played by Paul on guitar, and Louise on cello. Louise has been playing cello with us since the beginning, and played on the first album too. I think this is one of her finest moments, and Daniel recorded this perfectly.
7. Spade Song
I’m not sure what this is about (as Paul wrote it), but to me it's a sort of rumination on the daily grind and how people earn their living. This one has the band playing the main parts, with some nice guitar lines from Bill; it’s a bit more uptempo than some of the other tracks. I guess it’s unusual to have the bass playing some of the melody in the middle eight. We had just seen a couple of bands play with harmonium, and happened to know a harmonium player, Loz Fitzgibbon, in Cork, so we asked him to play on the album. I think it sounds great on this track as it washes over everything, especially in the quieter parts of the song.
8. Luminous Plankton
This one had to be recorded in its entirety in Pulse Studios, so we moved all of the gear out of Sun and set up in Pulse. The piano leads the song, so the drums are playing along with the piano, trying to anticipate the stops and starts and pauses. The vocals had to be recorded live while playing the piano, so they sound a bit different to the other vocals on the album. The idea for the chorus was to recreate the New Orleans funeral music feeling from 'Live and Let Die', so we got in Karl on trombone and Stephen on trumpet. Being proper musicians, they needed musical notation, and so Daniel Presley (another proper musician) scribbled it down quickly and they nailed it straight away. The lyrics deal with the idea of drifting aimlessly at sea.
9. Quarter to Ten
We’ve been starting our live shows with this song as, again, it has a long, instrumental introduction, with each instrument building the track gradually. The middle eight features harmonium, and then a solo cello line comes in. I can’t tell you anything about the lyrics, as Paul wrote them and sings the main vocal line.
10. Darkened Doorway
This is the oldest track here, and was written around the time of the first album. We attempted it for that album, but didn’t do it justice and decided to leave it off; we then re-recorded it for The Dial Waltz. We pared it down significantly so that it would fit with the feel of the album - it's certainly not as full-on as it was when we used to play it live. It’s probably the closest we get to sounding like a standard band all playing together at the same time, and highlights the influence of, say, The Byrds or Neil Young.
11. Young Mariner
Another linker track, this time with bass guitar and drums.
12. All This We Must Consider
I think this might be my favorite song of ours (on either album). It just has a really nice dynamic to it, I think, and there's a sort of post-rock outro ending with a simple xylophone coda. A good way to end the album. The Dial Waltz is out now. Click here to purchase a copy from Road Records.