Even if you can’t leave the house, you can be transported by music.
“In private press recordings, there’s often the sound of people taking one shot at their dreams.”
EARLIER THIS centur y, avid crate-digger Paul Hillery had carved out an agreeable career as a promoter and jobbing DJ, not the floor-filling kind, but the kind who played whatever he fancied before the band came on. But this stopped abruptly, 13 years ago, when he suffered a breakdown. Subsequent problems, including being diagnosed with a complex form of PTSD, effectively made him housebound in Northampton, UK, and changed his relationship with the music he’d enjoyed spinning for people.
“Music became therapy for me,” he says. Using it not only to heal, but to connect with the outside world, Hiller y zeroed in on the sounds he truly loved rather than what had worked when played out in public. “As I suffer from anxiety, anything with a heavy BPM sets off a panic attack!” Diving deep into tunes that didn’t make him anxious, he posted numerous mellow mixes under the rubric Folk Funk and Trippy Troubadours, which slowly won him a devoted online following. Then he was contacted out of the blue by Tony Higgins, curator of numerous fine compilations, who admired his work and introduced him to BBE Records, who commissioned a compilation from Hiller y with the proviso that it be drawn from music unavailable on major streaming services, giving it a ‘Get it here or nowhere’ exclusivity. Hiller y agreed and employed his deep knowledge of private pressings, unreleased promos and library albums.
“Because of my situation, I wanted to do an LP that felt like travelling, I get to travel to different places throughout the world by picking a record off my shelf. I can go from Chile to Australia to Japan.…” Thus, last year’s acclaimed
We Are The Children Of The Sun. Unsurprisingly, a musical travelogue compiled by someone stuck in isolation struck a chord post-pandemic. “All of a sudden, that’s the only way everyone else could travel too!” he says.
His LP quickly sold out. Now here comes Once Again We Are The Children Of The Sun ★★★★ (BBE), another uplifting collation of hard to find nuggets from disparate sources – folk, jazz-funk, Christian and New Age rarities – whose proximity creates an unexpected resonance. There’s often something urgent and hopeful in private press recordings, the sound of people taking one shot at their dreams. “Yes, and quite a lot of those private press albums turn out to be one-trackers,” Hillery notes. “They got a bit more drunk or stoned, or the bass player was turned up in the mix, something happened, and one track just stands out from the rest. It’s great to be able to create a platform for these forgotten moments of greatness. It’s not about the rarity or being elitist, these are the records that I reach for when I need something.”
Highlights? The grooving CS&N mood of Will & James Ragar’s As The Day Grows Tired, which is picked up by Cunningham Corner’s flute-borne Free And Easy. The punchy Fate by Bugatti & Musker – known best for Chaka Khan’s version, sampled by Thomas Bangalter for Stardust’s Music Sounds Better With You – is here as their demo recording, taken from a library record. There’s the weirdly distant Ice Cold by Godspeed and the synth-draped folk chiller Moonshine by Orion, whose earthy simplicity acts like a clearing in a forest. Perhaps best of all is the closing track, Mark Capanni’s If Life Was A Ferris Wheel, a warm, hopeful and lushly-produced Bread-style ballad (B-side of a promoonly single), whose backstory was a fleeting holiday romance. “I had to put that last because it always makes me cry,” laughs Hillery.
That emotional subtext even extends to the cover art. The figures on the front are Hillery’s children, photographed on the last occasion he was able to join them on holiday. Taken together, these seemingly modest components pack a surprisingly hefty punch that lands squarely in the feels. And takes you somewhere.