Angels Of Libra

Nathan Johnston & the Angels of Libra

LP

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1. Curtis (Do You Wanna Be a Star?) 05:13
2. All Your Love 04:36
3.The Nine Angel Choirs 03:58
4. In a Different World 03:58
5. Curtis (Reprise) 03:20
6. Angel of Libra 03:40
7. Modern Times 04:48
8. Jericho 05:57
9. Icarus 03:22
10. Euphoria (Is Spreading on the Dancefloor) 04:07

On their first full-length album, Hamburg based outfit Angels Of Libra teamed up with Irish singer-songwriter Nathan Johnston to create a soulful & atmospheric journey, painting old-school soundscapes with a modern grooving twist. Remarkable, funky vocals are accompanied by a strong rhythm section and heavenly horns/strings arrangements, while the lyrics throw a bridge between old mythologies and various themes of the contemporary world. 

Born out of a recording session in a house in Denmark, where producer & guitarist Dennis Rux, keyboard player Chris Haertel, bassist David Nesselhauf and drummer Lucas Kochbeck spent two weeks writing and recording instrumental songs onto a 1980’s TASCAM 388 8-track tape recorder, the project was originally intended to be a soul revue featuring various singers throughout the record. In a search for new voices, Rux remembered Nathan Johnston from a session at Clouds Hill studios where both were working on their own separate projects. He asked him if he would like to feature as a vocalist on one of the songs from those recordings. As a challenge to his own songwriting abilities (with no instruction as to the lyrical content or vocal melodies and complete freedom of expression) Johnston accepted the offer and a few months later sent a demo of the newly titled track – „Angel Of Libra“. After hearing the track, the band decided to name themselves after the song’s title and invited the singer to write and record a full album, which was ultimately done at Dennis Rux’ Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Studios in Hamburg – shortly before the local building was destroyed in a massive explosion. Luckily the resulting tapes survived the fire. 

The main theme of the record is centered around courage and perseverance when faced with personal struggles of self-doubt. Johnston divulges his experiences growing as both a musician and artist and the challenges that go hand in hand with coming of age in this new age of the arts – where everybody wants a taste of fame and often it can feel like authenticity and integrity are being slowly cast aside in favour of material things. The whole idea of the Angel of Libra is about hope - It is based upon the story of the Archangel Joseph, who will help guide you when there is confusion or a feeling of being lost. Not by telling you how, but by helping you to solve the problem by yourself through self-reflection. 

The opening track, „Curtis“, introduces us to the idea of being ‘bold not safe’ and questioning one’s life choices, which sets the tone for the rest of the record from the very first time Johnston asks us: „Who are you, do you wanna be a star?/ Front page news, have you really worked that hard?“ It also has a lot to do with self-doubt and trying to find a way to accept that there are always different paths ahead of us and it can be tough to decide which is the right one, sometimes we need guidance. In addition it can be seen as an examination of what one could be - or more specifically, what one is NOT… and what being an artist means. „Black or white. Gold or grey/Your appetite should be bold not safe / 9-5, you work all day, for what?“ 

The song’s title is a tribute to both; the legendary King Curtis, the Ancient Greek King who lived during many social upheavals and took much pride in developing culture and fighting for social justice and wellbeing, and also; Curtis Mayfield, one of the most influential soul artists of all time, whose lyrics were particularly politically conscious especially in relation to African-American music and whose sound heavily inspired the sound of the record. 

The second track „All Your Love“ is about love, lust and the passions & desires of newfound romance. The upbeat, light and breezy brass heavy tune is juxtaposed both lyrically and musically with the third song on the record, „Nine Angel Choirs“, an old school love ballad accompanied by lush vocal harmonies and some cheesy lines asking a lover to „smile won’t you smile and tell me you love me.” 

„In A Different World“ examines what it may be like to live in someone else’s shoes as Johnston sings: „What would it be like, if I’d never heard the blues“. There is an element of social and political commentary here with trying to find some solidarity among those who have not had it so easy. We are again confronted with a case of ‘the grass is always greener’ and the song invites us to try to acknowledge what we have, stop comparing with others and to make peace with the hand we are dealt. 

„Curtis (Reprise)“ is both a wink and a nod to the theme of „Curtis“, only this time we take the approach of being on the ‘outside looking in’. Before we are swept away into a heist scene from the Italian Job, with almost rallying horns and bass lines, Johnston delivers some heartfelt spoken word commentary about what it means to be a musician and how our needs and wants change as we get older. 

The second side of the record opens with „Modern Times“ – where we continue with the theme of disillusionment with society and what it means to be honest. The song was vocally and lyrically inspired by Charles Bradley’s passing and some of the lyrics are an homage to Bradley‘s truth and honesty in his lyrics and his story of working odd jobs most of his life until he finally got a break when he was already in his 50s. This is a real show of what it means to never give up. 

In contrast to the more introspective lyrics of „Modern Times“, the next tune, „Jericho“ leads us on a much darker road with social commentary from Johnston on the current global state of affairs. According to the bible, the walls of Jericho fell after the Israelites marched around the city walls once a day for six days and seven times on the seventh day and then blew their trumpets. It is a metaphor for fake news and conspiracies that are all the more evident now with the rise of social media. It feels like a lot of people simply do not know what to believe or who to trust which is making us turn on each other, especially online. There is a strange, uncertain feeling in the air that is spreading around at the moment which can lead to a lot of unease and fear about the future and what is coming and hopefully we can all „raise our hands to a better world if we keep on trying“. 

„Icarus“ is the only instrumental on the album, a super groovy upbeat song that still has a dark and eerie feel to it provided by the sound of the Philicorda. The final song „Euphoria“ deals with the normalization of ‘class A’ drugs among youths and how it is affecting people‘s sense of belonging and the need to join in so as not to feel left out. It is a song about the ‘cool kids’ - or the ones who desperately want to fit in or stand out and how that is creating a gap in society, especially when the lives we see of others online are made out to be ‘perfect’ but there is something darker lurking below. In the end, the real theme is about staying strong, having integrity and not being afraid to ‘Take a stab at life’ as the final words tell us, it’s up to us to decide on how we live our lives and what our paths will be – „It’s time to choose your weapon.“ 

Angels Of Libra as a band made their own debut in March 2021 with the digital single „Kung Fu Noir”, a cinematic instrumental with mysterious vibes. Their first physical release however came almost a year later, in February 2022, with double-sider 45 „Bless My Soul” / „Souvenir” on Légère Recordings, featuring music whiz Shawn Lee getting down over two modern soul steppers. With German-Croatian singer Maiiah they released the track „Obey“, which was recently labeled „one of the most catchy retro soul tunes of the year“ by tastemaker station Radioeins. For their live shows Angels of Libra revive their original idea of a soul revue and feature various singers like Nathan Johnston, Maiia and Gosia Jasinska in a captivating performance with a 10-piece-band. 

The self-titled album „Nathan Johnston & the Angels of Libra“ will be out on Nov 4th on vinyl, CD and digitally by Waterfall Records. A follow-up album with instrumentals and various singers will be released in early 2023. 

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