The writing process for The Afterlife began in October 2016. Opening with the ghostly The Moon Drips, a song about creatures of the night, that features mariachi trumpet, demented harpsichord and a thrilling climax, the music was written as a jam in one take – Marty on organ guitar, Dare on bass and Olivia on violin. Marty’s wife, Olivia, joined us on most of the tracks, either playing violin or singing. When she was not contributing to the record, she was filming us, producing three short films on the making of The Afterlife, which you can watch below.
Dare contributes lyrics on two songs. Show, a jangly pop song and High Tide / Low Tide, written after listening to a friend talk about his bipolar disorder. The King Crimson influence emerges on A Resurrected Man, a slow, beautifully crafted paean to Marty’s muse. For those who like to hear Noctorum at full throttle, A Girl With No Love is built around a Thin Lizzy style riff, motors along at breakneck speed and tells the story of disillusioned lonely men in search of guiltless fantasy. Another stand out track is Head On, a duet between Marty and Olivia, complete with 70s style detective theme backing and a full on progressive instrumental outro as a soundtrack to a lover’s pact, immortalized in a head on collision. The track The Afterlife is beyond categorisation. Over a backing that sounds like a pastoral, even whimsical piece of English folk rock or perhaps a hymn, Marty inhabits the soul of a suicide bomber and tells us his side of the story. Ian McNabb from the Icicle Works explained it best in the title of one of his albums – “If you want to know your enemy, sing his song”. Olivia presented us with the album artwork, using and editing a picture that Marty took at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston in February 2018.
Making Of Noctorum – The Afterlife
“The wind howls, the rain slanted, pounds into your face like sharp arrows. The rumbling sounds from the underground labyrinthian VIP Studio and In Deep Music Archive are the only hope for the dark Penzance October days. Dare and Marty, stripped off all comforts, except for the biscuits and the tea and the incense and the cushions and the guitars and the freedom to create, are bedded down in the complex simplicity of the fourth Noctorum album, The Afterlife. Ideas spring, guitars chime and the mood is inhabited with serious laughter. We are evolving, we invite you to look inside our process for split seconds to watch it all grow, bud, flower into our latest and most humble offering.”
“So stylish, so British. Noctorum’s long-awaited fourth offering definitely chimes, sparkles and shines. Recapturing the trademark sounds that initially made Sparks Lane and Offer The Light so attractive, Dare Mason and Marty Willson-Piper have come up with their strongest, most cohesive album yet. One of The Afterlife’s strengths lies in the homogeneity of its orchestration. The listener can’t get enough of the outstanding harpsichord / flute / trumpet / violin / female vocal arrangements. In addition to the usual array of guitars, bass, drums and keyboards these elements produce a sheer signature sound beyond any of their previous efforts, despite the usual eclecticism. The enticing pop flavours of the catchy Piccadilly Circus In The Rain are to die for. A Resurrected Man’s moving lyrics appropriately close side one of the album, Marty delivering one of his most poignant ballads ever in this love song to his muse. The more classic-rock vibes at the core of the record feel great too, with Marty getting the load off his chest and using a large palette of vocal styles. Dare gets to sing the lead on a couple of songs, and man does he rock!
The epic Head On is the coup de grâce. As if it wasn’t enough to begin the song with a tasteful detective story vibe and instrumentation, Marty always sounding great in this vein (Noctorum fans fondly recall Ask Again), then comes the revelation of Olivia Willson-Piper’s mysterious and sexy lead vocal in what turns out to be a compelling duet. And there is so much more to cherish Head On for, its prog outro being another prowess in itself. Among the standout tracks are The Afterlife, utterly poignant and soaring magnificently (its guitar treatment luring the listener into thinking that Tony Banks is guesting on keys), The Moon Drips, a sort of horror story set to a mariachi backing track and the touching, tender and poetic In A Field Full Of Sheep, which fulfils its mission of bringing a sense of relief. With great consistency in the writing, performance and production, it’s clear that Noctorum have lovingly crafted and matured each song on this beauty of a record, intensely generous.” (Arno Sojo, Sweet Gum Tree)
“Noctorum has been missed since 2011’s Honey Mink Forever, and The Afterlife is a welcome return for the psychedelic pop/rock band; amidst all the strange developments in current events, the world needs albums like these. Marty Willson-Piper (lead vocals, guitars, bass, among others) and Dare Mason (keyboards, backing vocals) manage to make everything a bit more tolerable with their incredible melodies, thoughtful lyrics, and nearly perfect production. Though not a concept album, The Afterlife functions as a cohesive whole and should be consumed in one sitting. The album might be difficult to absorb because of all the territory it covers: musical styles range from hard rock (“A Girl With No Love”) to songs with a more melodic, psychedelic approach. There is not a single moment, however, that could be described as boring; Noctorum captures and maintains the listener’s attention. A stunning duet between Willson-Piper and his wife Olivia, “Head On” calls to mind some of Willson-Piper’s best moments with The Church, but he expands on that sound (especially with the layering at the end), setting it apart from his past work. With some of Willson-Piper’s best guitar playing and Steve Jackson’s tasteful drumming, this song is one of the album’s best.
Overall, The Afterlife is Noctorum’s finest work and a welcome return for the band. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait another eight years for a follow up!” (Aaron Badgley, Spill Magazine)
“The bell in the name of Marty Willson-Piper may not ring as loud as that in Johnny Marr’s (“The Tracers”) or Roddy Frame’s (“High Class Music”), but he surely belongs to the same strum of brilliant and amiable guitarist/singer-songwriters.
Born on May 7, 1958, in Stockport, Cheshire, England, Willson-Piper is well-known for having been a longtime, pivotal member of The Church (“Under the Milky Way”) and All About Eve (“Farewell, Mr. Sorrow”) during the respective career peaks of these bands, contributing his distinct shimmery and jangly guitar flourishes. As early as the mid-’80s, Willson-Piper embarked on a solo career, releasing his first solo album in 1987, titled In Reflection. And then, in the early 2000s, along with producer Dare Mason, he assumed the moniker Noctorum, and began issuing albums under the name, the first of which was 2003’s Sparks Lane.
Slated to become commercially available on February 15, 2019, on Schoolkids Records, Noctorum’s latest offering, The Afterlife, may be easily associated with Willson-Piper’s penchant for the so-called Psychedelic Folk/Rock sound as pioneered in the late 1960s by the likes of The Byrds (“The Bells of Rhymney”) and Syd Barrett–era Pink Floyd (“See Emily Play”).
The Afterlife opens with the spacey, rustic, folky, and ambient glow of the semi-ballad “The Moon Drips,” swinging mellifluously like a comforting pendulum. The mood then immediately shifts to a higher gear, as the bright and upbeat, Alternative Country–flavored “High Tide / Low Tide” rings and subtly slashes engagingly. Following next is the beautifully structured, slightly Progressive “Piccadilly Circus in the Rain,” whose galloping rhythm and rich instrumentation make it an album highlight. The ensuing “Show” is a trek back to Willson-Piper’s ’60s Jangle Pop roots, echoing melodies of The Hollies’ “Bus Stop.” And then there is the slow, bluesy sentiments of “A Resurrected Man.”
Aptly placed in the middle, being the album’s first single, “A Girl with No Love” exudes undeniable strains of The Church’s breakthrough album, 1988’s Starfish; in particular, the song “Reptile,” which Willson-Piper cowrote with his former bandmates from the iconic Australian group. The cinematic “Trick” then plays ominously—dark and brooding, hypnotic and alluring. Still on the same film-soundtrack mode, “Head On” is sinister-sounding with its mélange of various-styled guitar tracks.
The second-to-the-last song is the title track; its playful and tuneful tendencies return the album to its cheery predisposition. Finally, Willson-Piper and Mason finish up their new collaboration aptly with the sweet, soft, and nostalgic lullaby of “In a Field Full of Sheep.”
His career may not be as stellar as that of many of his contemporaries, but Willson-Piper has carved an equally memorable, respectable, and influential niche in the Alternative music scene via his slew of solo and collaborative works. The Afterlife is just the latest proof of this—an apt title to characterize the resurgence of his sonic and creative vitality; a worthy addition to his prolific discography.” (Alfie Vera Mella, Cryptic Rock)
“I will start this review off by saying this: I love Marty Willson-Piper. He, to me, is the definition of an original musician and guitarist. And this single by his project, called Noctorum, is but another prime example of that fact. The track titled A Girl With No Love just jumps right in with an infectious six string groove that gets right to the point while quenching that thirst for the perfect groove. A Girl With No Love also displays the out-of-the-box thinking of the songwriter within Willson-Piper. Seamlessly diverging from rough rock style verses to a silky smooth chorus and into a lush and serenely styled bridge all within 4 minutes 27 seconds. This is originality incarnate.” (Ryan Martin, Jammerzine)
“As someone who was/is obsessed with The Church and more than a little in love with All About Eve, three words that are really going to make my day are Marty, Willson and Piper. So with a new Noctorum album promised and a teaser single landing in the review pile, everything in the world is good again.
Noctorum, a collaborative pairing of MW-P and producer Dare Mason, have been releasing albums that mix alt-rock drive, indie flair and melodic accessibility since 2002’s debut Sparks Lane, alongside the formers solo, touring and writing careers. And anyone who can add Grace Slick, Aimee Mann, Susanna Hoffs to their resume obviously knows their way around a song.
And A Girl With No Love is just another example of how well MW-P does indeed know his way around a song. Bristling with energy and rock and roll groove but retaining that slight psychedelic infusion that served his formative band so well, it is that trade off between its underground nature and hooky accessibility that will see it pick up fans across the spectrum. And whereas most people would be happy to just motor through such a well-conceived tune, the charm here is the addition of some ethereal dynamic drops which make the foot-on-the-monitor highs all the more effective.
A great song, but what else did you expect. Those of us in the know didn’t need to be sold on Noctorum’s talents and skills at fashioning such great songs and as a sonic calling card for the forthcoming album The Afterlife, it more than does its job.” (Dave Franklin, Dancing About Architecture)
“It’s always a good thing to introduce listeners to new music by legendary artists, and even more of a pleasure to be hosting the premiere. Today comes a first listen for the track Piccadilly Circus in the Rain by Noctorum, a duo comprised of guitarist/singer-songwriter Marty Willson-Piper, most famed as co-frontman of The Church, but also member of All About Eve, and British producer Dare Mason.
Piccadilly Circus In The Rain is a breath of fresh air with just the right mix of upbeat instrumentation and an attractive tandem of male and female vocals. Gentle, mellifluous guitar lines are whisked about by a brisk drum beat, while Willson-Piper’s sweetly soft and fluid vocals offer up a bittersweet portrait of Londontown. He’s echoed at times by airy female vocal accompaniment and bright brass notes, and always lifted up by a light dance of piano keys. The track is superb and stands up to anything ever released by The Church or All About Eve.” (The Big Takeover)