Recorded in Bamako, Paris, Berlin and New York, it features collaborations with many of the musicians he has worked with in recent years, including the late Tony Allen, Toumani Diabate, Yacouba SIssoko, Vincent Bucher, Sean Condron, Pamela Badjogo & Baba MD. Let’s go back to the beginning. Then forward, around again. Let’s seize another chance. Follow a different silver thread. And arrive at the point of departure. “Revolutions go in circles always back to the start/ And leave you wondering why you tore it apart,” sings Mark Mulholland on ‘Carousel’, one of 12 finely crafted songs on his long-awaited third solo album, Revolutions Go In Circles. “But I still can’t help believing in the promise of a brand new day.”
There’s hope here. For fresh starts, new vistas, and finding redemption in a song. “Sometimes songs rear their heads and say ‘It’s time for me now’,” says Mulholland, the Scottish singer-songwriter whose work as a solo artist, band member and producer has won him a stellar international reputation. “These are songs that tell stories. About good times, and making the most of the time we have left. About going with the flow. Finding salvation in your friends.”
Mixed and mastered by Grammy-winning producer David Odlum, Revolutions Go In Circles boasts recordings made in Berlin, New York, Paris and Bamako, Mali, of songs performed live in cities including Prague, Port-au-Prince and Maputo. Here are old songs refreshed and songs created new, each song buoyed by Mulholland’s expressive voice, skill on guitars – acoustic, electric, bass, slide – and knack for melody and harmony. And indeed, by musicians with whom he has long collaborated: American multi-instrumentalist Sean Condron. From Nigeria via Paris the late Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen. From Mali, kora maestro Toumani Diabaté, n’goni player Yacouba Sissoko and singer and kamelen’goni player, Baba MD. Plus a wealth of comrades on everything from fiddle, harmonica and piano to synths and backing vocals.
The resulting blend of rock, blues, jazz, psychedelia, Celtic folk and Afro-Manding styles – and elements of reggae, Afrobeat and the raw energy of punk – is woven seamlessly into Revolutions Go In Circles. ‘Moving On’, the album’s first single, is a propulsive tune that was originally sung on the streets of Prague. This time around it comes with by a video shot in the wild Camargue region of France and directed by French film auteur Bertrand Fèvre, known for his work with Chet Baker and Miles Davis, and whose vision posits “Moving On’ as an anthem for the restless. “You can usually feel when it’s time to leave things behind, and my decisions tend to be based on intuition rather than reason,” Mulholland says.
This go-with-your-gut aesthetic is partly why he was asked (with Damon Albarn and Paul Chandler) to engineer, produce and play on Lindé, the lauded 2020 album by Malian singer/guitarist Afel Boucoum, subsequently released on World Circuit. Why Mulholland felt led to compose and produce Kuma, the 2019 album he made with Malian singer Kankou Kouyaté and French electronic musician Olaf Hund; and record and produce Medicine Tunes, the 2019 debut by Scottish singer/songwriter Tony Rose – both of which Mulholland released on his Berlin-based label, Cannery Row. Instinct variously got him involved in 2018’s inspired Celtic folk/West African endeavour, Alba Griot Ensemble (Riverboat Records); producing the 2017 album Kidal (Glitterbeat) for Malian band Tamikrest; and co-creating and producing 2016’s Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra (also Glitterbeat), a project involving percussionists and vocalists from across Haiti including singer Erol Josué, with Tony Allen on drums and Mulholland playing guitar.
Instinct, too, had him paying attention when older songs demanded another turn, and new songs begged to be written. Songs such as ‘Getting There’, a harmonica-fuelled tune about time passing; ‘River Walk’, in which Allen’s dynamic drumming underpins loping desert blues; ‘Live Anywhere’, a musing on a line borrowed from Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid; traditional American folk song ‘900 Miles’ comes West Africanised, its tale of long-distance loneliness made magical, even revolutionary. ‘Silence Falling Slow’ is all soft light and shade; ‘Carousel’ is stripped down yet layered with meaning – another highlight on an album that is filled with them. Each song – indeed, the album itself – inviting repeated listening. Ready? Then let’s begin. Again. And again.
Mark Mulholland – Moving OnMark Mulholland – Filling up the SilenceMark Mulholland – River Walk