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Pete Astor

Peter Astor's long career in the center and on the fringes of indie pop may not have earned him fame and fortune, but he's been responsible for some of the genre's high points. His early bands the Loft and Weather Prophets delivered melodic, jangling pop and winsome Western pop, respectively, while his more experimental projects (the instrumental Ellis Island Sound and electronic-based Wisdom of Harry) showed his sonic range; his solo career got off to a fine start in the early '90s with a string of thoughtfully written, gently played and sung albums. When he returned to that format in the 2010s, Astor picked up right where he left off to release music (as on 2016's Spilt Milk and 2018's One for the Ghost) that was as rich and rewarding as his early work. Beginning in the early '80s with the Loft, one of the first bands to sign with Alan McGee's nascent Creation label, Astor's witty, sure-handed way with a tune was clear. Their singles "Why Does the Rain" (1984) and "Up the Hill and Down the Slope" (1985) were highly influential indie pop touchstones, but the Loft were derailed before reaching their full potential. Astor continued with the Weather Prophets, shifting gears a bit with a more straightforward rock sound. After releasing debut single "Almost Prayed" for Creation in 1986, the Weather Prophets moved to McGee's new WEA-sponsored label Elevation for their first album, 1987's Mayflower. The label was short-lived, and the combo's next album, 1988's Judges, Juries & Horsemen, was issued by Creation. However, the bandmembers soon went their separate ways, with Astor segueing smoothly into a solo career. He put out two solo albums for Creation (1990's Submarine and 1991's Zoo) before jumping over to French label Danceteria for 1992's Paradise and 1993's God & Other Stories. Citing weariness with the music industry, Astor stepped back from making records for a time, finally re-emerging in the late '90s with two bands (Ellis Island Sound and the Wisdom of Harry) less interested in songcraft and more focused on sound, with a heavy electronic music influence. Both bands released a steady stream of singles and albums in the late '90s and early 2000s. In 2005, Astor returned to the guitar-and-vocal setup for the Hal's Eggs album, a set of reworked folk songs. He was also working at the time as a lecturer at the University of Westminster, focusing on music studies. After a long break from the studio, during which time the Loft sporadically re-formed for live shows, Astor returned with Songbox in 2011, a record that saw him returning to the classic sound of his early recordings. After another break from recording, Astor was encouraged by a former student, James Hoare of Veronica Falls and Ultimate Painting, to make an album, for which he would provide most of the musical backing. Teaming with Slumberland and Fortuna Pop!, Astor released the relatively lo-fi but lyrically sharp-as-ever Spilt Milk in early 2016. He moved to the German label Tapete Records for his next release, 2018's One for the Ghost. Hoare joined Astor again, the latter providing guitar and production, as did vocalist Pam Berry (Black Tambourine, Withered Hand). New to the band and vital in creating the lean, stripped-down sound of the album were bassist Franic Rozycki and drummer Jonny Helm of Wave Pictures. Tapete reissued Paradise in 2019, then Astor returned with a collection of songs both past and present that guided and beguiled him. Working with a band that included Berry, Sean Read, and Nina Walsh on vocals, Dave Tattersoll of Wave Pictures on guitar, and Andy Lewis of Spearmint on bass and synth, You Made Me features songs from Elvis Presley, Joe Strummer, Cat Power, and Silver Jews, among others. The album was produced by Ian Button of Papernut Cambridge and issued by Astor's own Faux-Lux label in conjunction with Gare du Nord in early 2020.
© Tim Sendra /TiVo
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