Diversions Vol. 3 contains the music created by The Unthanks for the Tyneside Cinema commissioned film of the same name, Songs From The Shipyards - a beautiful and moving film, tracing the story of shipbuilding. Made by internationally acclaimed North-East filmmaker Richard Fenwick, Songs From The Shipyards is made from archive footage from the past 100 years, and illustrates in microcosm the highs and lows of Britain s industrial journey. Fenwick and The Unthanks collaborated on the film from the start of the creative process, devising a strong political and human narrative to the story, and creating a unique, powerful, live audio-visual event, in which The Unthanks would perform a live soundtrack to the film.
Diversions Vol. 3 is a studio album that documents a non-sequential best of the live soundtrack. It is part of a series of side-project releases for The Unthanks, all three of which have been released inside a prolific 12 month period. Vol. 2, released this summer, charted their collaboration with Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, while Vol. 1 featured an exploration of the music of Robert Wyatt and Antony & the Johnsons. On that project, The Unthanks resisted the temptation to tackle Shipbuilding, which was written for Wyatt, knowing that the Shipyards project was just around the corner! The Elvis Costello/Clive Langer classic features on Vol. 3 and represents a rare lead vocal by Unthanks pianist and producer Adrian McNally, backed up by eerie vocals from the rest of The Unthanks. Having performed as no less than a 10-piece live band since 2009, and more recently with an entire brass band on stage, Songs from the Shipyards is a much more sparse and intimate affair, bringing the vocals of Rachel and Becky sharply back to the fore, and is the first record to capture purely the core 5-piece unit that is The Unthanks.
The music draws on the folksong book of the shipbuilding industry, and with the industry being a relatively young one, there is no trad material. Rather, the album is almost a celebration of the many songwriters from the North East who have written about the subject over the past 40 years. They include Johnny Handle, Jez Lowe, Graeme Miles, and the late Alex Glasgow. The centrepiece of the record however is The Romantic Tees - a self-penned piece devised by Adrian McNally, written to accompany a part of the film called Launch the beautiful, iconic, cult 1973 film made by Amber Films. With the sounds of the working life from Launch trundling along in the background of The Romantic Tees, you can almost smell the shipyards coming through the speakers. Composed around speech, in much the same way that composers like Steve Reich used the rhythm and tones of speech as the starting point for creativity, McNally uses the prose of Graeme Miles to question our relationship with the past.