In The Nursery
For the past 17 years, twin brothers Nigel and Klive Humberstone have been recording and performing music that defies rigid classification. Their most recent release, Asphalt, is the incredibly wistful yet sultry second installment of In The Nursery’s Optical Music Series — entire discs created to accompany existing films. “Our music has always had a ‘filmic’ element to it,” says Nigel. “Way back in 1996, we discussed the commission of The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari with the Metro Cinema in Derby, whereby the directive was for us to produce an accompanying soundtrack for a one-off screening of the film. After spending roughly a month (on and off) working with the project and finally performing, we decided to release the score on CD as the first in the ‘Optical Music’ releases. This score has now been performed at a number of UK film theaters, and at the spectacular Teatro Metropolitan, Mexico City — in front of an audience of over 2,000. As a direct result, we researched other possible silent film projects and eventually chose Asphalt from 1929 — a beautifully made light thriller from Germany. The film has rarely been seen and deserves much more attention.”
ITN formed in 1981, releasing their debut mini-album, When Cherished Dreams Come True, in 1983, and the 12-inch Sonority and various contributions to compilations over the next two years. Their present back catalogue consists of over 200 recorded works and twelve full-length albums, not counting 4 compilations/live CDs and two side-project releases. “The name, ‘In The Nursery,’ was chosen out of necessity for our first concert, and reflected the various themes of the lyrics that we were writing about, such as childhood experiences, memories, child psychology and Autism,” says Nigel. “Incidentally, the name also predates the Psychic TV song of the same name by at least two years.”
While the band has not received much radio play in the states, the entertainment industry and film community in general has latched on to ITN’s sound since its introduction to the States. Warner Brothers chose the track “White Robe” to advertise and promote Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire, while “Hallucinations?” was featured in Street Fighter II (Sony), the Hollywood feature A Woman Undone, and Claudia Schiffer’s recent workout video. Their music has also been used in the film scores for The Sweet Hereafter and The Rainmaker.
ITN’s most notable contribution to the electronic music scene is their ability to pack so much empathy and emotion into their compositions that the hungers and longings and settings of each scene depicted are almost palpable. They are living proof that it takes more to create music than knowing about time signatures and key progressions. Drawing heavily on classical sources as well as dance electronica, ITN’s pieces are imbued with beautiful string and piano arrangements, often coupled with a strong military-style percussion section. While neither brother is formally trained in any instrument, both share a keen intuition for what each piece should sound like before it’s been completed and the determination to take their inspirations from dead air to the finished and recorded pieces.
“We shared an electric guitar for our sixteenth birthday and never looked back, really,” says Nigel. “Our musical career has been a constant progression onwards and upwards. For many of the early years, our music was a serious hobby, but always something that we wanted to do full time. Since setting up our own ITN Corporation label, we have been able to make a living from what we do — I suppose (in fact, I know) that if things had not worked out, then we would still be making music in some shape or form — it’s what we live for.”
Unlike many electronic/trance bands of ITN’s nature, ITN draws as large an audience for their live shows as they do for their recordings. Nigel plays keyboards and sequences live, while Klive generally plays most of the percussion, which includes three timpani, two bass drums, cymbals, a military snare drum, and bell tree. Other performers generally accompany them on these live shows to fill in on vocals and other instruments, depending on the need. “The show combines live performance with sequenced parts, fusing the acoustics with the electronic,” states Klive. “Visually, the stage is decked with large white flags which have images projected onto them, the whole presentation being controlled by our own lighting engineer.”
Having completed a UK cinema tour for Asphalt, Klive and Nigel have just released Lingua in Europe, their first non-soundtrack ITN release since Deco. The album is due out in the States this July. “The theme of the album is to explore our understanding and use of language, taking in different elements like semantics and phonetics,” says Nigel. “We are incorporating narrative contributions from all over the world: Japanese, native Mexican, Yugoslavian, Hispanic, Friulano (an ancient Italian tongue), and French.”
They are also planning to reissue back catalogue works through their own ITN Corporation label. For awhile, Third Mind/Roadrunner released the duo’s music stateside, but the works reverted back to ITN, who are currently distributed here by Caroline Records. ITN Corporation will be releasing Anatomy of a Poet (with extra tracks from the “Hallucinations?” single), Sense (featuring extra re-mixes), and eventually Duality.
The brothers’ other interests include a fondness for literature and film, most notably Jean Cocteau and Colin Wilson. “Working on Anatomy of a Poet gave us the chance to explore poetry and literature, especially the romantic poets such as W.B. Yeats, Dowson, and James Elroy Flecker,” says Klive. “Work on the Optical Music scores has enriched our previous knowledge of the history of film and some of the lesser known silent classics.”
Nigel himself is a regular contributor to music technology magazines throughout the UK. “It’s something that I am now not able to find the time for, but would like to return to,” he says. “Interviewing other artists like Robert Smith and Bill Nelson and asking them why they do what they do — it’s a form of turning the tables on myself.”