Beth Orton and Skinny Pelembe have released a cover of Leonard Cohen’s 1974 track ‘Who By Fire’. Listen to it below.
The Partisan labelmates met by chance at Glastonbury earlier this summer, when Orton introduced herself to Skinny Pelembe following his West Holts Stage performance.
“I have always felt connected to the work of Leonard Cohen,” Orton explained in a statement. “I toured ‘I’m Your Man’ with an amazing cast of people, and every night I was intrigued by the mystery of ‘Who By Fire’. I was never totally satisfied that I understood the song. When Doya sent me his version I was immediately taken by the Serge Gainsbourg quality of the drums and the overall feel, and I loved the cheek and punk-like spirit of this version, and seeing as I was in a studio in Paris, I didn’t give a second thought to throwing myself into Doya’s re-interpretation. Climbing inside the words this way brought the meaning of the song into new focus, the passion and heart-breaking inevitability of human nature that Leonard Cohen writes of like no other came alive to me finally.”
“When I signed to Partisan, I remember having a conversation with Tim who founded the label as to whether Partisan was named after the Leonard Cohen song, ‘The Partisan’,” Skinny Pelembe added. “He told me it was. I’d just recently been in the studio with The Heliocentrics’ Malcolm Catto, and had a few great breaks left over from the album that I’d not used. So I had Leonard on the mind and Malcolm’s beat swimming round my subconscious. It all came together this summer when I asked Beth if she’d be up for singing on it too. She sent me a tonne of amazing vocal takes, all of them brilliant, so I kept them all. She’s got such a distinctive, raw, timeless voice. It’s almost weirdly medieval, I love it.”
Orton released her latest album, Weather Alive, in 2022. Skinny Pelembe’s sophomore LP, Hardly the Same Snake, arrived earlier this year.