To mark its 25th anniversary, Saint Etienne release a very special box set of one of their most critically acclaimed albums, Tiger Bay. The lavish set included a vinyl version of the original album in gatefold sleeve cut at 45rpm over two discs, a 12 track vinyl compilation of rarities and demos, Tiger Bay – Remains of The Day, Tiger Bay – Tapestry, a 13 track CD album of ‘stripped-back’ versions and unreleased arrangements, taken from original master tapes and complied by Pete Wiggs, a 28-page booklet featuring a wealth of unseen photographs and essay about the making of the album, a 12” x24” reproduction of the original album poster and a reproduction of the original press release and biography from 1994.
A ground-breaking blend of electronica and orchestration with traditional folk melodies, Tiger Bay, their third studio album, was originally released on 28th February 1994 on Heavenly. Self-produced by the band and engineered by long-time collaborator Ian Catt, the album also features input from Underworld’s Rick Smith, orchestral arrangements by renowned composer David Whitaker (Serge Gainsbourg, Marianne Faithfull, Air) and vocal contributions from Shara Nelson and Stephen Duffy amongst others. Saint Etienne set themselves a bold challenge for their third album. No more records about London; no more samples – of music they loved, or snippets of film dialogue between tracks. They would change the genes of their music, swapping the helix of Madchester meets Swinging London meets indiepop for one in which Belgian techno was spliced with folk music.
Tiger Bay was intended to be nothing less than the sound of folk music reimagined for the last years of the 20th century and their brilliant reinvention of folk rock for the electronic age might not have resulted in an invitation to headline Fairport’s Cropredy Convention, but it gave them their best album yet. But within months of Tiger Bay’s release, British independent music had changed direction abruptly, as Britpop instead came to mean guitar bands in Fred Perry, lads with Weller haircuts, unremarkable singers of both sexes proclaiming their will to greatness, despite the complete absence of evidence to support their boasts. And so Tiger Bay slipped beneath the sands, neither an indelible hit nor a memorable flop. But that gives it a staying power, perhaps, that its predecessors lack: it doesn’t sound of its moment in the same way Foxbase Alpha and So Tough do. It sounds as if Saint Etienne had finally broken free of pop time, to create something that floated above pop trends, borrowing and squeezing together elements that should never have blended. It might even be their masterpiece.