Sanguine Hum began as a musical collaboration between school friends Joff Winks and Matt Baber, who set about writing and recording a unique blend of musical compositions inspired by artists such as the Flaming Lips, Tortoise, Aphex Twin and Frank Zappa. This diverse music took shape throughout 2001, and by 2002 the first EP called Mild Profundities was released under the name Antique Seeking Nuns, gaining a favourable review from Record Collector magazine. In the same period Joff and Matt also sketched out the music for two further EPs, plus the beginnings of a vast conceptual project called Buttered Cat, that over a decade later would eventually take shape as the Sanguine Hum album Now We Have Light. Previous to this however, Joff had been working on a collection of songs, stylistically very different from the Nuns material, with a greater influence of artists such as Neil Young and David Bowie. These songs had gained some interest from publishing companies – enough of an interest in fact to lead to plans to record a full album and begin playing gigs, initially under Joff’s name, then later as Joff Winks Band. Cue the arrival of two key figures in the story: Brad Waissman and Paul Mallyon. Both extremely gifted and inquisitive players, Brad had a previous background as a session musician and had worked with The Waterboys and Rick Wakeman among many others, and Paul was known to Joff via a previous band that they had all been part of in the late 90s. Thus the core quartet of what would become Sanguine Hum was in place – gigging and recording singles as Joff Winks Band, whilst “secretly” laying down tracks for the other Nuns EPs and also further sculpting the music for Now We Have Light. Initial support for the band was sparse but very enthusiastic when it did come along, with online radio support from The Eppy Gibbon Podcast (Ian Fairholm) and the Interesting Alternative Show (Steve Davis) as well as early mail order support from Wayside Music being crucial examples.
However, the next five years would prove to be a real challenge as the band struggled with balancing the more progressive and experimental tendencies of the Antique Seeking Nuns material with the pressures from publishers/labels to write songs suitable for radio. This tension was perhaps what made the JWB album Songs For Days (now reissued as part of the Sanguine Hum 2 disc collection What We Ask is Where We Begin) so unique, and it was an initial glimpse of the style that would gradually unfold across future Sanguine Hum releases: progressive, challenging and yet always centred on melody and inventiveness no matter how intricate the music became. Songs For Days received an inauspicious release – sneaking out as a download only in 2007, whereupon it immediately sank without trace. Joff and Matt retreated to focus their energies on an ambient project called Nunbient, which itself would create yet more sonic signatures that would start to appear on Hum recordings in the future.
In a concerted effort to regain the lost momentum of the lengthy Songs For Days episode, the band made the crucial decision to refocus their efforts as one new project– an ensemble that could be as wildly unpredictable as the Antique Seeking Nuns EPs, as song based and tightly structured as Joff Winks Band and as broadly cinematic as the Nunbient recordings. And thus Sanguine Hum came to be! The first order of business was to complete work on what would have been the second JWB album. The band had made the conscious decision that this record would stand in stark contrast to Songs for Days. A darker, heavier recording all round, Diving Bell was the first official Sanguine Hum album that finally saw the light of day as a self-released CD in 2011.
But then fate intervened in the Hum story as several friends and fans had suggested that Esoteric Records investigate the band. Mark and Vicky Powell liked what they heard, and took a chance on what was still a relatively unknown group by re-releasing Diving Bell as the first CD on their new Esoteric Antenna imprint. Not long after this came an offer to play at Rosfest in the USA. However, before that a change in the band’s personnel had to be navigated when drummer Paul Mallyon decided to depart after nearly 10 years. It had been a long road getting to the point of being signed, and Paul had a number of commitments outside of the band that made future involvement very challenging for him. Joff, Matt and Brad wished him well but meanwhile had gone ahead and accepted the Rosfest gig...without having a drummer!! What they needed was someone who could step in and at very short notice, learn 90 mins worth of material for the live show, plus 45 mins of complicated new material for a brand new album recording session scheduled not long after returning from America: cue No Man/Henry Fool drummer Andrew Booker, who said “sure, no problem”. Andrew’s calmness, musicality and warm groove playing saw the band through the Rosfest performance (released on CD and DVD as Live In America) and quickly saw him put his stamp on the collection of newly honed music that would, in early 2013, be released as the second Sanguine Hum album called The Weight of the World. Wrapped in a mysterious and atmospheric sleeve design by Carl Glover, the album proved to be an immediate critical success, eventually going on to be named as one of Stuart Maconie’s Freakzone “Albums of 2013”, plus earning the band a PROG Awards nomination as best newcomers. The album also led to a prestigious invite from Steven Wilson to be added to the bill for Night of the Prog in Germany, alongside Magma, the Pineapple Thief and others. It was Sanguine Hum’s largest crowd to date, and saw the band confidently unfurl the whole Weight album against the backdrop of the magnificent Loreley amphitheatre.
Having proved themselves with a new album and line up, it was time to look back to the very beginning and a complete a major project that had been bubbling away for the previous 12 years. 2014 was set aside exclusively to rehearse and record the epic Now We Have Light (formerly Buttered Cat), which had now expanded to a double disc set. Complete with its stunning illustrated cover by Meriel Waissman, Now We Have Light was praised as a “masterpiece” by All About Jazz, and despite its surreal complexity, went on to be the band’s most successful release to date. But it was a draining project to realise, and ultimately led to the band having to regroup and get their bearings once again. Following a final gig at the HRH Prog Festival in Wales, the band retreated to the studio to curate a two disc collection that reinstated all of the music recorded as Joff Winks Band but now officially, and happily, under the Sanguine Hum moniker. What We Ask Is Where We Begin was released in January of 2016 on Esoteric Antenna, which Record Collector magazine described as “an immersive collection...ahead of the curve”. This release had brought the band full circle by reuniting them with Paul Mallyon in order to complete work on several unfinished tracks. Throughout this process thoughts turned to yet another unfinished project. In the last few years before Paul’s departure, Sanguine Hum had been working hard on constructing a sequel to Now We Have Light called Now We Have Power. Paul had been a crucial part of the composition and arranging of the music (as he had for Now We Have Light) and, with live work proving difficult to factor into everybody’s varied schedules, there was a sense that it was the right thing for Paul to now rejoin as a special guest for the NWHP recording sessions. This of course came with the downside of Andy having to step aside after such an important contribution for 4 years, but he was understanding of the musical and personal need for the change – which, as of 2017 saw the original Sanguine Hum line up back in the studio.