Monday, 20 June 2022

July 8th - We Are Not Alone (New Single)


Isabelle and I are very excited to release our next single. We Are Not Alone was initially inspired from a day spent on the water whale watching last September as part of a birthday present for Isabelle! While we where out there the magnitude of the animals in the water, and the sheer vastness of the ocean all around us and the seemingly infinite horizon really made an impression on me. Perhaps this was due to spending so much time inside over the past couple covid years. 

As our ferry returned from Vancouver Island and the city of Vancouver slowly began to appear as a tiny dot on the shoreline I was hit again with the scale of the world and how self absorbed I had been over the past decades. All my life was contained in a dot on the horizon and seemed so huge while we were there. Yet the moment we left the city the whole world began to filter into my consciousness. After getting back that weekend Isabelle and I went into the studio and We Are Not Alone was born. 

Peter Gabriel has been a big personal favourite of mine from his first solo album (I wasn't as big a Genesis fan as I was of his solo output). A few summer's back I rediscovered his records and was really re-impressed with the moods and style of those first three. I think the most obvious inspiration on our song is the big low single-note piano bass with its heavy chorus effect. That helped set the tone and stateliness of the song. As with many of our songs I programmed a drum part to run the length of the tune. However as soon as the arrangement took shape I knew I had to get my pal Leigh Grant to drum on it.

Leigh and I go back to Pure days together and he's been kind enough to play on several Combine songs over the years. He brought his trusty Gretsch kit into the Boutique Empire studio and we spent a very efficient day tracking on We Are Not Alone and another song which shall soon see the light of day. 


Replacing the programmed drums with Leigh's drumming was quite the energy shift but I will add that Chad "Felix" Taylor's trumpet really sealed the deal! Felix came in one night back in February and we had a blast building up a horn section for the outro of the song.  He was replacing some rather dodgy horn samples I had put in to give the direction and as this is the very first time we've added live brass to a song I am overwhelmed by the energy his playing added. Certainly something I will want to do again!

In a funny side note I did also squeeze in the same brass section sample that I'd played on Pure "Spiritual Pollution" back in 1992.  It was a bit hit or miss that the Ensoniq ASR-10 sampler would still boot up (and it didn't manage to read a couple of the first syquest drives I tried) but the venerable floppy disk came through in the end. Maybe it's silly but I think there might be some magic to those sounds and I'm glad that sound made it onto the song. (I believe they were the absolute final bit of recording for the single).  

We Are Not Alone was mixed right here at the Boutique Empire studio and wonderfully mastered by this space's former occupant Ryan Dahle over at his new studio on Mayne Island. His analog approach really shined up the song and I'm very pleased with his work. 

If you've made it this far into the post then perhaps you can do us one more thing. Below are pre-save links for the single. If you use one of the streaming sites below please click thru and pre-save the song into your library. It apparently helps greatly with the algorithm and enhances out chances of being offered for more popular playlists. Plus it ensures you get to hear our new track!  

Thanks for reading and hope you like the song and video on July 8th!





Friday, 8 April 2022

Paros - an anthology

 We are very pleased to announce that we have a new album about to drop!  

Paros is a collection of remixes, remasters, and new tracks (including Façon Fashion, the song made popular on the Netflix series Tiny Pretty Things) being released on Thorvald Records, April 29th.

The anthology is curated and directed by Thorvald Record label chief, record producer and impresario Stefan Sigerson.  We have collaborated for over a decade on songs, dating back to our Crumbling Hearts ep, where he co-produced and co-wrote several tracks. His support over the years has always been uplifting and inspiring, so it's exciting to launch this package out to the world with his new label's guidance and assistance! 

A wonderful surprise from this venture has been the connection with graphic artist Steven R Gilmore. (famous for branding Nettwerk Records, Steven was the graphic artist on the 1988 After All album, as well as the debut Pure album Pureafunalia.)   He has created a luscious cover for the album, and we are pleased to add that he has designed the digital booklet as well! Isabelle and I think the cover makes our music sound better! (Thank you Steven!).  

Release date for all streaming sites is April 29th 2022. 

Monday, 14 February 2022

New Video - Love Ballad



Love Ballad (Official Video) 


We are quite pleased to present out new video, Love Ballad filmed on location at Isabelle's shop, the Isabelle Dunlop Clothing Store. The video is a literal depiction of a day in the life of Combine the Victorious' singer and independent clothing designer Isabelle Dunlop featuring Carmel Amit as the loyal customer! 

Video produced by Boutique Empire

Directed and Edited by HENNING

Camera operators: Mark R Henning, Isabelle Dunlop


Isabelle Dunlop Clothing Store

4158 Main Street, Vancouver BC

Sunday, 13 February 2022

Love Ballad / Thunder double A-Side release


Love Ballad / Thunder 

double A-side

Our first release partnered with Thorvald Records

Artwork by Stephen R Gilmore

Produced by Henning at Boutique Empire Studio

Recorded at Boutique Empire and Hipposonic Studios

Listen on 


Apple Music


Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Thunder - behind the lyrics

Hello! Isabelle here. Just wanted to share a little bit about our song Thunder from the lyrical perspective. 

The lyrics for Thunder were born from an idea sparked at my studio at the shop, the hum of the sewing machine plain to hear in the backdrop of my original voice memo.

“I’m feeling you, it’s coming through like thunder”

I've often found that as I sew or iron away my mind can drift off into analyzing conversations and moments that have been caught in my head. Last summer we were in the process of moving from our home of 24 years and I realize that I was kind of saying goodbye to that place. It had always been such a safe, protective and creative space. It was like losing a friend.

The same as with friendship there is an ebb and flow as we need it and it’s okay when things change, in fact it’s completely natural. As we walk away from an old home I feel no pain because I believe in the new adventure and all that it holds.

The cool thing is that I played the nugget of a voice memo to Mark, he immediately ran downstairs in the old house and played the rest of the music to accompany it! Everything happened without effort and  so naturally.

Change can be scary but with an open mind and trust it can also be quite lovely.



listen to Thunder on spotify


Thunder by Combine the Victorious 


I'm feeling you, it's coming through like thunder

like thunder

I'm feeling you, it's coming through like thunder

I may be small but my soul runs deeper

When finding the joy can't dismiss these emotions

process the words, energy's given


I'm feeling you, it's coming through like thunder

like thunder

I may be small but my soul runs deeper

When finding the joy can't dismiss these emotions

process the words, energy's given

You're pushing my buttons

all is forgiven


As I walk away I feel no pain because I believe in you. 

Lyrics: Isabelle Dunlop

Music: Mark Henning, Isabelle Dunlop, Johanna Sö

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

New Single - Thunder

 We have been writing away these past 18 months or so, trying not to let the time escape us during this Covid 19 era.  Back in the summer of 2020 Combine ran into our friend Rob Darch, who gifted us an anniversary present of a recording weekend at Hipposonic studios. Hipposonic is located in the exact studio space that was once Little Mountain Sound  (world famous for records by Metallica, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith... Pure and countless other massive hits).  Isabelle and I had started several new songs but weren't too sure which were the ones we wanted to record so I made the decision to go for broke and record as much as possible over that August weekend.

We loaded up with 6 songs, ranging from the very moody track we are releasing this week (Thunder) to some dance numbers and a couple out-right rockers which have kinda fallen behind.  It was a fun session with two different drummers, a violinist, a trumpet player and everyone from my folkband Farmteam coming in to sing backing vocals on an unreleased song called Canada (maybe we'll hear more about that song someday). We blasted through everything as quickly as possible but I knew we weren't going to capture complete records on that weekend. 

Going back home I had a harddrive filled with tracks and some inclination of how things should go. A couple songs just didn't seem to grab me on further work and one has morphed into a dance track called Bold Universe. We also tracked the live drums for the song Love Ballad. Three others are in the undecided pile for now and may or may not make their way to completion. 

   Of all the songs we recorded on that session Thunder has been the most clear cut on how to proceed. The song was created from a simple voice memo that Isabelle made one afternoon. She shared it with me and it hit immediately. I listened once and then went downstairs to the piano and a song fell out of my hands. An accending chordal change section appeared without effort and suddenly we were both quite excited by the sound. It seemed very lovely and melancholic but with an underlying strength. 

Back in that Auguest weekend at Hipposonic we had Jonas Fairley play drums to a basic demo arrangement I'd made at home. I confess on the weekend I loved what Jonas played but after developing the song to its final stage the drums we tracked were too epic and seemed almost prog-rock rather than the down tempo vibe the song evolved into. More about that later.  I then overdubbed a Yamaha C7 grand piano onto the new bed tracks.

That same weekend we asked violinist Johanna Sö to come in a play a lead part in the outro of Thunder. She came in, set up, quickly got a sound and her headphones set up and we tracked it in two takes (she's very talented with excellent ears!), with maybe another pass to catch the little pizzicato part in the return to the A section. 

Once we had that, Dan Blake dropped by that evening a put some electric guitar on the song. It's a gorgeous part that reminded me a tiny bit of something Cockteau Twins might have done. I love  how it lifts the B sections when it comes in. Very lovely and shiny sounding.  

And then we were gone from Hipposonic and back to the home studio, for one last month: Isabelle and I had to move last year from the house we'd lived in for 25 years! An era ended and this new one has begun. I lost my studio at the house and thankfully found space in the Song City building in East Vancouver where we've been recording this past year. 

Once we got the studio set up again we turned our focus first to the Love Ballad. I was determined to get that completed by Valentines day (it seemed significant) but once that was done we began forging new songs. I reviewed the work we had already started and Thunder came up sounding really good. We decided we should complete it so we'd have at least one other new song under our belt. Co-incidentally I was also working on Johanna Sö's debut album at the time so I became very familiar with her playing!

I think it was late spring when I felt Thunder needed some changes. We'd begun writing a pile of new material and the prog rock vibe was quite dissimilar to where we were headed. The drums stood out as the obvious culprit so I asked Dan Walker to come in and try doing something more controlled and quieter. After much work we found what we were looking for and the song was really taking on its final shape. 

With the tighter drums the grand piano sounded too excessive so I did an old trick of side chaining a noise gate to trigger off a drum machine just playing on the three beat. Add in some cool dub delays (Thank you Lee Scratch Perry for your teachings - R.I.P.) and things were sounding very ambient and cool.  Pretty much everything was in place except for the mix, and so we mixed it.

I guess in the 21st century music needs to have a visual element to connect with an audience so we then took to the Pacific Spirit Forest up near the endowment lands of UBC and managed to film on a day that didn't rain! It is such a lovely part of the world and we are lucky to have such natural beauty so close to where we live. The little cameos from violinist Johanna were filmed in southern Quebec (where she and her fiance live now) and I struggled to make them seem congruous with the lush greens of our west coast forest but it all seems to work together. We are making music that spans North America!


Please check out the track and let us know what you think. It would be brilliant if you shared it or added it to a playlist as well, Everything helps!

Thanks for reading and thanks for listening.

Mark and Isabelle

Combine the Victorious

Monday, 15 February 2021

The Love Ballad

      At the beginning of 2021 I took over Ryan Dahle's studio in the Song City building here in Vancouver. As one of the tasks I set for myself Isabelle and I recorded the following song, "The Love Ballad". We had collaborated and written this song for another person to sing back in 2018 but that fell through so the song just kinda sat on a hard drive for the past years. Then, while we were in Hipposonic Studio this past summer (thanks again for the great session Rob Darch!) Isabelle suggested we try tracking drums and other instruments on the demo. In the fast paced session we blasted through 6 songs (including the ballad) and then took everything home to discover what we'd captured. 

After much reflection I decided the version we'd recorded was not the version I wanted to present to the world. Nothing wrong with any of the parts we'd tracks individually but the song didn't sound like our own yet. So over the xmas season Isabelle and I rehearsed it with just a piano to get the lyric into our heads and arrange the  song more to our liking. Then in January we started to create a new version from scratch, abandoning all the recording we'd done up to that point. 

I had the idea that we needed to minimize the arrangement so I started us with just a very simple pad sound that outlined the chord changes and we started tracking Isabelle's vocals on top of that. Then a few subtle beats started to appear and we sat back to ensure we enjoyed where we were headed. That basic core still holds the song together, as it is the opening sound and runs through out the mix. 

 However once I had digested the song for where it was at I could hear new ideas and parts and began adding, carefully, additional instruments. One of the first things we did was to add in a simple but distant sounding beat. There is a 2 track reel to reel in the studio so I printed a version through that machine to give it a more unique timbre. That done we started adding bass, but with each layer there was a moment when we'd consider if it was truly necessary and added to the whole production. 

I am a decent bassist and solid keyboard player but guitar has always been a challenge for me. However, having a studio to play with I knew I had to try something so set about adding an Andy Summers like part to the second verse and bridge and suddenly the whole song sounded fresh again. It was a personal achievement to find the part and sound of the guitar for the ballad. 

From there I could hear the build up in the mix wasn't happening with enough impact so I went back to the summer demo and reviewed the drum part that Jonas Fairly had done for us. Even though we'd tracked that version at 68 bpm and our new version was 69 I figured we could make it line up with some simple time compression: and it did! Layering in Jonas's drums over the looped pattern I had already placed into the song gave everything the punch and dynamics I was looking for. 

 As the mix was getting closer I could hear where we needed to sweeten up the vocals a bit so we tracked some double and triple vocals to the choruses to really widen and warm up the mix. Isabelle did a brilliant job nailing her parts and I spent more than a day going over my harmonies until I lined myself up with her and made the chorus parts stand out. It took several shots at it to get it right but we are both super pleased with how it's all turned out. 

Please have a listen to the ballad. We are very proud of it and would love to have the whole world hear it one day! 


Mark (and Isabelle)



Saturday, 13 February 2021

Tiny Pretty Things and new songs

 So back a month ago we had a song we'd composed for an Australian fashion magazine, Façon, licensed to the Netflix series Tiny Pretty Things.  It is featured in episode one of the show and in a rather racy scene as well! We had never really intended on doing a proper formal release for the song but a few comments on various online sites suggested people wanted to hear it! So we made a lyric video with some nice kaleidoscopic footage to go with it. Please check it out below:



In other news we have been working really hard on a new love ballad. We shall be debuting a mix of the song tomorrow for Valentine's day on our soundcloud page. Please stay tuned, it is quite the big song!  


thanks for reading and checking out the music. We both really appreciate your attention and support!


Saturday, 12 December 2020

Wha'ts Going On In Your Head - New Single!

 We are really pleased to release our song "What's Going on in Your Head," this week. It has been a long journey to arrive at this release, starting from the Los Angeles living room of friend and producer Stefan Sigerson, to making the song fully twice over. The initial version took on a more full band sound, with live drums and electric guitar and rhodes piano in addition to our usual electronics. However, even after making a final mix and having it mastered we never felt the song connected properly. 

So even though we'd spent almost two years attempting to perfect that version I finally decided to scrap it and start over. Taking the drum stem from the original version we imported that into Abelton Live and build an entirely new song. This time instead of quoting so directly from the trip hop influences of Portishead and Massive Attack we took it more minimal and created a new synth driven riff to centre the song to. You can hear it in the intro, the icy slightly distorted synth arpeggio that opens the song. As soon as I hit on that pattern the lights came on again and I could hear how we should approach the song.  Then it became apparent that we needed even less from the drum track than I'd initially recorded. Muting and reducing things kept bringing the song forward and Isabelle's vocals got more and more prominent and smooth with each decision. Really stripping it back to just this one element made the later drum and bass drop at verse two seem much more epic. 

From there is was another year of messing around with the recording. I must have played the bass line 20 times of more. It kept evolving and I kept hearing how to refine it more. Then of course I needed to record my backing vocal parts and they too proved more challenging than I would have guessed. The reason of course for all this effort was the dissonant chord progression that I'd put into this song. Back on the night it was born it had a more simple chord sequence: A minor, C major,G major, F# minor. However once we'd returned to Vancouver and pursued the song I'd added in a spooky drone that changed the second chord to a C minor chord, adding in a diminshed 5th to the pattern. Because we didn't alter the vocal melody we had to find that perfect balance between dissonance and beauty. Isabelle and I worked on the part for years. The subtly in inflection and how my harmony part fit with the lead and against the music was really challenging to master. Finally we did it! 

We begin performing this arrangement live in 2018 and then again at the few shows we playing 2019. Each time it grew stronger and more direct.  This past summer we knew we had to get this song done so we could move on. It is with a great deal of pride we present this new one and hope you enjoy it as well.Big thank you's much go out to everyone over the past 4 years that's helped us find this record. From the initial guitar work of Don Harrison, the live drumming of Leigh Grant, the remixes from Mark Hjorthoy, and Paul Schroeder  to the advise and ears of Stefan Sigerson and Barry Flynn it has been a long road and we couldn't have found it without you. Thank you all once again, and thank you for reading this and listening to What's Going On In Your Head!

Mark and Isabelle

Combine the Victorious

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

New Single coming in December

 We are beginning to release the new songs we've been working on this year. The first is a song that had its initial seed planted in Los Angeles back in 2016! What's Going on In Your Head has been around for a few years now but we've never felt we had the definitive version until now. This new track is a complete reworking of our earlier version with ever element rethought, re-sung, re-played and rearranged. I think I can speak for both of us when i say we are finally happy with it! A dark and brooding trip -hop style song in the manner of Portishead, What's Going On In Your Head is a delicate balance of melancholy, melody and menace. 

Release date is December 10th 2020.  Video and single release, worldwide though Boutique Empire. 

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

New Music coming soon - and a demo!

Isabelle and I have been writing new songs for the past several months and we have studio time booked this coming weekend at the wonderful Hipposonic Studio here in Vancouver. I've asked several drummer friends to help us out with their talents and help record bed tracks for probably five songs (or more depending on how well things work out). Among the new tracks we will be tracking drums in the studio for the song below. We wrote it this summer after a fun night in the jam space, it was kind of a laugh at first but the song kept getting better. Then Isabelle shared with me a CFOX Summer Song Contest that we figured we should apply for (more news on the that later).

I know I should wait to see if we are accepted through the first round of judging but I'm rather excited about this track and though we could see who was listening by just sharing it on our blog (which I confess I have been terrible at updating much lately). So, if you have a few minutes please check out our song called "Canada" and let us know what you think of the demo. The video was made in just a couple hours so we could apply for the contest, so it's a very basic "studio performance" kind of thing. I hope the song comes through in its more basement studio form.

We had fun writing this one, and special thanks to our housemate Adam Bailie for his verse in the song and his full on Toronto Maple Leafs appearance!

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Combine The Victorious (Pt 2) - Isabelle & Mark Perform a New Song Plus...

We performed 5 of our songs on the Isolation sessions of Onstage Live hosted by local celebrity Fiona Forbes yesterday. It was a real pleasure to play hope you enjoy!
Stay safe and healthy,
big hugs from Vancouver
Mark and Isabelle

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Embrace (piano version)

Well, Isabelle and I have been self isolating for the past month as most of the world seems to have been, and to keep ourselves feeling good we've maintained our rehearsals and writing sessions. In the course of having a month to ourselves I figured I should attempt to tune up the old Baldwin upright piano that I inherited from dearly missed friend Todd Simko many years ago. As I went about tuning the piano it occurred to me that we should revisit some of our early material again. This song, Embrace, was a favorite of ours from the debut Combine the Victorious album The World Over. The album version, which came out in 2007, is a much bigger production with a full band accompaniment and a rather epic crescendo at the peak of the song. We opted for a simpler and more direct approach with this video, something that could be pulled off with only a single piano and our vocals.

Last night we set up a camera, a microphone and a light and tried our hand at this song again. It took us a few takes but we found it again and I think the results are quite pleasing!

Thanks for checking it out!

Mark (and Isabelle)