Jarvis Cocker's transformation from indie music's enfant terrible to unlikely pin-up of the cream tea and country house set appeared complete yesterday, when it emerged that he had teamed up with the National Trust to curate an album of soothing sounds.
The former Pulp frontman became a national anti-hero in 1996 when he stormed the stage at the Brit Awards brandishing his bottom at Michael Jackson in protest at what he saw as the late King of Pop's messianic posturing. Since the heady days of Britpop, when his songs such as "Sorted for E's and Whizz" could stoke tabloid fury, the star has mellowed, grown a beard and even appeared on Question Time.
For his latest audio venture, Cocker spent three months curating what he claims will be a "holiday for the ears", showcasing the tranquil sonic landscape from some of Britain's finest buildings and their natural settings.
National Trust: The Album features, among other doses of audio balm, the sound of gravel being crunched underfoot in the grounds of the 17th-century Belton House near Grantham in Lincolnshire; recording of the waves lapping hypnotically on the shore at Brownsea Island in Poole, Dorset; and creaking floorboards at Sir Winston Churchill's former home at Chartwell, Kent.
Cocker said he hoped that listeners would use the 13 tracks to help them to unwind and get a feel for the historic properties in the 33-minute soundscape.
He said: "It's not really meant to be listened to intently, like a piece of music, but more as something to have on in the background to aid relaxation or contemplation."
He added: "I hope it has the feel of one continuous journey and conjures up an image in the mind's eye of the places featured. I also hope it could inspire the listeners to then visit the sites for themselves."
Such is the musician's appeal that the National Trust website struggled to cope with the number of people logging on to hear the sounds for themselves yesterday.
The Trust said it was inspired to make the album after research claimed that eight out 10 people found themselves unable to concentrate because of noise pollution, and that the average person is interrupted by technological sounds at least 21 times a day. The charity is recommending that people download the tracks to make their own relaxing mobile ringtones, and is planning to play the album to stressed commuters at Paddington station in London.
Victoria Bradley, house and collections manager at the 400-year-old Ham House, situated on the bank of the river Thames in Richmond, Surrey, said Cocker had captured the eerie character of the place, which is said to be haunted.
"You can hear the sound of the big front door being unlocked by a key and the sound of crisp footsteps going through a basement and then into the distance. It is a very atmospheric and special place," she said.
Sounds from the grounds
Belton House, Lincolnshire: A garden stroll & birdsong
Brownsea Island, Dorset: Waves lapping on the shore
Ham House, Surrey: Footsteps along the Long Gallery
Chartwell, Kent: Creaking stairs on the grand staircase
Upton House, Warwickshire: Playing billiards
Lanhydrock, Cornwall: The old music box playing in the nursery
Quarry Bank Mill, Cheshire: Murmurs of children in the Apprentice House
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, North Yorkshire: Birdsong in the water garden
Powis Castle and garden, Powys: Gardeners at work
Patterson's Spade Mill, County Antrim: The mill at work
Blickling Hall, Norfolk: The ticking and chiming of clocks & the breeze through the clock tower