The generously monikered Tim and Sam’s Tim and the Sam Band with Tim and Sam have been purveyors of fine instrumental post-folk since 2006. I first saw them in November 2007 on a great bill with Liz Green and Bishop Allen (a gig which I somehow never wrote up). After several singles and EPs they have now this month (self-) released their debut album entitled “Life Stream”. It may have taken time but it is well worth the wait - it is an exceptionally good record, and one I’d warmly recommend you spend some time getting to know.
Most songs fit the template of their earlier records - delicately orchestrated melodies that start quietly and gradually take flight as more instruments (electric piano, clarinet, banjo, glockenspiel, drums and more) are added in over the course of their four or five minute time-span. Whether they are referencing the natural world (‘The Yellowhammer’, ‘Out In The Ocean’, ‘Summer Solstice’) or domestic comforts (‘Coming Home’, ‘All Tucked Up’ , ‘Up The Stairs’), each song possesses warmth, grace and cosiness: the quieter, pastoral passages drift in a good way and the rousing, more intense moments soar like birds in flight.
You wouldn’t be surprised to hear music on “Life Stream” sound-tracking a quality BBC nature documentary – the final section where a group of animals have survived a harsh seasonal hibernation or a brutal encounter with predators and emerge from this experience into a new dawn, blinking but free, safe and hopeful. The record is beautifully sequenced so that the rolling swells and troughs in each song are mirrored across the eleven tracks, with notable peaks in the truly anthemic instrumental ‘Summer Solstice’ or future single ‘Finders Keepers’. Can an instrumental be an anthem? In Tim and Sam’s hands it can: ‘Summer Solstice’ is a stirring hymn of praise to the rising sun that makes my head spin with delight.
And on this debut long-player Tim and Sam also sing! Or rather band leader Tim McIver does on five out of the eleven tracks. The band use lyrics in the same way they do music: simple and repeated patterns and motifs that build into a satisfying whole. Some lines may appear simple sentiments or mundane expressions (“taken these steps many times before / I know these roads like the back of my hands”) but with judicious restraint and methodical repetition they become quite poetic. The singing may be a little lacking in confidence, wavering and hesitant at times, but the music that accompanies it never is.
Opening track “Choices”, in its title and with its lines about “these broken promises”, seems strangely apposite given the outcome of the General Election. The song starts with mournful piano and cello but layers this with other instruments. Lyrically it is quite dark (looking back on a failed relationship?) but as it develops and expands, the music is gloriously uplifting.
The music of Tim and Sam has nothing to do with the political situation but in these uncertain times I find its pastoral charms beautifully soothing and reassuring. The title “Life Stream” sounds a bit new age-y, a bit pretentious. Far from it – this record is a down-to-earth delight, music with its feet on the ground but its head and heart firmly in the clouds. Life-affirming reassurance for troubled times.
"Life Stream" is available direct from the band for only £7 in either CD or digital formats (limited edition vinyl may have sold out) and you can hear them live on this month's UK tour.
13 May Kings Cross Social, London
14 May Brighton
15 May The Labour Club, Northampton
19 May Morgan Lloyd, Caernarfon
20 May Tunnels, Aberdeen
21 May The Barrels Alehouse, Berwick Upon Tweed
23 May Spanky Van Dykes, Nottingham
25 May Hamptons, Southampton
26 May Moles, Bath
27 May The Railway, Winchester
28 May Stereo, York
29 May The Trip Festival, Anglesey
17 Jun Macmillan Brick Lane Takeover, London
Tim and Sam’s Tim and the Sam Band with Tim and Sam
Life Stream [BUY]