Monday, October 03, 2011

REDLIP "Dan and Headless Bill"

Redlip is a collaborative project “between Northern Ireland’s Flymo Folk purveyor Adam Leonard and Welsh noodler Ash Cooke”. Familiarity with Pulco (aka Ash Cooke) and his “casio outbursts and found sounds” is a halfway house in understanding Redlip (I wrote about the last Pulco album “Small Thoughts” in June). But I’m not sure “Dan and Headless Bill” is an album you can ever understand in a conventional sense. It is not a difficult album to listen to, far from it, it’s the very picture of soothing-on-the-ear, chilled out amiability. But it is also a curveball oddity that defies categorisation. How possibly can you summarise a record that includes recitation of a biographical portrait of folk guitarist Bert Jansch, spoken word description of a Carry On comedian’s on-stage heart-attack, faux-medieval madrigal, acoustic folk devotional and the setting to music of an extract of Ovid’s Metamorphoses?

I repeat this is not a difficult or obtuse record; nor is it wilfully trying to show off its intellect. Instead it is a through-the-looking-glass scrapbook of fragments and collages devoted to curious incidents, tall tales and to real people past or present, all played out over chilled out grooves and easy-going folky ramblings. Although ‘Jansch’ the tribute to the Pentagle founder is a straight reading of a Wikipedia-style entry, others are less obvious or complete non sequiturs. You would expect a homage to great British eccentric and Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band founder Vivian Stanshall to be unconventional but after a brief sample of an interview (in which Stanshall explains to the confusion of his inquisitor that his inspiration is “toads”), ‘Viv’ turns into a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sixty second instrumental casio-squiggle. Whatever format they take or convention they ignore, all the titles are bluntly specific and accurate – ‘Jaunty Mexico’ is indeed a travelogue about the central American country complete with fielding recording of mariachi band that can only be described as well “jaunty”.

In the same way Redlip never state whether this is a mini-album or a full album (it’s the former), the music never tries to define itself. Imagine a concoction of Lemon Jelly, Ivor Cutler, Donovan and Raymond Scott and you’ll be heading in the right direction. But it’s inadequate to capture fully this droll and soothing celebration of the oddball, the overlooked or the familiar from an unfamiliar perspective. Or as Ovid has it “Enchanted notes, in times of happy peace”.

Redlip Dan and Headless Bill [BUY]

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