Wednesday, May 25, 2011

THE INDELICATES "David Koresh Superstar"


“David Koresh Superstar” is the third album from Sussex's The Indelicates released last week on their own label Corporate Records. Not having heard their first two records, I’m endeared to the band simply by their label “a new kind of record company that you can sign to anytime it suits you. You own everything, we own nothing. Take control, we're here for you to exploit”. Things only get better when I discover that “David Koresh Superstar” is a fifteen-song rock opera about the life and times of cult leader Koresh from his early years in Houston to the fateful siege in 1993 in Waco, Texas with the Branch Davidian sect (if you are unfamiliar with this event, the band have provided a handy pictorial guide). And things really get better when I listen to the album.

“David Koresh Superstar” is a compelling musical tale, recounted through outlaw country story-telling and art-rock polemic, giving voice to each of the key protagonists in this tragic tale. Koresh tells of his early life (“my father was a carpenter, my mother was just fourteen”) and embracing the church in the strummed country-hick lilt of ‘The Road From Houston to Waco’. He proclaims his divinity in the rock swagger of ‘I Am Koresh’ (letting slip his dubious practises along the way: “come to thy God’s caress / with my hand inside in your dress”) and then voices his doubt over bowed saw in the quieter ‘What If You’re Wrong’. A woman (wife? Follower?) sings of falling under the spell of Koresh in the piano ballad ‘The Woman Clothed With The Sun’ and then pledges herself to the sect’s cause in the gentle skiffle of ‘A Single Thrown Grenade’. The Bureau for Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms whose botched serving of a search warrant started the siege sing of their need to prove their worth in a changing world (“I miss the Russians, I miss Vietnam”) as a massed chorus in ‘The Ballad of the ATF’ (a highlight) and even Timothy McVeigh the Oklahoma bomber (“God you people make me sick”) gets a song.



Unlike the formulaic stage musical this record never becomes cheesy or repetitive or lapses into trite pastiche. It’s ambitious and clever, darkly humorous and theatrical, and deeply, deeply inventive. The fact that Simon and Julia Indelicate met at a poetry slam and their combined background includes documentary photography, book-writing and performance poetry (“Too schooled for cool” as an Indelicates T-shirt proclaims) gives you flavour of what they bring to this project.

The first half is stronger musically and more creative; the siege and its aftermath are more downcast and drawn out. But the chilling piano-and-violin Biblical thump of final song ‘John The Revelator’ reminds you of the power of The Indelicates to turn a ridiculous proposition into a triumph. “David Koresh Superstar” has many virtues – not the least a clutch of fine, intelligent songs – but its real success is in humanising the flawed Koresh and his cause, dramatising each sad stage of his history as it moves towards its inevitable tragic end. In a 65 minute (art-)rock record “David Koresh Superstar” tells you more about the Waco siege and its participants than wading through contemporary newspaper coverage, investigative studies or TV documentaries ever could. Less a review, more an instruction to buy forthwith.

Something Goin' Down In Waco - The Indelicates

The Indelicates David Koresh Superstar [BUY]

Friday, May 20, 2011

LOW @ CLUB ACADEMY 19 May 2011


I’m one of those Low listeners who is more familiar with the Minnesotan band’s Christmas EP than their 9 album career proper. So with several listens to this year’s album "C’mon" and then a hasty, selective toe-tip into their 18 year history under my belt I approached tonight, my first time seeing Low, with trepidation. I expected it to be neither Christmassy nor familiar and therefore possibly inaccessible. But first the support.

sleepingdog is the musical vehicle for Chantal Acda of Belgium. Tonight performing as part of a duo, she sat upright at electric piano; he (Adam Wiltzie of Stars of the Lid I think) stood with guitar and effects pedals, the pair facing each other centre-stage. sleepingdog played under a harsh, cool blue light – this and the ethereal sounds came across as more Scandinavian chill than Belgian chocolate-box warmth and cosiness. Echoing piano, gentle drones and extended notes provided the backdrop for Acda’s haunting vocals and even when she switched to acoustic guitar for a few songs, and the lighting warmed to a rosy orange-red hue, the mood was still cool and restrained. There was not much variety across the six songs they played but an impressive, powerful consistency. At one point I noticed that Acda had goose-bumps on her calves. She was not alone. My new favourite Belgian band.


For Low the stage clutter was stripped away: instruments and amps pushed to the back of the wide, shallow playing area leaving an expanse of wooden flooring between them and the bank of stage monitors at the front. With Sufjan Stevens playing a sold-out show on the other side of town, and a small-in-numbers crowd for sleepingdog, I was worried about the turn-out. But by the time Low took to the stage it felt packed at the front. The trio of Alan Sparhawk, Mimi Parker and Steve Garrington were made up to a four-piece with a seated keyboard player stage-right. If the crowd had been quiet for sleepingdog, the patient hush as Low took the stage was beyond reverential, as though no-one wanted the silent spell to be broken before a note was sounded.

And that spell-breaking note came from Sparhawk on guitar. He may be of average height, playing a cream Gibson Les Paul that appeared three-quarter size, but he drew a cavernous, loud, crunching single note out of those guitar strings to usher in ‘Nothing But Heart’. From that moment on I was magnetized throughout by Sparhawk and then Parker’s playing and singing.


The first half if not most of the set drew largely on ‘C’Mon’, playing all but one song. For these or the later smattering of older songs, the effect was similar. Sparhawk and Parker’s voices, either singularly or combined (hers a little under-amplified here?) were hypnotically sweet and lingering; and then underneath the sound was more muscular and intense, whether loud, quiet or gradually building up a head of steam. The four were all dressed in black and performed with eyes-closed rapture or simply looking downwards. There were no frills or antics to their performance with an almost casual as well as minimal stage set-up: the two guitars used were simply propped against the wall rather than racked or sitting on stands. However the precision and intensity of the playing of a (to me) largely familiar set, and the astonishing range of Sparhawk’s facial expressions (agony? Ecstasy?) that matched the shifting moods of the music was an impossible-to-resist combination. I can’t think of a recent gig which kept my concentration so intently as tonight's.

Some songs memorably broke the mould of the rest of the set: Sparhawk’s lidless, blue eyes remained fixed open with a piercing almost scary honesty for ‘$20’; ‘Canada’ rewarded the whoops of recognition with a visceral, thudding Velvets-like rhythm, and there was even some bleak humour in the intro and lyrics to ‘Something’s Turning Over’. The crowd only broke ranks on the silence when Sparhawk asked if there was “anything specific” anyone wanted to hear during the encores. The clamorous, overlapping shouting was deafening. On the other side of town, Sufjan may have been dazzling audiences with feathers and day-glo but here on a plain stage with minimal trimmings, Low made a powerful impression with just the simple, fundamental power of their music. There’s a first time for everything; I’m now just regretting I left it so late with Low.





The Set List:

Nothing But Heart
Try To Sleep
You See Everything
Monkey
Silver Rider
Witches
Especially You
$20
Sunflower
Majesty/Magic
Nightingale
Something’s Turning Over
Murderer
Canada
Laser Beam
---
Two Step
California
Violent Past

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

KING POST KITSCH "Don't You Touch My Fucking Honeytone"


There’s nothing wrong with the name Charlie Ward but it’s not a patch on King Post Kitsch. What a monumentally brilliant name to be releasing records as: a whiff of stage-swagger, an aura of grand mystery but also faintly ridiculous and self-mocking. After a free digital EP, the second King Post Kitsch release “Don’t You Touch My Fucking Honeytone” is out this week.

The title track sounds as raw and loud as the portable guitar amp in its title: fiercely twanging rockabilly-garage power-pop – Johnny Burnette with a razor tie? – filled out with a sharp dash of 60s organ. Although ‘Penny Red’ maintains the home-studio rough-and-ready guitar sounds, albeit easing off the pace slightly, the third and fourth tracks spin off elsewhere. ‘Alaska’ opens with lo-fi ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ mellotron before resembling a stripped-back, off-kilter take on ‘I Am Walrus’ as though Lennon was recording in a Glasgow flat on his own rather than at Abbey Road with George Martin, and swapping orchestral accompaniment for some film dialogue about bears and Alaska. The older ‘Monomaniac’ sounds precisely what Low covering a Broadcast song would, again if they were in a small Glasgow flat... well you get the idea.



From vintage guitar riffage to retro-futurist sounds in four tracks is an impressive but cohesive span. Given this and the initial coarse feel to the songs it therefore came as a surprise to learn Charlie Ward is a professional sound engineer. But then again... maybe not such a surprise. As King Post Kitsch he has a very clear audio aesthetic he wants to create - an old-fashioned roughness with a mellow immediacy - and knows how to get the best out of bedroom studios set-ups to achieve this. And in doing so has fashioned some damn exciting music.

This debut release on the excellent Song By Toad Records is handsomely presented in 7” white vinyl (with download code) and a delicious appetiser for the long-player from King Post Kitsch to follow in June (pre-order here) with only one of these songs on that ten track album. If you require further evidence of the quality and range of output from Song By Toad Records you should also download the free 14 track digital label sampler for 2011.

King Post Kitsch - Don't You Touch My Fucking Honeytone by Song, by Toad

King Post Kitsch Don’t Touch My Fucking Honeytone [BUY]

Monday, May 16, 2011

THE DOUGLAS FIRS "Happy As A Windless Flag"


The opening track to The Douglas Firs debut album is called 'I Will Kill Again'. Glad to report it is not satanic Norwegian metal but instead a delicious slice of gauzy bliss-pop perfection. It ripples and glides effortlessly touching on several genres - delicate orch-pop, C86 fuzz-and-crackle and swooning shoegaze - without ever alighting on one but keeping its happy face on throughout (I suspect the lyrics may be darker but they are never clear or prominent enough - to these cloth-filled ears - to interfere with the mood of rapture). Don’t expect the rest of the album to follow suit though.

The pattern of song titles that gently mislead is maintained: ‘Sepulture’ is not as deathly and morbid and ‘Soporific’ not as drowsily sleepy as their titles suggest. But instead of nine re-treads of its opener, “Happy as a Windless Flag” proves to be subtly shape-shifting (but engrossing) beastie. If I pegged it down as ‘post-rock’ you might expect glacially slow and detached soundscapes. If I labelled to it as ‘experimental’ you might expect the wiful and obtuse; but it is none of these things. Instead these short, restless instrumental and vocal pieces are woven into a deeply satisfying journey of lush textures and ragged beauty.


Songs can be as sparse as ‘Nature and Nurture’ (simple chimes then woodwind over eerie fielding recording) or as complex and richly detailed as ‘A Military Farewell’ – which surrounds a mid-section of gentle ukulele strumming with the pomp of marching drums, accordion and massed choral singing in a bastardized American Civil War anthem. ‘Sepulture’ is a quieter, flickering minor-key instrumental that is one of the loveliest pieces of acoustic post-folk this side of Eagleowl. ‘The Shadow Line’ is a noisier three-part affair that starts with epic crunching guitars; ‘The Quickening’ is a folky village hall hoedown with sweet King Creosote-like crooning. No comparisons really stick to this twisty, elusive record but at times I can’t help think this is what Lone Pigeon re-recording Sufjan Stevens’ “Seven Swans” might sound like.

‘Balance of Halves’ contains the clearest lyrics (“ineffable sadness... one thousand freedoms we left behind”) before its propulsive drumming and scuzzy strained guitar leave the song to finish more joyful than devoid of hope. I suspect there is morbidity and disillusion just below the surface on “Happy As A Windless Flag” but I’m still picking my way through the rich seam of invention and sonic variety above this sub-strata to notice.

This debut took seven years to come to fruition. But this speaks of a patient stitching together of its constituent parts rather than indecision or prevarication. Head Fir Neil Insh claims that the album was “created not by technical skill, but from a synaesthetic love of pure sound”. He’s right on the second part (see this) but is wrong on the first. It takes talent to create a record of introspective, ambient post-rock but give it such emotional depth, such richness and variety and then bathe it all in a glorious pop sensibility.

I Will Kill Again - The Douglas Firs

The Shadow Line by The Douglas Firs by Armellodie

The Douglas Firs Happy As A Windless Flag [BUY]

Saturday, May 14, 2011

DIAGRAMS "Antelope"


Here’s another is-it-a-band-or-is-it-a-person musical project sat behind a name that renders internet searching futile. A single song on Soundcloud with minimal supporting information does little to shed further light. And the song itself?

‘Antelope’ is a very English, almost pastoral piece of bouncy math-pop. The flat-vowelled, breathy vocal mirrors the jaunty rhythms in comparing a woman to the eponymous animal (“elegant..with the majesty of the night” but “she can fight with the big cats”) whilst referencing Big Bang Theory and the Matterhorn along the way. It makes less sense written down but located within the joyfully layered synths, elastic funk bass, sparing horn section and scatting backing vocals it works perfectly – still very English but with a freedom and spring that is more Kilimanjaro foothills than Kidderminster.

The website-cum-blog for Diagrams yields a little more info: ‘Antelope’ is from an EP due to be released this July (with artwork by Chrissie Abbott). It does seem Diagrams is a single person and is using the blog to talk not just about the making of this EP but to link to music, books and art he likes. Music includes the (excellent) Table on Static Caravan, the folky guitar of John Smith and bedroom folktronica of Broadcast 2000. Elsewhere Diagrams references visual artist Gerhard Richter, break-dancing, New Orleans funk, French chronophotographer √Čtienne-Jules Marey and a recent book purchase on harmony and numbers (“Harmonograph: A Visual Guide to the Mathematics of Music")

Learned without being smug, quirky without being too obtuse, it’s an intriguing insight into the mind of Diagrams without giving too much away about the man himself. Look forward to more music and more information this July.

Diagrams 'Antelope' by diagrams

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

THE LEISURE SOCIETY @ BAND ON THE WALL 9 May 2011


My only knowledge of Sarabeth Tucek before tonight was confined to a few plays of this year’s album "Get Well Soon". I missed the beginning of her support slot here and walked into a reverentially quiet but small-in-numbers audience. Tucek and guitarist Luther Russell were both seated – she playing electric guitar with a delicate downward strum that was so casual it appeared absent-minded whilst Russell pulled an amazing array of sounds out a simple acoustic guitar. But what really held the attention was Tucek’s mesmerizing voice, deep, steady and projected to the back of the room without barely trying: Cat Power with a distinct country twang, a more poetic bent and a deep understanding of the early 70s singer-songwriter oeuvre. I might have only caught 25 minutes but it was more than enough to tell me I need to complete my homework on Tucek and fill in those gaps in my knowledge.



C’mon you murky bastards” came the enthusiastic shout as The Leisure Society took to the stage, an unsubtle reference to second album “Into the Murky Waters” released last week. Now The Leisure Society strike me as neither murky nor bastards. Instead the seven-piece Brighton band project a polite, English coastal gentility perfectly suited to their exquisite Ivor Novello award-winning pop classicism. And in publicity shots they look more like a well-dressed Oxbridge boating party than a down-and-dirty touring band of dubious parentage. However if not exactly murky there is a bittersweet undertow to their songs and I was intrigued to see how this would all translate live particularly in the setting of Band on the Wall. This much-loved Manchester institution has managed to hold on to its jazz / reggae-dive bohemian heritage despite a spanking smart Lottery-funded makeover (the broad appeal of both band and venue was reflected for me in the span of ages and of T-shirts on show – from Daniel Johnston to Mott The Hoople by way of My Morning Jacket).

Tonight The Leisure Society boat party was in dress-down mode: open-necked shirts, deck shoes and Converse. There was a relaxed feeling to proceedings despite the evident concentration of the band on the intricate arrangements to these multi-part songs and the fleet-of-foot versatility required: in the blink of an eye three percussionists would appear before equally swiftly returning to cello, violin or flute. Between songs band leader Nick Hemming concentrated on tunings: if it was perfectionism rather than reluctance or shyness it never interfered with the smooth flow of the evening and allowed keyboard player Christian Hardy to lighten the mood with casual banter (“this is just a fucking good song”).

The set neatly mixed songs from the new and the older albums. And which stringed instrument Hemming played told you want to expect: ukulele for the sparser, more twee numbers from the first album such as ‘The Last of the Melting Snow’ or ‘The Sleeper’ (the latter complete with elegant, gliding strings), acoustic guitar for the ballads (‘This Hungry Life’) and wide-bodied Gretsch for the more rocking numbers mainly from the second album. Yes that’s right ‘rocking’. True The Leisure Society were not going to turn in a live set of intense, pulverising noise but ‘This Phantom Life’ and ‘Dust on the Dancefloor’ had an intensity I was not expecting – more feisty than ferocious. And a side of the band I would like to have seen more of – it suited them and was a delicious foil to the more precious numbers.



The final three songs – all segued into each other – returned to this feistiness (the hoedown at end of ‘Save It For Someone Who Cares’ could have been spun out with ease). A Paul Simon cover as part of the encores was fun and continued the upbeat, celebratory mood but I found it lacking compared to the depth and complexity of their own material. A summer of festival appearances awaits The Leisure Society. Even if the weather is foreboding and the ground muddy, you wouldn’t bet against this polite bunch winning more fans over with these distinctly unmurky sounds.



The Set List:

Into The Murky Water
This Phantom Life
The Hungry Years
The Sleeper
We Were Wasted
Dust on the Dancefloor
You Could Keep Me Talking
The Darkest Place I Know
The Last of the Melting Snow
Better Written Off (Than Written Down)
I Will Forever Remain An Amateur
Save It For Someone Who Cares
Just Like The Knife
---
Me and Julio Down At The Schoolyard
A Matter of Time

Saturday, May 07, 2011

BILL CALLAHAN @ CENTRAL METHODIST HALL 6 May 2011


After a warm, sunny afternoon, a torrential downpour from ominous thick, black clouds hit Manchester about 7.30pm. Precisely the time a long line was waiting patiently outside Central Methodist Hall for doors to open for Bill Callahan. Doors did not open until 25 minutes after that advertised time when a damp and bedraggled line had to file slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y, through the narrow entrance and the diligent security bag-checks. Once inside the building, it was up two flights and stairs and into the auditorium to find only a handful of people watching support Sophia Knapp who had already started playing on time.

I’m telling you all this because it may in part explain my poor mood and why I took against the venue. Central Hall is a large rectangular wooden-panelled box with a separate seated balcony set back behind the level standing area. Standing in front of the raised stage for Sophia Knapp the first thing that struck me was how poor the sound was. Moving back to the middle of the standing area away from the stage monitors was an improvement but not a great one. Things weren’t looking good. Plus the venue was dry – not a single alcoholic drink to be had (later someone said to me: “of course, it’s the METHODIST Hall” but I do not know enough about the peculiar sub-divisions of Christianity to know their individual stance on alcohol PLUS at Sacred Trinity or St Philip’s Churches you can get a pint of cask ale often hand-pulled by the vicar himself. Go figure).

Bill Callahan can be a contrary performer – I’ve experienced great – and not so great – performances. Tonight he was performing as part of a trio: drummer, often using brushes, side-stage, a guitarist, seated, in the centre and both musicians watching and taking cues from the standing Bill Callahan with acoustic guitar. It almost had the feel of a jazz trio and there was a looseness to their playing, particularly the drumming, but they kept relatively close to the tight repetitive patterns of the songs. However straightaway the limitations of the building’s acoustics became apparent: the big, booming sound lost any of the delicacy and subtlety of the songs from the recent record ‘Apocalypse’ and its immediate predecessors (the whole of the main set was from the last four albums starting with 2005’s “A River Ain’t Too Much To Love”. Hardly the advertised ‘career-spanning’ set given the first Smog record came out at the beginning of the nineties).

The songs that seemed to fare better were either the stripped back (‘Free’s’ with its off-mic whistling and drumming so quiet it was almost inaudible) or the more energetic (the loud, intense final section of ‘Say Valley Maker’). By the second half of the set my ears and expectations had adjusted to the sound and I was drawn in by the band’s playing. And it was a good performance from Callahan. He was unmoving and implacable with only the occasional ‘thank you’ – but the odd little jig or sway crept in during songs and then he even cracked a couple of jokes about the low light-levels. His deep, hypnotic voice was the element that managed to rise above the acoustics most successfully and his songs are spell-bindingly mysterious and beautiful. So definitely a gig I was glad I was at – and we did get ‘The Well’ AND ‘Let Me See The Colts’ - but when I compare it to his show at the Deaf Institute in 2009 it was sadly lacking, not because of the band but the venue. Central Methodist Hall has little to recommend it as a gig venue other than some good sightlines; I won’t be hurrying back.

The Set List:

Riding For The Feeling
The Wind and The Dove
America!
Baby’s Breath
Too Many Birds
Drover
Free’s
Eid Ma Clack Shaw
Sycamore
Say Valley Maker
The Well
Let Me See The Colts
Jim Cain
My Friend
---
Our Anniversary
Universal Applicant
River Guard

Friday, May 06, 2011

OWLET MUSIC Volume 1


Owlet Music is a micro-indie based in Carmarthenshire, run by Owain from Trwbador (the duo’s “It Snowed At Lot Last Year” EP reviewed here in January). Out next week on the fledgling label is this bargain-priced compilation “Owlet Music Vol 1”. Most labels use compilations as a showcase of their roster; here for such a new enterprise the net is cast wider to include friends, associates, kindred spirits and internet finds alongside their one label-mate currently (Telefair) and Trwbador themselves in the shape of their 2010 Christmas song. It is a gleeful/wilful mix of the feisty, the fidgety and the fey – in some ways just like Trwbador’s own music? And it covers not just Welsh bands either: Japan and USA (via France) are represented by Meimei and Vera Gogh respectively.

Most familiar here will probably be Das Wanderlust providing two (unreleased?) tracks of hyperactive, noisy wonky-pop. Joining them in the feisty corner is Super Cute Voices (a possible sub-title for the album?) mixing chip-core beats with a Los Campesinos boy/girl shouting match with ‘Camera Shop’. More C86-leaning is the stuttering guitars and punk-pop chant of‘A-OK’ by Violas.

Acoustic-led, fey fare includes airy, plumy-voiced folk-madrigal from Francesca’s Word Salad and two gorgeous songs of wide-eyed innocence from Gintis side-project Telefair. Elsewhere the album is given over to hazy, cute-as-a-button electronica: glitchy but unhurried summery rhythms and beats from Landslide, Thingsmakeelectric and Jangle (who shimmer rather than, err, jangle) with sweet, cooing vocals soothing your ears where applicable. And then one of the best saved for a final twist: ‘Home Town’ by Vera Gogh – woozy passions and soaring harmonies with a punchy country-rock backbeat, like Sea of Bees putting on her best Lucinda Williams impression.

At first listen, the shifting moods and pace don’t appear to hold together but as you get to know its elaborate twists and turns it all makes perfect sense: less an introduction to a label than to an idiosyncratic but highly enjoyable world-view. Not even a year old as a label but already I do not want Owlet to grow up; rather to stay perfectly formed and softly plumed. The 13 tracks and 43 minutes of “Owlet Music Vol 1” can be streamed on Spotify or bought on CD direct from the label for just £5.

Until The Chain Comes Off by Telefair by owletmusic

07 Dig Deeper In Logic (Trwbador Re- by owletmusic

10 A-OK by owletmusic

Owlet Music Vol 1 [BUY]

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

AWESOME WELLS "Carry On Awesome Wells"


The second album from the man known to the UK Passport Agency as Jonathan Palmer continues the trend of filmic adventure titles: first “The Highs and Lows of De Witt A Stanton” and now “Carry On Awesome Wells” (released last week on Red Deer Club). In this latest instalment our intrepid explorer has been picking up more stamps in his passport: “music and words written in Rangoon/Yangon, Mawlamyine/Moulmein and Steyning”. (I even had to Google Steyning: it’s in the South Downs where this album, along with Brighton, was recorded). It’s a nine track album – or a seven track one with two bonus cuts (more on this later). And my copy has a tenth track “Stickleback, recorded live in a field, October 7th 2010”. Which is ironic because the rest of the album has a dappled light and airy, outdoors feel, you’d swear it was all recorded in a field - but in the balmy summer months rather than crisp autumn.

Opener ‘Luchadora’ leaves our hero infatuated and bandy-legged-in-love (“Jesus Christ that smile”) and its gentle percussive clatter and mellifluous vocal harmonies remind you of an anglicised Panda Bear. Second track ‘BEARS’ is so laid-back and loose it sounds deceptively simple but is actually densely layered, its laconic brass and meandering bonhomie recalling Zach Condon’s Beirut - the Mexican sojourns rather than the East European ones. These two musical references collide in other tracks: the lolloping rhythms and soothing tuba of the more emphatic ‘Stickleback’, the South American horn quaver of ‘You’re Flogging A Dead Horse, Jon’ or the chiming ‘Norman’, all topped off with double-tracked vocals. Running the tags on the Awesome Wells Bandcamp page together gives you an alternative but accurate summary of what to expect: “brass band freak-folk loop music musique concrete”.



Not quite full-blown musique concrete, the minimal vocal loops and piano scales of ‘Sunday Evening’ and brass pulses and steel drum shimmer of ‘Mawlaymine’ provide the (largely) instrumental and quite blissful drifting interludes. 'Baby-boy' (one of the bonus tracks) is a quirky joy: strange, slowed-down vocals over shuffling drum pattern and tremeloed guitar, it should be quite sinister but feels more woozy with cider (to borrow a song title) than weird and creepy. Despite this minor difference in tone, it is a mystery to me why these are classed as bonus tracks, as they feel a good fit with the rest of the album. Late-in-the-day additions or is some strange internal logic at play I cannot divine?

“Carry on Awesome Wells” is a delightfully clever collection of postcards from exotic (even quixotic?) locations all neatly packaged in a single photo album. You never see the man himself in any detail which is a shame but his picture selection is excellent. The record’s instrumentation may include “a mandolin brought from a fortune teller just outside of Mandalay” but the whole feels as gracefully undulating and as reassuring familiar as the Sussex South Downs bathed in glorious, warm sunlight.



Awesome Wells Carry On Awesome Wells [BUY]