Tuesday, September 25, 2012


The chosen name for this Glasgow-based sextet could easily suggest a faceless, politically-steered apparatus for barking pronouncements and transmitting propaganda. But State Broadcasters are a much quieter, more human and more domestically focused collective. Opening song here ‘The Only Way Home’ is imbued with the spidery mournfulness of Sparklehorse as it sings of the drawn-out agony of awaiting telephone news – and it has that same quality that Mark Linkous mastered of being able to sing of deeply sad things but as though with a beaming yet cracked smile. Second track ‘Trespassers’ has a more jaunty Caledonian lilt to its velvety soft orch-folk meander that recalls a more frugal version of The Delgados with the orchestral grandeur turned down and replaced with a quiet sense of dislocation.

“The Ghosts We Carry” reminds me of the poignant nostalgia and keen sense of place that both Lanterns On The Lake and King Creosote and Jon Hopkins demonstrated on recent albums - but without the surging crescendos or electronic textures of "Gracious Tide Take Me Home" and without the rural seclusion and field recording ambience of "Diamond Mine". It is filled with tender, hushed moments of simplicity and reminiscence, of sharing warm pastries, weekend walks, flasks of tea and empty landscapes. In the sparse plucked harp strings of ‘Outside The Bakery’ or the waltz-like delicacy of ‘Takeshi’, in the soft folky elegance of the re-working of Billy Bragg’s ‘The Only One’ (sung by Gillian Fleetwood) or the antique group harmonies and accordion murmur of ‘This Old Table’, it sounds as though instruments are not mechanically strummed or played so much as lovingly and slowly stroked to life. Piano, trombone, banjo, cello and piano all gently serve the down-trodden romanticism of each song, never overpower it. There is a confident restraint to the album that many bands, especially with six players, would not be able to achieve. Lambchop strikes me as a comparison for achieving such quiet precision with so many hands.

‘The Writing’s On The Wall’ is a minor departure in its (slightly) more forceful loudness and glossiness but to these ears is not as strong or as convincing as the delicate despondency elsewhere on show. This, the band’s second album after 2009’s “The Ship And The Iceberg”, is not an icy plunge-pool of despair but a graceful slide into balmy spa waters that gently wash you with feelings of doubt and loneliness. “Don’t mistake the kittiwake for the common gull” plaintively sing State Broadcasters in the sea-bird titled song. There are familiar components and sounds on offer here but there is no mistaking this is an uncommon - and highly accomplished - achievement.

State Broadcasters Ghosts We Must Carry [BUY]

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