Acoustic indie band The Sunbathers release their debut LP ‘A Weekend Away With …..’, featuring a sea-related theme threading through the 15 tracks. As the duo hail from the East Midlands the geographical distance to all coastal areas adds an extra longing in the references to far-off places as the answer to yearnings and melancholic reflections. Beginning with wave and gull sounds the opening track ‘It Doesn’t Matter If It Rains’ sets the tone of wistful nostalgia explored in later lyrics.
The instrumentation consists of Paul’s sparkling acoustic guitar, with delicate arpeggios and multi-layered harmonic structures. An occasional ukulele and percussion fades in at times, with a melodica giving a reassuring DIY simplicity too on ‘Big Boy Now’ and ‘Shifting Sand’. The chance meeting in ‘If Only’ is a sad lament for a past relationship possibly given new life by a day at the sea, ‘…the wind sweeps in across the bay and takes my breath away and I’m willing you to stay…’.
The waltz time of ‘Girl You Left Behind’ gives an upbeat musical gloss to a brilliantly restrained lyric of disappointment, delivered with subtle emotions by vocalist Julie.
‘Don’t Go Home’ is a plaintive real-time cry from the heart over shimmering echoing guitar, as on many tracks the voice and music complementing each other perfectly.'(Waiting) For Trains’ is a realistic summary of long-distance relationships ‘…what can I do, now I’m a slave to engineering works at Crewe….I wish that one of us could drive, it might just be the only way our love survives..’ ‘Warmth Of The Sun’ closes the album with some sort of redemption from emotional insecurity, having finally arrived at the sea…
It is a beautiful, involving album to escape into, fragile and carefully crafted. Discovering its quiet secrets was a bit like hearing Nick Drake’s Pink Moon for the first time and I can’t recommend it higher than that.
Laura Mardon describes herself as a ‘softly spoken Australian folk-punk songwriter’, so the titles of London boroughs on this EP may at first be disorientating; but she was born and raised in Kentish Town before she eventually embraced a new life on the Gold Coast. Her earlier experiences form the lyrical backbone of these very personal confessional songs, underpinned by sensitive acoustic guitar work.
‘Borough’ features minimalist accompaniment and a lyrical reminiscence that stops and starts the musical backing. Never has ‘…took a bus towards Deptford…’ sounded like such an inviting proposition as on the next track but the bleak words ultimately reveal an empty experience. She then slows down to the waltz of ‘Camberwell’, with a bitter and ambiguous lyric giving an extra emotional weight.
Worthy of a novel opening line ‘Brighton’ begins with ‘… I stole a bible from my hotel room when I ran away from London…’ then the disillusioned narrator escapes the traumas of New Cross to seek a possible destiny at the ocean side. Laura says “Living on the Gold Coast is like living in a permanent holiday vortex”, and the final track Gold Coast is much more optimistic, with positively upbeat guitar picking and a sparkling inflection in the voice.
An EP of spiritual and physical odyssey; it gains in depth with every repeated listen.
The local music scene in Cambridge (and I assume in other towns) is being supported by an increasing number of pubs and cafes featuring the best of home-grown talent (special commendations to The Earl Of Beaconsfield and Relevant Records café). Now the Six Bells off Mill Road has broadened its musical repertoire to feature some of the more contemporary indie artists, including a recent bout of noiserock from up and coming four-piece Shyer, as well as a forthcoming December gig from carnival psychsters The Scissors.
Tonight it was an acoustic showcase, beginning with Matt Hammond, added to the bill at the last minute, and very pleased to be playing to an appreciative audience.
He is one of those guitar players who is fascinating to watch, a style based around tapping the strings up the neck of the instrument, forming repetitive, hypnotic patterns to underpin his mellow vocalising. It was all relaxing and tranquil, he is clearly a fan of Nick Drake and John Martyn, as everyone should probably be….
Jethro Steel of Goldblume is not a coaxer of the guitar, preferring a more punishing approach to the strings. He plays effective versions of the electric power-trio’s tracks, with all their unpredictable twists such as whisking us away to ‘Winconsin’. With a new EP release imminent, this magnetic performer knows how to win a crowd over.
Bouquet Of Dead Crows are equally at home as full-on rockers and with different stripped down versions; tonight it was the vocals of Antoinette Cooper with guitar (and some effects) from multi-instrumentalist Neil Bruce and a rare appearance of an acoustic bass played by Graeme Clarke. They were featuring songs from debut album ‘Of The Night’, previously reviewed on this site. They certainly held audience attention, for a couple of quieter tracks we were instructed to be silent to get fully involved, this was readily obeyed!
Varied musical styles, intimate surroundings, good beer, free(!), that must be a good night out…
Bouquet of Dead Crows
Something special from the Wave Pictures, a vinyl-only album recorded around one microphone in one day with all-new songs. Despite this back to basics technique as far as I can tell the sound quality/mix/balance etc seems to be absolutely fine (so why do most bands spend ‘months’ in the studio?).
Lyricist David Tattersall is on top form, the low-key instrumentation of finger-picking guitar, acoustic bass and percussion lending a poignancy to his lovelorn tales, cryptic references and imagery. Highlights include ‘Remains’ (‘a whooper swan fashioning his neck into a noose…’), ‘The Pharmacy’ where never has the ‘soft green light of the pharmacy cross’ sounded so nostalgic and the bitterness of ‘Hot Rain Riding On The Salt Lake’ with gems such as ‘You hung me upside down on a meat-hook..‘ and ‘you ripped the last page out of every book in town..’
In the subtle ‘Thin Lizzy Live And Dangerous’ that raucous masterpiece is playing in the loft as a tongue-tied love is declared.
One of the best tracks is the playful and addictive ‘David In A Field Of Pumpkins’. While crawling around amongst the orange gourds David sings a daydreaming speculation of ‘if I could fly straight over the town I would knock upon your window…’ ; somehow it all makes perfect sense.
They are playing many of these songs live on the current tour and they slot perfectly in with older favourites. With another new album due later this year the brilliant Wave Pictures go from strength to strength.