Sunday 29 December 2019

Some quiet, elegant songs

Winter 2019 has been almost comically manic so the time to listen to music has been in short supply. Maybe for that reason the songs that have hit the hardest and sunk in the deepest have largely had comparatively sparse arrangements and clear, emotionally direct vocals that leave space for contemplation. Gavin Laird (formerly of Telstar Ponies among others) teamed up with various friends on the Cup And Ring project (Glass Miniature). His former bandmate Rachel Devine contributed a heart-stopping vocal to "#1":

I love it and feel it in the same way that I loved and felt All About Eve's "Martha's Harbour" when I was a schoolkid or This Mortal Coil's sublime reading of Tim Buckley's "Song To The Siren" when I was a student. Whole hours have passed with nothing but "#1" playing. Laird's guitar line was made to be looped and Devine's elegantly un-histrionic vocal only gets better and more emotionally resonant with repeated listens. Truly stunning. Equally stunning is Richard Youngs and Raul Refree's "All Hands Around The Moment" (Soft Abuse). Each of its four songs clock in at around the 8 minute mark and each of them could happily go on for hours as far as Not Unloved is concerned. Again, the arrangements are un-fussy and beautifully judged to showcase Richard's heartfelt, world weary but nevertheless romantic words to great effect. There's a line on "Nil By Mind" that is amongst the most memorable of 2019:

"I've been watching webcams of the Arctic Circle
To see your freckles come out in the sun"

If this lp had been released earlier in the year it would surely have found itself near the top of many a year end list. My guess is that Youngs and Refree don't really care about such things and are more than happy to just produce great art.

Another of Glasgow's true musical heroes, Bill Wells, recently released the "Winter Dreams" cdep (7ep Records). Its 12 songs may only add up to around 12 minutes but it makes its mark in the gorgeousness stakes. Bill's characteristically crisp and moving piano and keyboard parts are given even more emotional weight through Audrey Bizouerne's (Gift Horse/Rev Magnetic/Alex Rex etc.) gorgeous singing. Swarovski themselves haven't produced anything so crystalline and perfect as the 12 little pieces on "Winter Dreams".

Molly Linen's debut 10" on Lost Map is yet another quiet wonder by a Glasgow-based group. Comparisons to much-missed Bristol group Movietone by friends quicker on the uptake than me suggested that Not Unloved was more likely than not going to love them and so it proved. "Away" is an appropriately subtle celebration of shyness. Here's hoping that there's a whole lp of Molly Linen songs coming in 2020.

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