Saturday, December 08, 2007

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2007: Number 23

Hello, Nick, we're up here

Although now expanded to a live four-piece The Western Lands is still resolutely Nick Talbot's studio baby, but you could be forgiven for thinking added personnel had moved the Gravenhurst sound on. They're very definitely still rooted in folk writing, cemented here by a track in tribute to Sandy Denny and an actual Fairport Convention cover, but the introversion of his earlier work has been long overtaken by a willingness to experiment with the tropes of studio trickery and crossing the limitations both of what this should sound like and what it should be addressing. Opening track Saints, for example, is built on gorgeous fingerpicking-esque intricacies, but behind it are electronic washes and early on Talbot sings of wanting to "murder ten to save a hundred, drown the whole world in my faith". Followed by the Denny-dedicated She Dances, a haunting piano-underlaid slab of doomed dreaminess which is eventually overtaken by almost Edge-esque guitars, it's clear we're dealing in a world of soundtracking desperation.

And a louder, more abrasive soundtrack than that would suggest too, recalling fellow Bristolians Flying Saucer Attack or at times a more legible version of Factory Records mainstays the Durutti Column. Hollow Men accidentally falls in with the nu-gaze brigade and effortlessly tops the lot of them, breaking down completely 2:15 in, slowly regenerating itself and exploding back into dissonant life. Without warning the pace then shifts back down for the ghostly meditations of Song Among The Pines. The second half is more muted but no less claustrophobically intelligent - playing solo at Truck this year it was clear how complex the guitar parts underpinning many of these songs are, and Hourglass' hypnotic circular riff benefits from the lack of showy surroundings. Elliott Smith admirers will find much in this, and if these tracks lend themselves to easy comparisons - Grand Union Canal doffs its cap to Red House Painters/becalmed Mogwai slo-mo, while the instrumental title track is an Americana Slowdive scoring a western - it only serves to reinforce that Talbot is an auteur capable of subtly shifting from his base camp sound to wilder climes without ever losing focus.

WATCH ON: Hollow Men


My favourite album of 2007 is...

Eugene McGuinness: The Good The Bad And The Queen

Erik Sandberg, Wake The President: The Shins - Wincing The Night Away

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