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Various Artists | The Soul Moves At Walking Pace (Evensong)
Subtitled 'a second Evensong compilation' TSMAWP's aim is to highlight lesser-known homegrown talent and, for a decidedly British line-up, can be deemed a resounding success. To avoid accusations of xenophobia, Dutch radio DJ Menno Visser is called upon to introduce the album by announcing the evensong web-site in his native tongue 'with amusing results' before Applehead's This Shoulder Ain't For Crying On kicks off the album 'proper'. Fundamentally a one-man project, ex-Morcheeba bassist Leigh Gordon's style echoes closely Pete Astor's Wisdom of Harry guise, 'Shoulder' very much in the mould of Caesar Boots, a laid-back funky groove, with a lazy distorted vocal. A cool opener to, uh, boot. The Sweet Jane chords that open The Jokers' Falling For You are well chosen, this nervous confession almost insisting on a Sunday morning audience, Sarah Shawcross' harmonies sweetening the Mancunian lead of Rob McVey. The Nick Drake meets Damien Jurado hybrid of Rameses III's Here's To The Next One is an exercise in restraint with a palpable tension reminiscent of Chris Hooson's Dakota Suite. The instrumental coda to the song is an equally foreboding touch. Ex-Goldrush keyboard player Simon Davis returns as Pug, an acoustic guitar wielding off-kilter pop-kid, the synthesised percussive blips and double-tracked vocals adding a touch of quirkiness to his Mannequin. So far, so eclectic. John Matthias, whose CV includes a career-enhancing credit for viola on Radioheads The Bends, delivers a haunting, delicately discordant whisper on Let's Give Dolores One More Try, keeping up the impressive standard before Sandira's Breathe takes us to somewhere a bit more exotic, the soundtrack to a massage parlour scene in an imagined underground movie - or maybe that's just me. Would sir like anything else? Patrick Bell's solo Guitar Piece#2 perhaps? This 'field recording' was apparently recorded 'somewhere in Eastern Europe' though the sound of loose change hitting his guitar case is notably absent. Bristol's Mooz, an unsigned all-girl four-piece could find themselves at home on a David Lynch soundtrack should Julee Cruise be unavailable, a loping bass line slowly giving way to a little jazz-frolic before regaining its composure. Overlong but intriguing nonetheless, Watch This Space indeed. The second half of the album boasts a strong presence by Evensong production maestro Richard Bell who has a hand in six tracks, a writing credit on three of them. The first, Conference of Birds' Rememberance, is a typically slick instrumental that resides somewhere amid the blurred landscape between jazz and TV soundtrack blandness, though the same partnership is also responsible for the far spunkier retro-funk of Wonderboy Preacher's Beautiful Face That Shines, the additional personnel of lyricist/vocalist David Stephenson adding a shot of psychedelia and not unwelcome injection of humour. Jake Bryant's Cathy sadly brings a less seedy massage imagery than Sandira's earlier offering, instead one is strangely compelled to rub vaseline around the edges of one's specs or visit at herbalist. Ian King's Am I What You Want is a tender ballad, with a Ron Sexsmith richness, the mood quickly undone by Ian Kearney's slide guitar folkiness, the inspiration for The Funniest Man In The World not immediately apparent (not sure that Elmore James was known for his wisecracking). The closing, brief instrumental by the enigmatically named Pier ends things with an air of indifference, the preceding Winter Pollen by Jacques a more suitable candidate with it's lilting lullaby of soft keys and Tindersticks-lite delivery. The inescapable air of Britishness is rarely pierced on this painstakingly compiled set making the whole seem, naturally, reserved. But, for a lazy Sunday, much here captures the bleak beauty of autumn's transition into winter.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001

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