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SONGS OF GREEN PHEASANT – Songs Of Green Pheasant (Fat Cat)

Posted: August 10th, 2005, by Alex McChesney

I played this album without first reading the accompanying press release, not twigging that the whole thing was recorded on a 4-track in a kitchen. Not that it sounds impossibly polished given the available hardware. It’s more that the recording process has wrapped these songs in a warm and dreamy fug that so perfectly compliments their gently ambiguous nature that I had assumed that it was the product of deliberate, and brave, production choices.

And what songs they are. This is an album steeped in folk tradition, but refreshingly dogma-free. Although wistful harmonies and acoustic guitar dominate (performed by one-man-band Duncan Sumpner) , the arrival of a drum loop or a distortion pedal through the mist doesn’t shock and disjoin as it might. Things are kept safely free of nu-folk cliche, contributing to some bravely ambitious arrangements, and finding new scope in a field that lesser acts would find restrictive. Lyrically, this is an album of sweet obscurities and half-caught imagery that refuses to force itself upon you, preferring instead to insinuate rather than demand, and opting not to give into ego and push to the front. Every component feels as though it has been placed with surgical precision and a rare sensitivity for both the needs of the listener and the bigger picture that is the song itself. On a first, casual, listen not much might seem to be going on, but boredom is unlikely. Having said that, I defy anyone to listen to trance-inducing closing track “From Here To Somewhere Else” without adopting something of a glassy stare. This is traditional music filtered through a post-rock lens, expertly smuggling it past the modern listener’s cynicism filter to give it a new lease of life.

Apparently there are plans to go on tour with a full band. Would I enjoy these songs live, face-to-face and unmasked, kitten-soft dreaming replaced by the awful consciousness of a sweaty, noisy pub? I fear that the qualities I admire in this record have a fairly low evaporation point and would soon vanish under spotlights, and are best appreciated under carefully controlled conditions in the home. And what of the second album? There’s no doubt about the pedigree of the songwriting, but I (pessimistically) can’t imagine a big-budget follow-up quite recapturing the same fuzzy warmth. But I’d love to be proven wrong.

By keeping the listener at a slight distance, Songs of Green Pheasant gives the impression of a performance that would take place whether anyone was listening or not, granting it a purity increasingly lacking in a world of arm-waving “look at me” acts wetting themselves in desperation for a fragment of the public’s micro-attention span. This is a record that genuinely deserves your full attention for its entire length. Please give generously.

Fat Cat

Alex McChesney

Alex was brought up by a family of stupid looking monkeys after being lost in the deep jungles of Paisley. Teaching him all their secret conga skills (as well as how to throw barrels at plumbers), Alex was able to leave for the bright lights of Glasgow where adventure struck him and he needed all his conga skills to save the world and earn the hand of a lovely Texan princess. He now keeps a low profile alphabeticising his record collection and making sock monkeys in the likenesses of his long lost family.


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