GRAVENHURST – The Western Lands (Warp)
The fifth album from Bristol four-piece Gravenhurst is a move on from their early folky roots, and by injecting it with a healthy dose of shoegaze-y guitar they have created an album of light and shade which blends perfectly. ‘Saints’ revisits the band’s folk roots for a darkly melancholic opener, and the new guitar sound makes its first appearance on ‘She Dances’ – a languid groove with a great fuzz-guitar interlude, which leads into the full-blown Swervedriver overload of ‘Hollow Men’, with its swathes of guitar swamping the song and ending in a squall of feedback. ‘Song Among The Pine’ is a much simpler effort, with its circular guitar motif enveloping the melody over which Nick Talbot sings of searching for lost love. ‘Trust’ is a bit more rock-orientated, but the quirky guitar effects give it a bit of character, and it leads neatly into the title track, which is a sun-scorched surf guitar instrumental. ‘Farewell, Farewell’ is a fuzzed-out cover of the Fairport Convention song, and sounds just great in this incarnation, while ‘Hourglass’ and ‘Grand Union Canal’ pull it all back for a brace of gentle, folky tracks, with the latter being particularly effective in this stripped back form, and with Talbot’s guitar shining through the song. The album ends with ‘The Collector’ – starting with Talbot on just guitar and vocal, and then with the rest of the band gradually coming in to finish in full rock style, including a great discordant Neil Young guitar solo. I must admit that I was greatly impressed by this album even on first hearing, and can’t really work out why I have not heard of the band before, but I am glad that I stumbled across it, and can highly recommend it to fans of folk, rock and indie, as I am sure that they will all find something of interest in its grooves.