Folk music derives its origins from venerable working class traditions and its name reflects this. Notoriously difficult to define, the genre’s porous borders have helped to keep it fresh and ever relevant, with such a wide range of artists as Bob Dylan, Joanna Newsom, Nick Drake and Bonnie Prince Billy all falling somewhere within Folk’s purview.
This latest release, brought to us by the prestigious Bedroom Community can also be defined as folk music but, following in the tradition of the finest material in the genre, Puzzle Muteson’s latest full-length album throws a lot more into the pot too. Little seems to be known about the enigmatic artist based in the Isle of Wight, other than he is a singer-songwriter originally from London who has a penchant for melancholic guitar and a talent which is self-evident. Choosing to remain anonymous could be seen as an affectation to some, but so sincere are the songs within En Garde, that the lack of information on the artist forces us to focus solely on the music, which is probably for the best, since it would be foolish indeed to miss a moment of this carefully crafted masterpiece.
Puzzle Muteson’s label-mates Nico Muhly and Valgeir Sigurðsson lend their arranging and producing talents to En Garde respectively, and the album was recorded in Reykjavík’s Greenhouse Studios, which has held host to artists like Björk, Bonnie Prince Billy and CocoRosie to name but a few. So, pedigree affirmed and beauty assured, what can we say about the songs contained within En Garde?
Opening with I Was Once A Horse, the troubadour plays beautiful, harmonic finger picking guitar, while singing in a voice which sounds quite unlike, yet in its confident use of range is reminiscent of, Nick Drake. The voice is of a timbre which is tailor made for lamentation and one feels that the artist could probably sing songs about the sweetest of life’s joys, yet they would still sound bittersweet. Backed at times by what is probably pretty xylophone chiming and strings, the song comes to a close riding out a wave of introspection.
Puzzle Muteson continues to further solidify his sound as En Garde progresses and a few of the album’s highlights include Water Rising, Medusa and Keyhole. Each track is composed with definite purpose and an iron grip cohesion, at times bringing to mind another contemporary Folk artist; Gravenhurst and, like Nick Talbot’s solo project, the man behind Puzzle Muteson is extremely skilled in raising his acoustic-guitar based songs to another level with subtle flourishes of beats and ambience.
En Garde is another essential work from the always interesting Bedroom Community and the music contained within has a commercial element which should see Puzzle Muteson gain many more fans. However this is without a hint of artistic compromise or fame-seeking. Rather, the themes of loss and hope, of despair and nostalgia, can be appreciated by anybody who has loved and has lived.
A new collaborative project from Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and William Trevor Montgomery. Both musicians played together in Tarantel and Moholy-Nagy. Cantu-Ledesma also runs the superb Root Strata label, releasing solo material under his own name (including a recent LP on Type), and also plays in The Alps. Montgomery also releases music under Lazarus, The Drift and Believer.
This project was originally conceived and composed as a soundtrack to an unreleased western. The 14 tracks on this record are beautifully delicate, textured, sparse pieces ranging from slow acoustic reflective moments, to fully electric strumming, they capture the feel a western perfectly. It’s a shame the film never made it out, because judging by the music it would’ve been a beautiful spectacle.
The project was was recorded by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and William Trevor Montgomery and mixed at studio Lamantia, the record was mastered by Greg Davis. The image on the cover is a still from a Paul Clipson film, whose films have previously featured the music of Jefre, Barn Owl, Tarantel, Gregg Kowalsky and Metal Rouge. Sleeve layout by Jefre. Pressed on 140 gram black virgin vinyl. Limited to 500 copies
Quadtych Volume One presents Parts One and Two of Cam Deasʼ colossal Quadtych for 12 string guitar, a four part piece spanning over 70 minutes in total.
Recorded in one evening at Londonʼs Roundhouse in December 2010 by Jack Allett, though over a year and a half since its initial sketches, it is his first composed work for 12 string guitar since the 2009 split tour LP with Spoono/Jack Allett on Blackest Rainbow.
‘Alive’ is the first vinyl outing from Keith Wood’s Hush Arbors since his split 7″ with Jerusalem and the Starbaskets on The Great Pop Supplement back in 2008…
Hush Arbors is the project of Mr Keith Wood, a good friend of Blackest Rainbow, who has also played in Wooden Wand, Six Organs of Admittance, Zodiacs, Sunburned Hand of the Man, and with Thurston Moore. Hush Arbors ever evolving sound pretty much encapsulates everything he does with these other fine projects, but Keith has definitely got his own thing going on with his fine song writing skills, whether its delivered with his beautiful acoustic playing or wild electric shredding.