Wednesday, 12 February 2014
reviews: Dear Reader, Paper Beat Scissors, Patterns
Dear Reader - We Followed Every Sound (***)
Revisiting recent concept album Rivonia with the help of the Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg orchestra, We Followed Every Sound highlights much of what made its parent LP – a kind of South African Let England Shake in which Dear Reader’s Cherilyn MacNeil surveyed her hometown of Johannesburg through a lens both personal and political – so ambitious and rewarding. But beyond applying symphonic depth to Rivonia’s already handsome instrumentation, the appeal of these live recordings is somewhat limited.
The gig itself may well have been a night to remember, but replayed at home We Followed... lacks its studio-recorded forebear’s thematic coherence and precise structure, with the inclusion of (lesser) material from earlier Dear Reader albums arguably diluting the effect. Nonetheless, look past the muddy raison d’etre and the album’s elegant musicianship sells it, with the Film Orchestra’s flourishes enhancing the material’s latent drama. In all, a pleasant postscript, if not quite a stand-alone success.
Paper Beat Scissors - Paper Beat Scissors (***)
Released back in March 2012 in his adopted home of Canada, Burnley-born songwriter Tim Crabtree belatedly brings his debut album as Paper Beat Scissors to the UK. It introduces a performer of not insignificant talent, with an expressive vocal style as comfortable at whisper level as it is raised, raspy and raw, and a solid line in pensive balladry to set it to. Musically, too, there’s plenty to admire, with Crabtree and his esteemed Canuck collaborators (including members of The Luyas and Bell Orchestre) squarely hitting their marks with a collectedly delicate touch.
The trouble is, there’s no shortage of acts trading in precisely the same stock, and Paper Beat Scissors lacks the spark necessary to turn its chilly pleasantness into something with more pronounced powers of attraction. Nevertheless, enough tracks come close (see: the eyes-closed tremors of Folds; the horn-infused crawl of Once) that interest in its 2014 follow-up is suitably piqued.
Patterns - Waking Lines (***)
From the opening echoes of This Haze onwards, Waking Lines sounds impressively lush and layered – not bad when you consider Patterns eschewed studio time to record it themselves at home. As well as demonstrating their sonic resourcefulness and nuanced grasp of dream-pop dynamics – all swirling vocals, twinkling guitars, atmospheric samples and so forth – the Manchester quartet’s debut evidences clear songwriting talents, with an anthemic edge giving definition to tracks like Blood.
But if ‘pattern’ is another way of saying ‘repeated decoration,' then the Manchester quartet live up to their name a little too well. With a relatively narrow selection of tricks at their disposal, a sense of déjà vu enters somewhere in the second half – a hazy sameness that initially augments the pretty, diaphanous dreaminess, but which over repeated listens diminishes the album’s magnetism. Not quite scaling the heavens then, but for a first stab they’ve come admirably close.