|CD REVIEW Gravenhurst|
Band : Gravenhurst
Although Gravenhurst has performed as an actual band including several members (and longtime drummer Dave Collingwood – whom left the live band in 2008 – also contributed significantly to the production side of recordings), it is in essence the musical solo vehicle of Bristol (UK) based British singer-songwriter, record producer and multu-instrumentalist Nick Talbot. He is also involved in Bronnt Industries Kapital alongside Guy Bartell, which the duo self-describe as being a “Victorian Clockworktronica” ensemble. In the year 2000 the two set up the Silent Age Records label, a co-operative which helped gain exposure to such artists as SJ Esau (move on to Anticon), War Against Sleep (now on the UK branch of Fire Records), Mole Harness (now with Stray Dog Army), and Exercise One.
Silent Age was also the first place where Talbot issued the first Gravenhurst releases (the Gas Mask Days EP and Internal Travels full-length) before moving on to Sink & Stove Records, whom released the 2003 full-length Flashlight Seasons...and eventually to Warp Records, where Gravenhurst has remained since. First work by Warp, was to re-issue Flashlight Seasons (on both CD and LP) for broader distribution. Followed 2004's Black Holes In The Sand EP, and the full-lengths Fires In Distant Buildings (2005), The Western Lands (2007) and eventually the current album...as well as a couple of 7-inch singles culled from the albums. Talbot also contributed Gravenhurst songs to soundtracks and compilations, some of which exclusive tracks (see Gravenhurst's Wikipedia page for more details).
Having found a suitable description of Gravenhurst's music on their own website (http://) gravenhurst.com, I felt it easy for me to work on...so here it is: “...a world created by sound and language, ever-changing and conjured from disparate ingredients. Noticeable is the melodic noise of My Bloody Valentine, the lush vocal harmonies of Simon and Garfunkel, and the influence of a diverse range of guitarists including fingerpickers Bert Jansch and Richard Thompson (Talbot rarely uses a pick)...”, but apparently what set Talbot originally onto creating his own music, was the discovery of the music of The Smiths, and he still is a Morrisey fan to this date, with Johnny Marr (The Smiths) his all-time favorite guitarist. Although Gravenhurst music has gone through subtle changes throughout the years, the info sheet I got along with the (download) promo copy of this album also mentions that Talbot's music has stabilized somewhat during the last couple of years.
Now, it so happens, that I recently found myself a copy of Gravenhurst's first release on Warp with 2004's EP Black Holes In The Sand (which nevertheless contains 6 tracks – including a version of Hüsker Dü's “Diane” - for a total playing time of 31 ½ minutes...not bad for an EP when you consider that some artists fill a “full-ength” with less material), and I can therefore confirm the evolution in Gravenhurst music. For, you see, in the beginning the music was apparently about guitar only. With the acoustic as a constant, electric guitar was added in the Shoegazer style, and due to Talbot's frail (yet very clear and so still strong) vocals, those heavier moments indeed induced the My Bloody Valentine reminiscence (even if there were no female vocals at all). In the calmer moments, the vocals stylings (with additional harmonies) also induce that typical Simon and Garfunkel sound, and underneath the guitars (mainly the acoustic one) have a nice complexity which seems simple enough thanks to hypnotic repeat and variation-on-variation style meanderings.
All of those elements still exist today, but there's an additional infusion of mostly Ambient keyboard soundscapes, which take on a more prominent form in a couple of songs as well (for instance, the sweetly soft song “Islands” has no guitar in it at all...and it is also the only track on the album in which drums – or drum machine – can be found...the short instrumental “Carousel” however, is completely done by keyboards/ synths, I guess). On the opposite side of that, instrumental “The Foundry” is created with a sole acoustic guitar, as is the album closing song “Three Fires”. Although my favourite songs on the album are the two opening ones (and particularly the second one, “The Prize”, with its crescendo before the ending), the other songs contain enough nice intricacies to keep my attention bound throughout several listening sessions (and beyond – due to several causes this review is now 3 weeks overdue...so I was able to give the album quite a few extra listening sessions, and me loving it every time again).
I have found no full-length tracks off the new album available on either Gravenhurst's own website, or their facebook or MySpace pages, but there's enough videos on the first and audio files on the others, to get you acquainted with the music. If you're adamant on hearing music off the new album, check out the 30-second samples usually provided by your trusted online sales websites...or go check whether your local record store holds the album, but be warned that you're probably gonna end up buying the darn beautiful thing!