Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nature intended the abstract for you and me

I admit I may have become a Green Man Festival bore in the weeks after last summer’s event. I think the rank disappointment of the previous couple of years, when cold, hard and wetter than usual rain conspired to break the music-lovin’ hearts of my accomplished sidekick and me, had rendered the need for third-time-lucky glee more than crucial. The warm 2009 weather and fine fare and, pardon me, cheerful vibes were heart-warming and welcome. I only say this because I note that ‘early bird’ tickets for next summer’s bash are on sale now. I’m tempted. I don’t self-flagellate (too much) at the prospect of returning to work after a long summer break but a late August sojourn to Brecon did wonders for my, ahem, aura last time and I’m keen to ‘flag up’ a potential intention to attend again. My bet for one of the headliners would be the remarkable Midlake who have a new album out reasonably soon and will be touring in 2010. In my dreams, admittedly over-imaginative and fecund, Midlake would headline on the Friday, The Decemberists would proffer a live version of The Hazards of Love on the Saturday and the young prince of popular music, Sufjan Stevens would wow the crowds on the Sunday and send everyone ‘ome ‘appy. It may yet happen.

I hinted at my admiration for young South-West London collective The XX yesterday and would like to doff my virtual titfer at their splendid debut album now. It’s a hushed and breathy recording reminiscent of the Young Marble Giants’ breathy and hushed classic, Colossal Youth, and it often feels that the youthful band have decided to proffer their listenership as few musical layers as possible at any given moment. A delicate bassline, an occasional strum of a gee-tar, a mere dab of a drum, and sparse electronic musings underpin really beautiful songs of love and youthful considerations. The male/female voices permeate proceedings tenderly and volunteer a conversational tone to the songs that certainly appeals. Their self-titled debut, although whispered and minimalist in texture, possesses a swagger and complexity that utterly engages. All the songs are splendid but my favourite is probably Crystalised with its subtle call-and-respond vocals and wry quiet-(fairly)loud-quiet backing sounds that transport me effortlessly back to 1979 or maybe even 1980. Recommended.

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