Fraser McGowan’s follow-up to Against A Simple Wooden Cross, sees him, for the most part lightening up considerably. It’s still recognisably him in sound, though slightly less lo-fi than before. Opening with the very ambient Riverside House, full of cascading water and a serene, droning keyboard, it’s really from the second track on that the album takes flight. The first of several tracks featuring McGowan’s vocals, Gentle Dawn is in exquisite, shimmering crawl. Forever Children is more fully realised again, with a strong undisguised melody reminiscent of REM circa Automatic for the People or Mark Lanegan’s earlier, folky solo material. Later, the piano-led Within Seconds You Were Gone harks back to his work with previous band Small Town Boredom, while Up There In The Briggs has an almost anthemic quality to it.
He hasn’t ignored the instrumental side of his work and it is here that McGown’s brittle, elusive music really shines. I Will Always Let You Down hides a jaw droppingly beautiful guitar line with static, along the lines of some of Dakota Suite’s guitar-oriented material. Elsewhere there is more ambient material in the shape of Overwintering and the blissful instrumental With The Permission of the Oil Burners. The mood darkens considerably on final track My Thoughts They Turn To Dying Again. Introduced by a heart-stoppingly bleak voiceover, the keyboard led piece ends the album on a gloriously sombre note.
Overall the album is less cohesive than Against A Simple Wooden Cross, more of a collection of songs than a unified piece. But a bit of a journey nonetheless and an enticing starting point for newcomers. It’s available through their bandcamp here and you can read our recent interview with Fraser as he talks us through the album, here.