Wednesday, December 28th, 2005
I made an inquiry back in August about Edinburgh’s Zephyrs, tantalized by a description I’d read somewhere about them being described as “the epic grandeur of Mogwai with the country-rock of Gram Parsons“. I subsequently acquired their second album When the Sky Comes Down It Comes Down on Your Head and was, frankly, a little disappointed that it wasn’t an epic post-rock record featuring pedal steel guitars (though apparently Mogwai have incorporated some of that on their new one Mr Beast…).
I found that When The Sky… sounded like a less-focused, even gentler Mojave 3 (if you can imagine that), a comparison helped out by Rachel Goswell’s contributing vocals to one track. Oddly, if there’s a Mogwai comparison to be made, it’s not in thundering quiet-loud dynamics but in the low-key vocals of Stuart Nicols, whose delivery reminds me of another Stuart – he of the Brathwaite persuasion. So as I said, I was initially disappointed because of unrealistic expectations on my part, but have grown quite fond of its laid-backness and general prettiness – enough to want more. So thanks to ebay I was able to get a copy of their 2005 release Bright Yellow Flowers On A Dark Double Bed in my mailbox just before the holidays arrived.
Two albums on from When The Sky…, the recipe hasn’t changed much, but the presentation has. The production is much drier and has a more “live” sound, which plays down the spacier vibe and plays up the folkiness – there’s even a couple of numbers that could be considered “rocking”, at least relative to the rest of the album. But overall, like its predecessor, it’s mostly quite pretty but a bit of a grower and less sonically interesting. They conventiently provide an easy point of comparison between the two records by including When The Sky’s “Stargazer” as a hidden track, re-recorded in the same style as the rest of the album. I don’t have mp3s of either to post, but their video for the song, circa the original version, is online and really quite beautiful. There’s also a live version “Lacua Head” from their 2003 album A Year To The Day (which I’m in the process of hunting down) that actually does have some of that post-rock vibe I was looking for, and Epitonic has a track from their 2002 EP The Love That Will Guide You Back Home available for download. There’s also a short film documenting the making of Bright Yellow Flowers called “The making of So Called Beau”, which I haven’t watched and thus can’t really comment on. But it’s there.
But yes. The Zephyrs. They’re aptly named – the word means “a light breeze” – but quite nice even if not especially weighty.
The New York Times looks at how the internet has helped out the independent record label.
np – Sarah Harmer / I’m A Mountain