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It’s not big, but it is clever and impressively orchestrated. As such, There Is a Mountain ranks as one of the year-so-far’s most recommended under-the-radar releases." BBC

"The most appealing aspect of There Is A Mountain, the exquisite debut record from Common Prayer, is the element of surprise that is layered throughout the album; where the plaintive beauty of one song hardly prepares you for the wildly inventive percussion of the next, and where decades of listening to music scarcely primes you for the fluid blend of heartfelt sincerity and offbeat experimentalism found within these numbers." THE LINE OF BEST FIT

"Endearingly wayward and ragged. Combination of strings and junkyard percussion is bold and effective and its sudden switches of mood are unexpected and exciting." OHM "Given a quick glance or a casual ear There Is A Mountain is ostensibly a pop record; it’s packed full of ear-worm melodies and, with the majority of tracks clocking in at around three minutes, it’s over in little more than a half hour. However, dig a little deeper and you’ll find an album which is fit to burst with ideas; it’s peppered with tricks, ticks and turns of phrase that are as clever as they are effective. There Is A Mountain is an album you’ll love instantly, return to constantly and never tire of." CULTURE DELUX

"Music doesn’t get much more care-free sounding than this." -Rebecca Schiller, NME ["Ten Best Free Downloads This Week" list]

"In the end, what is striking about There Is a Mountain is how fully formed and lush it feels, and how strikingly inventive and brash Russo is when he stretches his arms past the prog and psych that has formed the bulk of his career.... There's never a moment that feels tacked on or hidden underneath banks of haze and fog.... There Is a Mountain is a joy to hear again and again. -Michael Stasiak, Other Music [Read full review from June 7 Downloads of the Week / OM Newsletter]

"Mr. Russo and his helpers have made one of the finest records of the year, hands down. It’s overflowing with character unlike anything else you’re likely to hear, and its slanted and enchanted sound makes my little heart go pitter patter." -Les Enfants Terribles

"Die vielfalt wird in einen riesigen überraschungskeks verbacken, den man stück für stück dem hörer gereicht." ("The album is baked in a huge suprise cookie which one served piece by piece to the listener.") -Das Klienicum (Bavaria)

"There is a Mountain is a charming mishmash of an album, where Brooklyn hipster affectations rub shoulders with old school brit-psyche sensibilities.... Sound collages, a concept oft tacked on to an album during the last 15 minutes of the mixing to imply indie credentials, are used in good taste and seem to take the listener on a journey." -We Heart Music


The Loose Salute

"A collection of big hearted acoustic pop, with impeccable production. Low-key but loveable." CLASH Will Salmon

"10/10!!" 247 MAG

"This is mop-pop of a sturdy stripe, delivered with grown-up resilience." 4/5 The Times

"Lush… perfect… the big time beckons" 4/5 Independent

"Gem. Stripped backm simple yet alluring." 4/5 SUN

"My new favourite band" 5/5 247

"Deliriously summery" 4/5 Maxim

"The aural equivalent of icy coder on a hot day" 8/10 NME

Here is a piece by Paul Lester for the Guardian from a couple of years back.

The background: The Loose Salute's singer-songwriter drummer may live in Cornwall, but his band of folked-up country-rockers are pure Laurel Canyon. Their name comes from a 1970 album by ex-Monkees man Michael Nesmith and they formed when McCutcheon began writing songs while drumming for Mojave 3, the outfit who rose from the ashes of Thames Valley dream-pop doyens Slowdive. With their two female singer-musicians cooing and aahing throughout, they out-harmonise the Magic Numbers, while their mixed-sex lineup and blend of summertime pop and sepulchral ballads marks them out as a slightly rockier Mamas & Papas or a straighter Fleetwood Mac, ie the Mac without their resident studio wizard Lindsey Buckingham. "Basically, we're the sum of the albums in my parents' record collection when I was growing up," says McCutcheon. On a more contemporary tip, like minds include Elliott Smith, the Beachwood Sparks, the Tyde, Wilco, the Shins, Midlake and Dr Dog.

They look as though they just stepped out of Almost Famous, all distressed cowboy hats and dishevelled denim. McCutcheon may be big and burly with a walrus 'tache worthy of David Crosby, but his voice is breathy and sad. Charlotte King is the boggle-eyed Goofy One, dancing manically onstage and playing her melodica like Augustus Pablo never happened. Then there's Lisa Billson, the Stevie Nicks of the piece. McCutcheon discovered her while recording in East London's Fortress Studios - he heard a soft, sensational voice in the studio kitchen singing along to Bob Dylan's Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands, and it was her. The daughter of an opera singer, the English-born American émigrée has done everything from modelling to jamming with Buffalo Springfield's old backing band and recording an album in the studio where Nirvana produced Nevermind. Now she's the joint lead singer with the Loose Salute, a pretty focal point during those lulls in proceedings when the band get a little too jaunty and yee-haw hoe-down for our liking.

They've got some lovely songs, though, enriched by pedal steel, banjo and sax, long, slow, stark, more-chilling-than-chilled ballads like Ship On The Ocean (jointly written by McCutcheon, Billson and Mojave 3 mainman Neil Halstead) that evoke the atmosphere of early-70s Neil Young, only with Joni on vocals. Another winner: the country-rock St Etienne.


Nick Hasted for the Independent wrote this live review from the Boarderline in London:-

The Loose Salute are one of the few country-style UK bands who might leave a real Southern honky-tonk dive alive. Where most alt. country fellow-travellers favour songwriting styles of stark desolation, this band communicate pleasure at the sheer good luck of being alive, through danceable, steel guitar-heavy pop.

Main songwriter Ian McCutcheon, ex-drummer with Mojave 3, is the only member with much previous form, but where his old band had hushed reverence to their sources, The Loose Salute look back to Nineties Brit-country pioneers The Rockingbirds.

The added ingredient that may shoot them to success is singer Lisa Billson. Exuberantly physical and flirtatious, her sultry, low country moan on "Why'd We Fight" grows into a climactic bellow on "Turn the Radio Up". This upcoming single sees Charlotte King enter the action. Whether running on the spot and literally shaking a leg during "Death Club", blowing kisses at the crowd, or singing haunting mermaid notes and tapping xylophone chimes, she is the loosest cannon in The Loose Salute, and a perfect foil to Billson. They interact as if on a great girls' night out, and are clearly excited by their own music, providing bubbling energy on stage, without ever quite losing control.

When McCutcheon steps from the drums to sing the lead himself, there is a contrasting diffidence in his soft voice and manner. But as a counterpoint to the women, this works. Songwriting is new to him, too. But promisingly, a new song not on Tuned to Love is among the night's best. "Karate Chop" is a ballad clear as glass in its pure construction, which Linda Ronstadt would have been begging for back in Laurel Canyon in 1971, when such things were last in vogue. "Ship on the Ocean", too, has the lush craft of an AOR radio favourite.

But it is when The Loose Salute let themselves go that they look like stars. "Through the Stratosphere to the Bars" sees Billson arch her back and half-close her eyes like a country chanteuse, before letting that lung-busting bellow out, as lap-steel guitar notes bend around her. "Nudie", about a soulful stripper, sees the band swirl noisily round its whisky-soaked narrative. The big time beckons


"Caz Mechanic proves that she is as blessed with intelligent beauty. Sweet lyrics and nifty asides all indicate a quirky, if not unique, talent." – 7/10 Drowned In Sound

Caz Mechanic"Caz Mechanic's debut had put the Cornwall based singer in pole position to be the most brilliant new artist of 2008" Bearded Magazine "The skeletal otherness of Banks's voice, which recalls early Cat Power. Caz Mechanic and friends work up a convincing Nico/Velvets drone." –Uncut

"Caz Mechanic has made a confident, uncompromising album on her own terms. An adorable little musical oddity." –Clash

"Caz Mechanic is a musician with not only energy and ideas, with but a vision of how things should look and feel, and this is a refreshing change from the over designed and heavily marketed singer-songwriters at the majors. Caz Mechanic obviously has something unique to say and cares enough to want to say it properly." –4/5 Narc

"Mechanic demonstrates a shimmering pop sensibility to her song writing." –Americana UK

"Caz Mechanic has come up with a stunningly colourful debut set of pop gems. Streaming with ideas and bursting with life this is a record you do not want to miss out on." –4/5 MH Subba Cultcha

"The delightful 'Smells Of Last Night' recalls Halifax's excellent Brian Wilson worshippers Heavy Blinkers, Bank's delicate vocal lulling the listener off on a pillow of dreams." –3/5 Rock n Reel

"Take early Pink Floyd (before Syd left), the softness of Emiliana Torrini, mixed with the experimental pop loveliness of Architecture In Helsinki and you’ve got it. It is music that will engulf you completely, songs like the dreamy folk of Cold Black Eyes, the country-bluegrass tinged Little star, sounding not too dissimilar to Scottish pop gems Belle and Sebastian, are only triumphed over by Cazs disarmingly enchanting vocals. Caz Mechanic demonstrates a shimmering pop sensibility to her song writing." –4/5 MH Subba Cultcha

"If there's any justice out there then her solo alias will soon shine brightly through. After all, ‘Moveover’ is absolutely gorgeous." –8/10 Drowned In Sound

"Caz Mechanic's first release on shiny new label Big Potato and sets the bar high. Dreamy vocals steal the show."Music Week "Caz Mechanic's Move Over enchanting, delicate, dreamy, grandiose, freaky wee ditty. I'm utterly mitten so it can be single of the Fortnight." –5/5 The List


Love In The Mist

"If '08 debut The Problem Of Knowledge hitched itself to the wagon, the follow-up is quintessentially English. Assisted by various Slowdive/ Mojave 3 alumni, Holton's sleepy voice & ramshackle songs ooze a skewed charm that evokes late-'60s pastoral psyck-folk. And the unexpected touches - a rogue trumpet lends Hovis ad poignancy to "Gay Archers" & "Into The Market" - add to a quietly, quirkily brilliant set." 4/5 Nigel Williamson UNCUT

"The dreamy, lo-fi minimalism of 2008’s well received The Problem Of Knowledge is very much back with a vengeance." DROWNED IN SOUND

"A woozy, downbeat, oddly heartening curiosity from songwriter Nick Holton. The name is something The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band might come up with. The album cover looks like a scene from a Victorian harvest festival. This is the second LP by Nick Holton, a far more serious-sounding songwriter than band name and artwork suggests. On In-between Curtains, a mournful violin and trumpet pick up the melody that Holton sings to convey lyrics about lost love, while Go Before You Strip Away My Mind has the whispered vocal style and softly strummed guitar that Leonard Cohen might have used for one of his own songs. The mood lifts now and then - It's About Company is almost chirpy - but mostly Holton, with help from friends such as The Mojave 3's Neil Halstead, specialises in the kind of gentle melancholy that can be comforting, even uplifting." Will Hodgekinson MOJO

"Keeping with the outfit’s 2008 debut, Love In The Mist provides twelve tracks of sleepy folk-rock peppered with mild touches of psychedelically hued haziness. Songs are a relaxed bunch, more likely to engage in heavy-lidded contemplation than upping the tempo. Add to this Holton’s voice, a profoundly limited but warm instrument resembling a less depressed Leonard Cohen or sneer-free young Dylan, and you’ve landed with an album stuck in a perpetual Sunday afternoon after a long night heavy on the ale: defiantly one-dimensional and determined to do its own laid back thing, but also – provided the time is right for enjoying its woozy contents – extremely charming." LINE OF BEST FIT

"The bafflingly-monikered Holton’s Opulent Oog’s penchant for folky psychedelia is allowed loose on record once again, and a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience it is too. While Holton’s ditties would undoubtedly be more suited to a sunny summer picnic, the vocals have a storytelling ability that not many possess and the lyrics to match." THE SKINNY

The Problem of Knowledge

"Holton's Opulent Oog are one of the maverick new English acts released on Big Potato Records. 'The Problem of knowledge' is a beautifully realised album full of bright tunes, dark thoughts, happy days & long nights. The Problem Of Knowledge is minimalistic just above the extreme, built around a violin and Spanish guitar and it absolutely brilliant." –Bearded Magazine

"Holton recorded The Problem Of Knowledge with Ian McCutcheon (Loose Salute, Mojave 3, Slowdive), Simon Rowe (Chapter House, Mojave 3) & Caroline Banks (Caz Mechanic, Seefood) straight on to half inch tape the album keeps a very warm feel throughout. Released in UK in Feburary this year and received well by the press scoring high across the board.... Holton’s Opulent Oog’s sound is all wistful sighs, whisky slugs and brilliance. Reputedly made for just £100, this record is nevertheless worth its weight in gold for those who like their music on downers in the dark. An absolute treat." –9/10 NME

Caz Mechanic"The lyrics are beautiful, the music is lo-fi and perfect and Holton's Opulent Oog have managed to capture my heart." –11/13 Room 13

"The Problem of Knowledge is a subtle, but very alluring record. The core of its sound is dreamy alt-country, mainly based around the dusty, Dylan-like vocals, Spanish guitar and harmonica of the eponymous Holton. But more fundamentally, this is an album that contains classic songwriting pushed many ways." –7/10 Drowned In Sound

"A pretty & understated gem." –Plan B

"Mesmerising, lo-fi, wistful, discreetly witty, intimate, a little melancholic, a little dark, a little playful. The effect of this music is to breate its own cosy space" –3/5 Rock n Reel

"Sounding like something of a tuneful Dylan, Holton's sleepy-eyed vocals act like a cosy duvet to wrap up in. High points are softly moving opener 'Tab', resplendent with melancholic violin and the Grandaddy-like electro-folk of 'Fountain Of Hate.'" –8/10 JG Alternative Ulster

"Perfect Winter listening through its sheer tenderness & sincerity. Guitar picking loveliness. A work of love, unique." –Notion

"The Emphasis on Spanish guitar and violin suggests the band playing Dylan's Desire, while Holton's singing is pure husky Cohen on "Pour It Out". A mostly first-take policy keeps an intimate, ambient feel." –Uncut

"‘Tab’ begins the record in a light hearted Dylan-esque manner with slurred and stylised vocals accompanying a delightful folk tune torn straight from the 60’s revival. Holton's do their best to avoid easy comparisons and each tune showcases another facet from the boy/girl vocal interplay of ‘Hop’ to the electric psychedelia of ‘Fountain Of Hate’. The group do manage to save the best for last with the sublime ‘Pour It Out’, heartbreaking in its simplicity chanting “I don’t understand / I won’t understand” - lyrics that could have been written at virtually any point in the past 500 years." –New Noise Net

"The Problem Of Knowledge is an album filled with reflective, insightful pop songs that flow along gently like a stream in the summer. It actually amazes me that The Problem Of Knowledge could be made so cheaply because it sounds so good." Subba Cultcha "Production is kept to a minimum but the tunes hold their own, fleshed out with skillful guitar and an honest voice." New Noise Net "Tastefully sparse as David Pajo's finest work" Teletext "There’s a lovely shambolic grandeur to these country laments, with the songs bobbing up and down prettily like fishing boats in harbour. I expected something wild, strange and unhinged, but got something far more comfortable and personable; and, in the event, I’m kind of glad about that." –FACT

"The Problem Of Knowledge languidly insinuates itself under your skin. Music to loiter to." –Ruby Palmer TM Online

"Anyone with a sentimental edge will be instantly drawn to Holton's fragile voice and rich imagery." –Bearded Album Review

"With a heart-stopping collection Holton's Opulent Oog are also set to make waves with an alt. country gem The Problem Of Knowledge." –Music Week


"Coley Park are purveyors of jangly indie-pop with a country twang and a psychedelic twist. For this, their third album, they’ve come up with an understated gem, their beguiling naivety on tracks such as ‘Said And Done’ coming across like Nick Drake fronting The Pastels. “We’re so peripheral right now”, they lament on closer ‘Of All Faces’ – if this was a just world they wouldn’t be." –8/10 NME

"Effortlessly cool. Hailing from the dreary Reading suburb with which they share their name, you could be forgiven for a Scooby Doo double take once the music starts. This, the third release from Coley Park, is a surprisingly accomplished collection of effortlessly cool psychedelic country sounds; the listener is merely coaxed in with gentle guitars, occasionally easing their way to make room for a subtle banjo. Opener Hip Hip Hooray is one part lullaby to two parts ho-down, while the soulful Thirsty Dogs recalls a more pop-centric Iron & Wine. The standout, Devils Tree, makes a bold trench run for song of the year. Coming over like a slacker alt-country Dinosaur Jr electing to replace sonic feedback with a warm enveloping layer of pedal steel, the touch is deft. While at points there's a feeling that a few rough edges remain, there's no point in pretending otherwise; this really is a record of understated beauty." –4/5 Garry Thomson, Skinny Mag

"With very little effort, they can turn in the prettily pastoral (Said & Done), the freakily garage-psych (I Never Believed A Word You Said) and just about all points in between." 8/10 Rock'n'Reel "Coley Park boast of melancholic pop potency." –3/5 Q

"Coley Park isn't all about sunshine and happiness though. Ghosts In The Sun bewitches you from the first beat as sorrowful lyrics mesmerizingly embrace a storytelling role that is both unnerving and yet beautiful, accompanied as has come to be expected by Coley Park's peculiarly unique touch which this time takes the form of a wall of distortion that pierces the song. Engagingly captivation, Rhinoceros in unlike anything else you will hear this year." –11/13 Room 13

"Fuzzy, woozy psychedelia, wigged-out banjos, shimmering steal guitar add lashings of hallucinogenic nostalgia." –3/5 Uncut

Caz MechanicQuiet Lanes and Other Stories EP [Released 18/06/07; Big Potato]
"Woo! A proper, four track EP. Haven't seen one of these in ages. It's the weird situation where the artist is ineligible for pretty much every chart going that makes them so wonderful. The inherent pointlessness. The art-for-arts-sake-ness. Of course, it helps when the material is pretty good too. Quiet Lanes starts dramatically before the mellow, hypnotic vocal comes in to ease the tension. It's a beautiful track which is wonderful to lose yourself in. The loveliness continues into Thurston Moore, and in case you were wondering... this sounds absolutely nothing like Sonic Youth. It's a swelling, atmospheric ride on which the listener drifts along, without really being aware of where they are being taken, but loving every second. Sublime. Meadow Song has a more country feel with its plucked guitars and Bright Eyes-esque sound. Much more downbeat than the previous two tracks, this one really changes the mood, and you sense by this point that Coley Park is just playing with your emotions, and the final track in this collection, Tired Disappointed Blue, proves it beyond all doubt. Bleepy, bouncy, and with an infectious Casiotone backing that is sure to get feet tapping, this is the sound of The Beach Boys having their first play with a room full of Moogs. Pure class, just like the rest of the EP." –Twisted Ear


"And the living is easy... As we travail from the wettest June in the history of wetness into a (hopefully) sun-drenched mid-summer, you can but hope that there is still enough of the season's more expected weather to come in order to give Coley Park's debut album the appropriate context, the right environment to be blasted into from windows both car and home. This one of those albums without which, summer never seems quite complete. Whilst Coley Park have been laden with a lot of the current buzz-labels (nu-psych,, even -gasp- indie), you only need to file this record under labels like joyous, uplifting, dreamy, hazy, winsome, soulful, melodic. There are snatches of all the best 60's pop and psychedelic melodies in here, brass/keyboard sections infused with the spirit of 'Soul Rebels' era Dexy's (thankfully rather than Britpop-era Menswear, for example), sparse, lo-fi arrangements in places, but never allowing one of these to dominate. Rhinoceros comes across as a simple record - and that's not to damn it with faint praise - its just uncomplicated, it grabs you right from its opening, and doesn't give you much reason to want to get away. Opener Hip Caz MechanicHip Hooray is a lucky beast indeed, laden with three irresistible hooks in the one song, Sally Cinnanmon-era Roses melodic charm viewed through a skewed hallucinogenic veneer. It's also beautifully out of step with much of what passes as 'modern indie', basically as it has character rather than persona, substance rather than style. Quiet Lanes follows the opening template, light acoustic guitars, picked electrics behind, woozy effects enveloping the far reaches of the mix, but then adds in the brass to move beyond just another haze-fest. I Never Believed A Word You Said opens with the brass and moves us into more driven territory, adding a welcome change of pace - it's never enough to drench your sound in a sleepy ether and hope it carries across ten tracks, and here the beauty and playful joy of that sound is emphasised by these bursts of energy, rather than dragging the whole down into a repetitive mess. Similarly, Always In Love which mixes infectious jangle-pop with a forlorn guitar rasp and keyboard / string line, and Thirsty Dogs with its slower build up, and less treatment on the vocals, shift the dynamic of the record enough to keep it all interesting, keep you focussed. Said And Done initially strips things down even more, with banjo to the fore before being joined by a gentle, evocative flute swimming over the rest of the band, whilst Somewhere Somewhere Somewhere intertwines feedback with acoustic and electric strum. This is taken further with subtle electronics and droning guitars added to the mix on Upon This My Word. If there's a significant mis-step on the record, it comes on Devil's Tree, which runs for nearly six minutes, but doesn't really do enough to warrant being around for that long, which is a shame when you recall shifts and lurches in some of the other, shorter tracks. This doesnt last for too long however, any slumping of shoulders being royally kicked out of you by the country-tinged yet noise punctuated Ghosts In The Sun - the noise just moves it off kilter a bit, whereas many bands would try and make a career out of just the first bit. The summer glares through again towards the end of the album, with Of All Faces being based on a wonderfully sunny guitar melody and rippling, florid rythmn section - its like Magical Spring by Ride with the cheese taken off - and as if to just make sure the point is made, we close with May The Sun Shine On You Kindly, although its nothing more than a instrumental oddity to close, so lets keep Of All Faces as the de facto finale. So yes, its psychedelic, its indie, its country, its all these things, but its more. Its a heady brew, all the elements infused, not colliding against each other, and Rhinoceros ultimately adds to the great British tradition of pop alchemy. Let's hope their powers don't wane anytime soon. –Graham Quinn, Twisted Ear


"Contained within the retro book style of the records artwork the Quiet Lanes EP is a collection of sunny pop songs from the apparently almost hermitic (through spending time writing at home writing these tunes) Coley Park. The EP’s title track is lifted from the album Rhinoceros, to be released next week and it is a delightfully upbeat, bouncing tune, if perhaps a little similar to comparable material.

A delightfully upbeat, bouncing tune Elsewhere on the EP the second song “Thurston Moore” (featuring a guesting from Ian Parton of The Go! Team) follows very much the pattern of its predecessor, in fact almost seeming like a slightly slower version of it; banjo-driven third track “Meadow Song” and final track Tired Disappointed Blue are a little more interesting in sound differing to the first side by hankering more to the instrumentation and production that the light lo-fi/leftfield pop feel and band biog suggests at — the final track even has a more alt-country feel.

Quiet Lanes is in ways fairly average, though Coley Park are releasing this material at a perfect point to carry listening through to the summer itself and so it may pick up a few fans — Rhinocerous, however, will demonstrate the breadth of their ability." –11/13, Philip Hoile, Room 13


"This four track EP from Berkshire band Coley Park is worth buying just for the cover if you ask me. Designed to look like a vintage orange Penguin paper back, it fills you with a nostalgic joie de vivre before you even take the CD (or vinyl – get you!) out – something you just can’t get by downloading an mp3. Ah, for a return to the pre-digital ‘good old days’…

This nostalgia is something that continues with Coley Park’s music, starting with ‘Quiet Lanes’ (taken from the band’s third album Rhinoceros’), a paean to the curiosities of the English countryside where “magic water dries, over quiet country lane, grass spilt either side”. It is a folk rock song, more alt-country than indiepop, but one that would sit happily in either genre, and the addition of some trumpet and Hammond-esque keyboard (that’s Hammond Organ, not Richard Hammond – I have no idea how he plays the keyboard) gives it a summery feel that belies its slightly menacing lyrics.

The eccentric ‘Thurston Moore’ starts with a woozy introduction that sounds like one of those afternoons at primary school when the teacher hands out random instruments to the kids. In a good way. Featuring the Go! Team’s Ian Parton, it is a leisurely folk song where vocals chime slightly discordantly with a perfectly simple recorder line, to wonderfully unsettling results.

On side two of the EP, ‘Meadow Song’ is like a whispered re-telling of ‘We Are Sailing’, while ‘Tired Disappointed Blue’ is another of Coley Park’s slightly off-kilter, lo-fi summertime folk pop moments. The former’s banjo would not be out of place around a campfire and the latter’s breathy vocals turn into a grand indiepop chorus that culminates with an ever so charming impression of a train going “Choo choo choo”. Both songs, like their counterparts on side one, combine the lo-fi exploits of the likes of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Grandaddy and more with an enchanting Englishness that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

"Everyone else seems happy just to head for their final destination, without caring about the stations they pass through," declare Coley Park as one on ‘Tired Disappointed Blue’. If you find yourself passing through Coley Park Station, make sure you take a look around: you won’t be disappointed." –




Q: What do you get if you lock a member each from Slowdive, Seefeel and Holton's Opulent Oog in a room for an indefinite period of time?
A: One of 2013's most ambitiously daring, experimentally sprawling collection of music.
Comprising Neil Halstead (Slowdive, Mojave 3), Mark Van Hoen (Seefeel, Locust) and Nick Holton (Holton's Opulent Oog, Coley Park), Black Hearted Brother represents a collaboration of sorts - supergroup even - that probably isn't quite sure how it ended up here in the first place. Born from years of writing, recording, deliberating, re-recording, remixing and then no doubt starting all over again from scratch, Stars are Our Home is a deftly orchestrated album that bypasses all generic templates for a colossal smorgasbord of diversity. Throughout its 12 pieces, there's a range of sounds, styles and ideas far and above any realm of expectation associated with the project. In the press release, Halstead talks about Stars are Our Home being 'a record that was in some ways unedited', before going on to conclude, 'while not worrying about a particular sound or style, but to just go with the flow'.
And while that only tells a mere fraction of the story, it perfectly illustrates the manner in which Stars are Our Home was constructed. At times, as on the opening title track, there's an organic, almost improvised feel about the record. Barely changing tempo for the entire duration of its six-and-a-half minutes, the opener builds around a motorik beat and repetitive loops. While not that dissimilar in structure to other recent exponents of kraut- inspired psychedelia Eat Lights Become Lights, 'Stars are Our Home' stands out as a sore-thumbed anomaly here. Yet as an introductory piece it guides the way eloquently for what follows.
'(I Didn't Mean To) Wonder', the first track made available from Stars are Our Home offered a mouthwatering, if deceptive preview. Skyscraping guitars collide with pervasive rhythms, all infused by an arresting melody and Halstead's space echoed vocals. It's by far the most accessible tune on the album although anyone expecting a dreamy futuristic pop record in a similar vein will be gobsmacked by the rest of Stars.... 'This Is How It Feels' takes a more refined approach, drifting into M83 mode by way of its electronic backbeat underpinning every twist and turn. 'If I Was Here (To Change Your Mind)' also shows Black Hearted Brother's reflective side, this time courtesy of a simple piano ballad that occasionally dips its toes into more reverb-laden waters at the chorus.
Indeed, it's the unerring level of diversity that makes Stars Are Our Home such an endearing listen. 'Got Your Love' sounds like northern soul had it been crafted in the twenty-first century somewhere between Newquay and New York. Pounding rhythms exchange glances with the occasional post- punk guitar surge. 'UFO' also takes pop through the harsher confines of white noise plated guitar swathes while 'My Baby Just Sailed Away' fills the void between Kraftwerk's functionality and Depeche Mode's elegance.
What's most impressive is that Stars Are Our Home is to all intents and purposes an album full of love songs, unrequited or otherwise. 'Oh Crust' takes an organ-led melody into choppier waters before declaring, "I'm alright cos I believe in you, I'm alright cos I'm in love with you." Although most of the lyrics here are indecipherable, largely due to the heavy effects accentuating the vocals, most of those which can be ascertained seemingly document a similar theme. The closing 'Look Out Here They Come' also falls into the same category, this time in the form of a haunting lullaby not that dissimilar to Ron Grainer's theme to cult television series Tales of the Unexpected.
Overall, Stars Are Our Home is a delightfully mixed bag that does rare justice to the term 'supergroup'. Whether or not Black Hearted Brother wish to be described in such a way is open to debate. However, its three contributors should be proud of their labours.
Black Hearted Brother 8 / 10