Indie Britannia Undergrowth

Crayola Lectern says

I must be careful as I have no interest in being a music critic but very occasionally I feel compelled to rejoice in certain records with a fervour, bordering on the evangelical, making me look to an outsider like a born-again, out to convert yet this is not for my secured place in the after-life, my salvation having already been achieved here on Earth, holding this thing in my hands.

This thing here in my hands is The Rising of the Lights, William D. Drake’s new album. The month of May has been a perfect time to ‘release’, it being the period in the calendar when flowers bloom and new life prospers. In fact, as I see it, William D. Drake has not released an album at all, rather he has had a baby. Lovingly written and played by all concerned, replete with all the joys and woes a life can muster, generous in so many ways, from the wealth of ideas to the tickling of the listener’s brain’s pleasure receptors, the enchantments, through to the packaging. It feels like a beautiful gift, lovingly wrapped and full of magic.

If artists, as are sometimes claimed, are mere vessels who capture the ghosts and vibrations from the ether, then the ether surrounding William D. Drake’s being must be supercharged with possibilities and great emotional depth, never overbearing, rather enticing, mesmerizing, leading me up the garden path to a place where the ornamental hermits and great adventurers dwell, alongside those other rare outsiders like William D. Drake himself who have the ability to write hugely accessible songs, but which still retain their intrinsic mystery, without cultivating a beard to prove the point (no slight intended, my dear beardy friends).

The “outsiderness,” I refer to is borne of a strong personal sense, unfettered by fashionable dictates, yet always looking forward, combining the old and new, a celebration of life, “overflowing with joy and with pain” without making a meal of it. It happens naturally, crafting out of Love’s own materials, he plays the notes he plays because it is coming from an inner place and to give it out to all us philistines is just plain kind of him. It’s a kindness he shares with Robert Wyatt – perhaps he over-estimates his potential audience due to a generosity of spirit which many lack.

The songs then, in a nutshell? Well, we have the playfulness of Super Altar, Ant Trees, Wholly Holey, Ziegler, Song In The Key Of Concrete – so unfair to lump them in together under such a trite heading, needless to say the playfulness is a mere foil for the wealth of ideas each of these songs possess. The gentle reassurances and soothings of Me Fish Bring, Laburnum and In An Ideal World, the gloriously exciting Mastodon with it’s amusing little lyrical moment, title track, The Rising Of The Lights whose luminescent bacteria stir from their dormancy with a seductive menace in preparation for an attack on the nervous system, full of mystery and danger and then there’s show-stopper, Homesweet Homestead Hideaway, which as the wonderful song subsides after the invocation, hypnotizes us to “go with the the flow” into dream, taking us together along tributaries and into a wide expanse where our souls let fly and there’s something of the end of a great Western to all this as the end credits roll and looking back over my shoulder I become aware how vast an inroad this album has made into my own subconscious.

That such redemption can be extricated from a circular piece of metal alloy will never cease to amaze me.

One response

  1. William D. Drake – Rising of the lights (Onomatopoeia Records)

    Here’s what I know about William D. Drake. He used to be in English band Cardiacs. He’s obviously interested in English folk and medieval music – I have a hunch he enjoys silent film soundtracks too. His music is playful and quite surreal, but not at the expense of passion and energy. The instrumental track Ziegler starts like a Buster Keaton chase sequence (with twirling clarinet) before becoming very like the theme tune to (the fondly remembered Irish children’s tv programme) Wanderly Wagon. He’s a fantastic piano player, who sounds like he’d be right at home with jazz, classical, traditional or any other genre you’d like to throw at him. The song Ornamental hermit concerns the (presumably discontinued, although you never know) practice of wealthy English families keeping a hermit on their grounds. The title of the album refers to a disease found in 18th century London. Super altar is a medieval harpsichord melody glued together with a post-punk organ solo. On the other hand, In an ideal world is a plainly beautiful piano ballad. Overall, the album is warm, funny and hard to pin down. Not to worry, because above all it’s get-under-your-skin pop music. Learn to love it like a warm memory.

    June 13, 2011 at 11:00

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