The Rising of the Lights is a record that feels exceptionally English – if someone said it was some hitherto unreleased Canterbury Scene opus, or some obscure Matching Mole side project, I’d likely not arch an eyebrow. It’s a record that’s indebted massively to Drake‘s tenure in Cardiacs, though a great deal less acerbic and more light and whimsical. there’s baroque flourishes, sarcastic/drunken lounge jazz sections, perhaps even a smidge of an oompah band thumbing lifts in the home counties
The first two tracks particularly shimmer in a Cardiac shadow – all rinky-dink piano and baffling time signatures. And there’s generally a real sense of quite a broad soup of influences on the music – there’s baroque flourishes, sarcastic/drunken lounge jazz sections, perhaps even a smidge of an oompah band thumbing lifts in the home counties. The lyrics too cover a fairly peculiar set of subjects – like sets of characters from childhood book, vicars and dragons pop up, puns about cups of tea (“he he he”). Unfortunately, I’ve never had a very strong stomach for this sort of thing – the word ‘whimsy’ makes me cringe, and I get convulsions when a record is described as ‘surreal’ (as Drake’s press release does) There’s really nothing wrong with this record. It’s a lush recording, a lovely set of instruments all played tremendously well (I was particularly impressed with the clarinet’s tone, while wearing my jazz hat), a smart set of arrangements and some clearly well thought out, earnest but not cloying lyrics – I’ve just personally never got the hang of this sort of kitsch Victorian sort of view of England, all peculiar gnomes, eccentrics with curious maladies, tea sets and faint dismay. This record doesn’t really offend me, it’s just not (drumroll) my cup of tea.
The only serious criticism I would level at it is that the hurdy-gurdy could be higher in the mix, which is flotsam as far as criticisms go. clearly has the sort of intimacy with his piano that only gynaecologists could sympathise with I do feel bad for saying that though – I think this is definitely a record for fans of anything in the British psych vein – whether it’s early Pink Floyd (though this is far less druggy), Canterbury Scene, Robert Wyatt, Cardiacs…or any songwriting which is complex without being showy.
Drake is quite the arranger, and clearly has the sort of intimacy with his piano that only gynaecologists could sympathise with. Mixing a sort of p-funk/hip-hop thing with baroque-esque piano lines (as on song in the key of concrete) is quite the feat. And while the playing is top-notch, there’s nary an ego in sight. Not a record for me then, but definitely one for those who’ve a taste for whimsy and smart arrangements. -Kev Nickells-