In my defence, the vinyl pressing I bought was a little noisy and this is an album of very quiet music. That is where I run out of excuses though. How this wasn’t in, let alone near the top of, my list of the best releases of 2011, I’ll never know. It wasn’t even in my tidy up post that followed, suggesting that sometimes you just have to wait for brilliant music to click. If enough people are telling you something is excellent, it probably is. A little perseverance is not a bad thing when it comes to matters such as these. Fast forward two years and I can pretty much play the entire thing through in my head without needing the record. When Green Man confirmed this pair for the Sunday of their 2012 festival, I went back to the record – having previously loved the work of both artists individually – and experienced something of a revelation.
Kenny’s fragile but emotionally powerful vocal seemed to lift out of the ambient mire, field recordings now seemed vital in establishing the mood and delicate layers of sound crystallised where once they had blurred. As its artwork implied, it is essentially a traditional folk album which has then been pushed, pulled and polished by Hopkins’ sonic nous. It is one of the very best record I know of for early morning listening. I’m always the first in the office and that pristine and still time is more often than not soundtracked by ‘Diamond Mine’.
‘Bats In The Attic’ is the track to play if you need a quick in. The first touch of the piano several seconds after Kenny’s vocal begins is one of those moments of musical alchemy I like to bang on about. The sense that the song is already playing through a distant transistor radio before it truly starts adds to the delicate reverential air. It is a pretty much perfect song that I could listen to on a loop for a good hour with getting bored. But it’s far from the only moment of magic on this short record. ‘Running On Fumes’ is a gorgeously mournful piece, bedecked with bursts of an engine running and the almost omnipresent buzz of field records which knit the album together. ‘Bubble’ takes the album’s formula and manipulates it subtly, the skittering electronica coming up into the mix in its first half before the gentle wash of more conventional instrumentation returns. ‘Your Own Spell’ feels like a slightly more buoyant late-period Talk Talk, while album closer ‘Your Young Voice’ is centred entirely around Kenny’s endlessly beguiling vocal and slowly fades itself out over the final minute, like it’s delicately creeping out of the room. With an album quite so immaculately delivered, you may well find yourself inviting it quickly back.