Monday, December 7, 2009

CD Review: SEAGULL - GOODBYE WEATHER (Two Bright Lakes)

Friday, June 06, 2008 

There is, it seems, no one who writes like Chris Bolton. Despite not printing his lyrics on the sleeve to his debut CD Goodbye Weather, there is a sense of clipped prose and narrative drive to many of the songs therein, and the order in which they sit. With a broad, conversational Australian edge to his gently held phrases, Bolton leads the music to out-of-the-way places. Leading us from meteorological phenomena by the West Gate Bridge (Dust Storm), beneath the 'fading golden light' that haunts album high point and live favourite Not There Yet, via the dawning sun of Joy and the sustained twilight forest sprint of Baby to the closing Sunday morning light of Crow; the version of local reality you're lead through by Bolton and co. is a compulsively realised one. one that moves through time like a camera zoom while keeping the subject in focus.

The cover art of roots descending from the silver sky is a perfect depiction of what to expect from the music; sparse, almost imperceptibly intrusive, permanent and informing all that goes on around you. It's unlikely that Bolton intended it to be read this way, but however you look at it, it's an impressive collection of songs that makes a bold illustration. Despite sounding as though he's just woken up for most of the record, the Jandek-like air of dream-channeling and the gentle control Bolton wields over his voice and it's cracked certainty is impressive. This isn't a voice that grates, implies desperation or is overburdened with emotion, nor does it make him sound like he's pretending to be twice his age. This is the voice of a man buried under autumn leaves and neighbourhood newspapers, battered by advertising campaigns and weather, still clinging to the idea of the world being an almost unbearably beautiful place. Sooner or later people tired of JJJ-ready smoothness will find solace here, as they are already with Bolton's friend Whitley whom he sometimes accompanies. Quite how something so sparse can be almost suffocating must in part be due to the near-invisible production of Nick Huggins and partly due to the way several songs build slowly and gently so that before you know it you're caught up in a slow-motion whirlwind which will often drop away suddenly, leaving you floating. It's amazing how effectively this is rendered; shorn of studio trickery and string sections. Bolton can hit notes sweetly and carry melodies when when he wants to, but, like Dylan, his songs suit a rougher more environment-borne sound and when it guides the transfixing simplicity of a song like Spear or Crow it's hard to come up with a counter argument.

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