Bannerman: Clawhammer (bannerman.com)

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Bannerman: Echoes
Bannerman: Clawhammer (bannerman.com)

As in most countries, New Zealand musicians can usually be placed in a genre or style.

Not so Richard Setford who is Bannerman. His two previous albums (considered "outstanding" at Elsewhere) were so musically diverse you would be unwise to attempt any kind of labelling.

And in places they sounded nothing like his EPs.

It is an impressive back-catalogue and now Bannerman is being billed as a band because for this one he has used the same musicians he has toured with, and there is certainly a group ethic at work.

But you cannot escape Setford's dark and assured vocal style -- I'm the Wrong Man an immediate standout for its coiled sense of menace and unease -- and the increasingly dense and strident five minutes-plus Echoes which follows has an epic, widescreen quality as it pounds on. It also poses the great existantial question: "Imagine if I had never been born, this man's story had never uncoiled . . ."

Stunners, and Setford does deal with The Big Questions sometimes.

In other places however they adopt a more restrained but equally effective approach where the piano and strings (as on Andromeda) convey gravitas.

Setford -- like Nick Cave, Johnny Cash and others -- also understands the dark side of country music and here Buffalo Town nods in that direction: "I'll get out of this buffalo town if the drink don't come and drag me down."

This also rocks out in its own way -- the brittle Why Live in the City? --  but it is when he he/they aim for the low, shadowlands (the long and quietly magnificent ballad/title track) where Bannerman make you realise once again that not only can he/they not be easily pushed into a box, but that sense of the unexpected is exactly what gets you in . . . and keeps you there.

A tip if you go to the download for a listen: Start with the final track Don't Go to Sleep, Don't Ever Dream and you will hear an unspoken backstory of a relationship and family matters told in spare imagery, images and . . .

When this album isn't song-noir it is luminescent.

Rare stuff. 

For more on Bannerman's previous releases and Setford answering the Famous Elsewhere Questionnaire see here.  The album is available as a download here.

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Jamie Macphail - Jul 17, 2013

"When this album isn't song-noir it is luminescent" ... mate, that is the best line in a review I HAVE EVER READ!" Inspired.

I shall go online and buy this album on the strength of that line alone!

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