Graham Reid | | 2 min read
With this second album following the much recommended The Gutter Boy Speculates of 2021, the project of Admiral Drowsy – Luke Scott with assistance from co-producer, drummer, bassist Ryan Chin – becomes even more clear.
And it is rather special in a very unprepossessing way.
First let's note that within what we call “rock” there are many artists and genres who are “in it” but not “of it”.
But they are clearly not rock, if we define that loosely as a music descended from black American idioms like blues, rhythm and blues, folk and even jazz.
Drowsy/Scott is one of those, part of rock culture in that he inhabits a world familiar to those who listen to that broad and inclusive landscape, but is clearly as apart from it as people like Nick Drake, Bill Fay and rotor.
There is a strong Anglo-folk element which grounds this music, but not always as we shall see.
On guitars (electric and acoustic), analog synths and vocals, Scott from Lyttelton creates his own, often mysterious, self-contained worlds which are seductive.
Pieces like Echoes in the Heart and Old Rope have a dream-folk quality and reveal the expressive strength of his vocals which elsewhere can be restrained and sometimes muted.
This new album – available on vinyl in a striking cover -- isn't quite a game of two halves but after the droning, almost medieval sounding, Prophets and Peasants which opens the second side – and seems to incorporate a car alarm at one point – we enter the world of music approaching pop: the beguiling Slumber and Pinnacle, the latter may put you in mind of Syd Barrett if he'd survived, straightened up and reverted back to literate folk-pop.
Pass through Salute the King which follows – distorted medieval folk allusions with retro-synth beats – and we discover the seductive Old Rope and the final song Ventriloquist which opens with what initially suggests country music from the electric guitar but then heads back into his idiosyncratic folk place, again pushing his confident vocals to the fore.
So British-born Scott (with Chin, who is important here) offers something adjacent to folk music but nudges it into art music through the effects of guitar, synth and atmospheres which can make the listener feel like an eavesdropper.
But the standout piece – at least for this writer – is the lengthy atmospheric piece on side one after his solo folk/electric guitar River Hymn.
That gentle opener doesn't suggest what follows on The Great Repeat, a lengthy atmosphere of ambient sound, whispered words, the subtle intrusion of dictaphone and violin from Anita Clark who, as Motte, delivered one of 2022's essential albums Cold + Liquid.
Scott and Clark are fellow travelers in this world of disembodied sounds and – with the saxophone of Reuben Derrick nudging it into an almost free music cacophony at the end – The Great Repeat is a stunning piece of work, a significant advance on similar but shorter moments on that debut album.
The Great Repeat
Elsewhere there's the untethered folk and beautifully dreamy Echoes in the Heart and Wooden Hill, and further atmospherics for the shorter and ominous ON!
It's a pity neither the vinyl nor bandcamp page have lyrics, but part of the enticement of Admiral Drowsy has been the decoding and deciphering.
So here's a second album which confirms Admiral Drowsy as someone “of” rock culture but not “in” it.
He's somewhere else, and it's a place well worth discovering.
You can hear and buy this album at bandcamp here