Shearwater: The Golden Archipelago (Matador)

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Shearwater: God Made Me
Shearwater: The Golden Archipelago (Matador)

The problem as I see it with this sonically fascinating and musically dramatic album is that it lacks a lyric sheet and the poetic words are frequently difficult to distinguish because singer Jonathan Meiburg's vocals are often buried behind those odd instrumentations, or sung in soft high Anglofolk voice which is hard to decipher.

Because of that, I defy anyone coming to this cold to recognise that it is a conceptual piece (the final in their trilogy -- or as the promo sheet has it "the third panel of a triptych"!) about environmental and human impacts on islands.

Gee, who knew those were exiled people from Bikini Atoll whose chant opens this? Or that it introduces a piece about an air raid on an island garrison?

Meiburg (of Austin's Okkervil River) is apparently some kind of ornithological researcher and has camped on remote islands, and so there is no doubting his sincerity. Nor his musical vision because some of this is widescreen and blurs the line between folk and brittle rock-meets-contemporary classical. But I do question his communication skills.

This is dramatic and dynamic music delivered at times with high passion.

But in the absence of the background information my guess is that its (probably) imporant message will go right past you.

Still, it is a beautiful fold-out cover photo -- maybe it would have been a shame to clutter it up with relevant words?

Apparently "the first 10,000 CDs come packaged with a 50-page perfect-bound book of dossier of records, photos, regulations, and images on islands, displaced peoples, immigration records and more". So I guess 10,000 people will know what this is all about. And if they each tell a friend, and they tell another friend . . .

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