ONE WE MISSED: Modern Studies: Swell to Great (Fire)

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The Sea Horizon
ONE WE MISSED: Modern Studies: Swell to Great (Fire)

As a measure of how release schedules mean very little these days, this debut album by this Scottish-cum-Lancashire band came out via bandcamp (and presumably the tiny Toad Records label) in September 2016 and picked up a top 20 best-of-the-year slot in Mojo magazine's annual countback.

It was subsequently reissued by Fire Records late last year . . . and deservedly so, although it arrived when Elsewhere and others were buried in other matters. It went largely unnoticed, again.

There is a gentle, cool late-summer melancholy folk ethos at work here (a malfunctioning harmonium is the key instrument alongside Emily Scott's wistful vocals and cello) and often you feel you might be beside a dark river as the wind blows widdershins.

Or in some drawing room two centuries ago while people tap the table in an adjacent room and old women exchange folk tales of loss, death and young love thwarted.

There are strange half-heard tape loops here too, sometimes a kind of elevating folk-pop (Father is a Craftsman, Ten White Horses), an ancient memory brought into the light and a slightly off-kilter approach (the staggering drums) which puts this somewhere along an axis between Pentangle at half-speed, a folksy Young Marble Giants if brought up in a remote crofter's cottage and ambient music on Brian Eno's Obscure label.

And they cover the old Bold Fisherman which Shirley Collins famously sang (this version on the '15 Shirley Inspired collection).

On the surface this can seem still, but these waters run deep and dark.

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