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Friday, 9 September 2011

Record Review – H. Hawkline 'The Strange Uses Of Ox Gall'

The Strange Uses Of Ox Gall 
Shape Records

Huw Evans’ second LP, a follow-up to 2010’s equally endearingly lo-fi debut, A Cup Of Salt, is a wholly charming affair from start to finish. And if that doesn’t sound like a compliment then it should. Charming is good. Very good. Unlike its predecessor, this record provides a more song-based sojourn and it is in this respect that it represents, if not a leap ahead, then certainly a confident foot forward. The childlike almost opener, 'Ballast' rides on a wave of sing-song melodies and fairground folk-pop and paves the way for much of what is to come – songs that are simple but never simplistic filtered through snatches of field recordings that somehow manage to make everything seem incredibly personal and affecting. There are, of course, influences at work here, 'Funny Bones' starts off with a nod to Super Furry Animals and ends up swathed in echoes of latter-era Beta Band but, crucially, it never falls into lazy pastiche. It might be because it’s artfully done, it might be because it’s clever, it could even be because it stands as an equal in such company. In fact, such is the quality of this album It’s hard to pick out highlights but, you know, needs must and all that, so here goes… 'You Say You Love Me' is an absolute ear worm of a tune, and one that sounds so heartfelt that it could well have been recorded inside a ribcage. Meanwhile, 'Surf Pound' ebbs and flows with washes of emotion and a gently drifting melody so completely right that listening to it feels like welcoming back an old friend. The vinyl, limited to 150 copies, comes with a free download in the format of your choice and a rather lovely lino-cut print to boot. 

Chuck in a free EP for the first 75 orders and this is looking like an absolute steal. A huge recommendation. Go buy. 
Barney Harsent

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