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the night is advancing
Appendix Out
The Night is Advancing
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At first glance, something rubbed me wrong about this album. Maybe it was the abstract sea-fan imagery of the cover art. Maybe it was the photo of the band on the inside, which screeched "earnest angry young men doing whiny rock". Whatever my problem was, I immediately set those preconceptions aside with the opening track, "A Path to Our Beds". Instead of yet another grunge-fed bawl-fest, this Glasgow trio explores thoughtful folk with a pensive lyricism. Gentle guitar arpeggios underpin Ali Roberts' (Songs: Ohia) tenor. When the lyrics give way to intertwining guitar melodies, the effect is utterly peaceful -- a sense which is heightened as a keyboard's bass comes forward enough to give the track an enveloping dunk into deep water. This delight is followed by the more energetic "The Seven Widows (The Sprigs of Night)", which through Tom Crossley's (The Pastels, International Airport) drums picks up more momentum, propelling the song speedily through its two minutes.

Oftentimes an album's worth of folk music becomes repetitious, with the variations between songs relying on minutia. Thankfully, Appendix Out avoids this trap. Compare, for example, the pop delicacy of "Cyclone's Vernal Retreat", which explores the same harmonies that made Crosby, Stills, and Nash stars, with the deeply mournful guitar and piano of "The Groves of Lebanon". Whereas "Cyclone" speaks of hope and sun just over the horizon, "Lebanon" is a portrait of solitude and the slow crawl towards despair. By providing these variations, the trio (which is rounded out by Gareth Eggle) makes each song distinct. The dulcimer that crops up in "Golden Tablets of the Sun" and "Hexen in the Anticyclone" is a particular treat, providing the tracks with a traditional, Old-Timey sound for which I'm a complete sucker. Another noteworthy track is "Year Waxing, Year Waning", which builds around a heart-beat bass drum. The call and response between Roberts and his mates gives the song a working-man feel, which builds as the intensity of the music increases.

Throughout all of this, the band remains consistent in its song-writing by using strong melodies and unusual arrangements. Thanks to the added bonus of Robert's strong vocals, the trio managed not only to clear away my initial prejudices, but to make me feel very bad about developing them in the first place. The Night is Advancing is a very touching album, with enough haunting moments that I know I'll return to it long after I finish this review.

-- Ron Davies
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