James De Malplaquet. Will Calderbank. Mike Sidell. Jim Briffett. Rhys Lovell. It's worth just taking a moment to digest these names since, all things being equal and this being a just and reasonable world, these names will be on your lips for many years to come. They will undoubtedly be household names from Brighton to Bangkok and back via Birmingham, Alabama. That's 'if' this is a just and reasonable world. As it is this is possibly merely a dream since the world is not always that nice a place and The Things That Be don't always equate to what they should be. Damn it. Never mind - come with me on a journey into the land of the Miserable Rich and if you wish it can just be our little secret.
With a little poetic license let us imagine the scene: down Brighton way a selection of bands all sharing various members (the Willkommen Collective for those interested) are doing quite nicely thank you. Certain members gather round one day (possibly in a bar as is the way of these things) and determine to do something different. Not necessarily earth shattering just - different. The script:
"Lets do an indie-pop album"
"Erm...lets not use guitars"
"Erm...lets not use drums"
"Erm...lets not be...electric"
"Lets use violins, upright bass and cello"
"...what...a sort of chamber orchestra...?"
"What, in an indie-pop, singer-songwriter style?"
"erm...go on then, if you like...who's round is it...?"
From such prosaic beginnings extraordinary things grow. And believe me this is an extraordinary record. It is that rare thing - something that you play once from start to finish then play again simply because you need to hear more of it. Then you play it again in its entirety just for the joy of immersing yourself in exemplary song writing, playing and singing - the craft, artistry and beauty of music that grabs you variously by the heart, throat, mind or nether regions depending. This is a thing simple and yet incredibly rich - the double bass anchors the whole in its ponderous tones, the acoustic guitar propels things rhythmically, the cello and violin intertwine over, above and betwixt and between everything else. And then there is James Malplaquet's voice. Believe me this guy's countertenor, bel canto style will send shivers down the spine of the dead and raise hairs on the neck of the most hirsutely challenged. The songs? Well, there are twelve of them (naturally) which are by turns playful, thoughtful, sombre, happy, upbeat, downbeat, philosophical, jovial...and it is impossible to single out a highlight or favourite. There is not one duff track here and every time you play it something new emerges to delight you. One cannot even liken it to anything else so unique is it, nor can one say 'File Under...' because it just won't fit categories or labels.