First Look: New Gravenhurst LP

 

 

 

The Ghost in Daylight, out this week on the Warp label, is “folk music going into unknown territory,
braving dangers, making new footprints, and, in the process, changing into
something else entirely.”

By Jennifer Kelly

Nick Talbot of Gravenhurst
inhabits the forward-looking edge of folk-based music, moving its misty modal
chord progressions into the now and even past it, into the future. His delicate
melodies are surrounded with space-age drone and hiss. His lyrics are elliptical and mysterious, hinting not at some runic
past, but at becoming. It makes sense, then, the Talbot reveres Flying Saucer
Attack as much as Fairport Convention, that he pursues a hushed feedback as
much as latticed picking.

 

The Ghost in the Daylight (Warp) is a quieter, more overtly folky
album than 2007’s Western Lands. There
is no obvious focal point – nothing like gorgeous, pick-clawed “Trust” from the
previous album – only a series of acoustic songs that flare gently from rueful
nostalgia to sudden melancholy. “The Prize,” the album’s first single, builds
the subtlest kind of momentum in its close-harmonized chorus, an unsweep of
interlocking vocals that is only partly moderated by its message, that “the
ties that bind us blind us to the emptiness
of the prize.” The cut is delicate, spare and moving, a folky ephemera right up
to the end, when the future breaks in with howling, descanting guitar feedback
and billows of stringed instruments.

 

Talbot says that he was heavily
influenced by Brian Eno for The Ghost in
Daylight
, and two longer tracks splice ambient atmospheres with Nick
Drake-ish folk. “Fitzrovia,” near its end, frames a shifting wash of tones and
echoes with the warmth and friction of guitar chords, a folk song hurtling
through interplanetary space. “Islands,” by contrast, begins in an electronic
mode, with a programmed beat, a hum of synthesizer and a wavery melody of organ
notes. Denatured voices whisper and recede into these textures. The song works
without narrative or even very defined melodic structure, a sort of journey
through imagined, synthetic landscapes.

 

Even at his most accessible –
pretty, glowingly picked “In Miniature,” moody “Three Fires” – Talbot injects a
certain amount of mystery into his songs, a melancholy indefiniteness that
defines mood but leaves subject matter open to interpretation. His imagery
comes from daily modern life – a television, an armchair, a deceased father
figure prominently in “Three Fires” – yet takes on the symbolic qualities of a
vivid dream.  His voice, soft, cool and
surrounded with echo, brushes past the day-to-day into places that can only be
imagined. “The Foundry,” the most beautiful of these songs, piles violent
picture on violent picture — wolves chasing a white hare, burning books and
bodies, guns – against a music of almost surreal serenity.  This is folk music going into unknown territory,
braving dangers, making new footprints, and, in the process, changing into
something else entirely.

 

 

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