David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights – Left By Soft

January 01, 1970

(Merge)

 

www.mergerecords.com

 

Beautifully understated, tinged with psychedelic colors and
harmonies, amplified to rock volume, but relaxed to the point that you might
miss how well it is put together, Left By
Soft
is another milestone in the criminally underappreciated (at least
outside of New Zealand) career of David Kilgour. This is the first full-band
Kilgour album in quite a while, bringing together old hands like Tony De Raad
of the Mad Scene, long-time Heavy Eights bass player Thomas Bell (who also
produced), drummer Taane Tokona  and
Kilgour himself. Left by Soft is a
good deal louder and more rock than The Far Now, but it has the same mystical
shimmer, a sense that more is here than immediately meets the ear.

 

The band is well-worn in, so that they play together
effortlessly, gracefully, a kind of bliss seeping through the chords and drones.
The songs, too, have a comfortable feel, as if they’ve been worked out over
time, as some of them clearly have. For instance, “Way Down Here” reworks a
melodic line that Kilgour has been toying with since A Feather in the Engine in
2000 (and again in Cracks in the Sidewalk two years later). Last year’s collaboration with New Zealand poet Sam Hunt turns up
again in the lyrics to “A Break in the Weather,” and the title to instrumental
closer “Purple Balloon.”

 

Kilgour has a way of wrapping well-structured songs in
clouds and auras of atmosphere, so that their hooks and melodies dawn on you
gradually, rather than slapping you across the face. Yet here, the best-defined
songs – “Diamond Mine” (written with de Raad) and “Steel Arrows” come at you
cleanly, exuberantly, with the full force of ragged pop. Not since “Today Is
Gonna Be Mine” (still Kilgour’s best ever, in my view) have his songs shaken
off their shuffling torpor so well and emerged so bright and definite from the
haze. “Pop Song,” with its tremulous guitar lines, distills the whole travail
of composition into wavery essence, “Did you swallow a bucket of words? /Yeah,
I’ll write you a pop song…today.”

 

Trippy instrumental cuts are, as is often the case with
Kilgour’s albums, a highlight here, beginning with the eastern-tinged, driving
and droning title track, and ending 40 minutes later, with the shadowy
introspections and luminous queries of “Purple Balloon.” It would be easy
enough to zone out on these tracks, since by their nature, they invite a drift
and daydream. Still, just because Kilgour’s music encourages ease doesn’t mean
that the tunes, themselves, are easy. This is just about perfect guitar pop, so
beautifully written and played that you can’t see the difficulty in it.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Diamond Mine,” “Steel Arrows”, “Left by Soft” JENNIFER KELLY

 

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