Robert Scott – Ends Run Together

January 01, 1970

(Flying Nun)


The beef on Robert Scott – and indeed on his long-running
band, the Bats – is that the sound never changes. Even if you enjoy the
propulsive jangle of “North by North” or “Block of WooD,” the canard goes,
there’s no reason to pick up the new one. It’ll just be more of the same
exquisitely droning, carefully modulated guitar pop. This argument has always
seemed like ADD-addled analysis to me. If you listen carefully, it’s easy
enough to pick out subtle changes in the sound, and anyway, people who value
gimmicks over quality deserve what they get.


But in any case, Ends
Run Together
, Scott’s third solo album, is a surprisingly varied document,
putting college rock jangle, next to wistful folk rock, next to driving guitar
psychedelia, next to open-ended instrumental experiments. It’s also quite good,
end to end, emotionally resonant without being weepy, well-constructed without
sacrificing a certain slapdash charm.


Scott’s band is comfortable in all these sounds, perhaps
because they’re comfortable together. He’s brought in long-time Flying Nun
string player Alan Starrett, as well as the rhythm section from Dunedin’s Onanon, Don
Ferns and Ants Anema. Two singers from Haunted Love, another New Zealand
stalwart, add soft harmonies and counterparts. That’s Geva Downey and Rainy
McMaster. David Kilgour – Scott’s been a member of the Clean since the late
1970s – adds his distinctive, psychedelic guitars-splintering-into-rainbows
effect to “Too Early.” Although Anema does most of the drumming, Lesley Paris
of Look Blue, Go Purple, sits in on a couple of the tracks. And Scott himself
plays a whole pawn shop’s worth of instruments – guitar, bass, keyboards and
even xylophone. The effect is comfortable, low-key and effortless, even as the
musicians explore widely varying kinds of sounds.


You might find yourself gravitating first to the most
propulsive rockers. “Daylight,” the single, shimmers with a Neu!-ish
hyper-reality, its kraut-repetitive group glittering with psychedelic
overtones, but moving relentlessly forward all the same. Opener “On the Lake”
is classic early 1990s Bats jangle, though shot through with a ruminative
melancholy. “Nowhere to go back to/and it ends too soon,” keens Scott in his
shadowy tenor, a wistful observation on impermanence and the passage of time. “Too
Early,” one of the disc’s best tracks, pummels with drums, screams with
distorted guitars, yet remains dreamily untethered, its layered and interleaved
sounds shimmering like a slick of oil on a puddle.


A good half the album, though, comprises slower, sparer
songs, which highlight the folky, pensive side of Scott’s songwriting. “Carmilla”
is a whisper turned translucently melodic, its verses hesitant and framed by
picked guitar. “Days Run Together,” finds mystery and mantra in the everyday,
its chorus “Days run together/is there an end in sight?/ends run together/and
they create the light” pierced with eerie dulcimer tones.


You get the sense of Scott paring back, of gradually
subtracting elements until he comes to the pith of what he intends. The last
two songs go so far as to mostly eliminate vocals, “Tuscan Nights” sticking to
piano and electronic keyboards, “Terminus” slipping even further into Max
Richter-ish lyricism, with just a mutter of poetry over its piano and
electronics to link it to any kind of pop tradition. They’re both lovely in
unexpected ways — and should for once and all put to rest the idea that Robert
Scott has only one thing to say.


Run Together,” “Too Early” JENNIFER

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