Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Lightning In A Twilight Hour “Slow Changes” (Elefant)


He’s back.

My entire teenage and adult life has been soundtracked by the songs of Bobby Wratten, and by and large I’m grateful for the privilege, even though it’s meant being reduced to tears on a few occasions. As we noted back in 2010, this penchant for lachrymosity was reignited on hearing Trembling Blue Stars' album swansong "Fast Trains and Telegraph Wires": “Their final postcard, which we will always treasure: in this household, tears were shed…”

Mind, it subsequently turned out that it wasn’t quite their final postcard, as that particular “Correspondence” turned out to be a fine, final EP in ’11, helmed by a twelve-minute remix of “The Light Outside” from Robert ‘of Loop fame’ Hampson which – as well as making us think back with a smile to the Field Mice’s live “Burning World” cover on a now-wizened Waaah! flexidisc – ranks up there with the general greatness of either Robert’s rather formidable back catalogues.

That, it seemed for four long years, was that. But then, as both rain and leaves cascaded late last year, a taster mp3 single from Bobby’s latest outfit, Lightning In A Twilight Hour, emerged from beyond the Pyrenees courtesy of our old friends at Elefant. “The Memory Museum” was a somewhat meta affair, being a rumination on treading old ground that sounded remarkably like the sound of treading old ground, albeit completely redeemed by its “Dark Eyes”-ish beauty and by the wonderful, instantly recognisable roaming basslines of ex-Field Mouse Michael Hiscock.

But it’s “Slow Changes” that sees Lightning In A Twilight Hour transition to a full vinyl release. “Everyone Talks About The Weather”, the first track on this 10” EP, seems to pick up a little where “Memory Museum” left off: graced again by Beth Arzy’s vocals, it’s pristine and glistening, if unremarkable by Bobby’s own high standards. Yet after that, “Slow Changes” bucks up immensely.

The welcome echoes of the Field Mice don't end with Michael’s familiar roving basslines: those who recall the somewhat direct but spot-on social observation of "This Love Is Not Wrong" or "Song Six", and *really* missed it when Bobby was maxing out, post-“Her Handwriting”, on lilting lovelorn laments instead, will welcome both "The Death Of Silence" - a typically spot-on tirade pleading, essentially, for people to just shut the fuck up - and "Ancient Fiction", a positively incandescent rumination on the privilege awarded to organised religion in everyday discourse, which is just as sincere as (and a sort of politely post-indiepop companion to) Anti-Cimex's "Game Of The Arseholes". As Bobby coos “we are born unbelievers / then led astray” there’s a real underlying fire and venom, even amongst the neat, geometric lines of the Wake-ish guitar mesh that surrounds it (fellow children of the 80s: it’s as least as much a Factory record as a Sarah one, if you like). And that’s side one of the EP.

Even better is that LIATH, as absolutely nobody is calling them, throw you off the scent completely on side two, going for a kind of “slow wave sleep”, as Cortechs once had it. In place of the earlier joys of Bobby channeling his righteous anger, we get Bobby indulging his experimental side as the fractured samples of "Interference" take great delight in being Not What The Punters Want: but that’s fine by us, not least as we so cherished the ambient & field-recorded elements of the last LP, especially "Grey Silk Storm" and "Radioactive Decay". The set then tapers off elegantly and gradually with a series of variations on a (strictly tonal) theme. Which aligns with our current obsession with Surgeon’s recent Basictonal-remake re-release, and the Mick Harris remix in particular, but that’s a different story.

Returning to the current story, the best tidings of all may be that this is only the start of it: as most of you already know, it appears that a proper long-player from the Twilighters is imminent. It would be fair to say that, after corralling this EP, we’re really rather looking forward to it.

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