Having been spellbound by their debut album, there was a definite intrigue as to how its successor would rise to sit alongside if not above its captivating predecessor. Fair to say that Hand Rolled Halo took little time to unveil its own compelling beauty and mesmeric dexterity to answer the question; the album with its matching craft and imagination sitting firmly alongside the first as one essential electric folk/melodic rock adventure.
The Eastern Swell is an electric folk outfit from Edinburgh which emerged in 2014 and inspired a flood of acclaim loaded attention with their debut album, One Day, A Flood two years later. Released as now its successor, through their home city’s great independent label Stereogram Recordings, the album was a tapestry of poetic storytelling and melodic suggestiveness. Hand Rolled Halo offers more of the same yet is as unique in character and enterprise as you could wish for. Recorded and mixed by Pete Harvey at Pumpkinfield Studios and mastered by Reuben Taylor, the album just smokes and simmers on the senses as it seduces ears and imagination from start to finish, Hand Rolled Halo sharing a tempering but welcoming intimacy to any hot lascivious celebration and comforting warmth to every thought haunted, loneliness accompanying cold stark night.
Featuring guest craft from previously mentioned cellist/keyboardist Harvey and trumpeter Al Hamilton alongside the quartet of vocalist Lainie Urquhart, guitarist Chris Reeve, bassist Neil Collman, and drummer Andy Glover, Hand Rolled Halo instantly caresses ears with the melodic touch and intimation of Miles From Home. Intrigue wraps every note, the emerging melody almost sinister in its lure and so enthralling especially as the song slowly but assuredly adds new teases to its invitation. Eventually the smouldering flame of trumpet lights the new warmth coating song and the senses, Urquhart’s siren tones swift seduction as too the darker attitude and tone of Collman’s bass. Still drama soaks every note and movement within the excellent track, even in its livelier swing and twists, allowing the imagination to conjure alone as well as with the personal reflection of a track where the word captivation does no justice to its enthralling hold.
The band’s version of traditional folk song Blackwaterside follows, The Eastern Swell giving it their own gentle but openly imaginative and again beguiling interpretation as heated rock hues merge with the song’s classical heart before The Game brings its adventurous exploits to ears. As with all tracks, the web of individual strands transcends beyond that electric folk tagging they come under; this outstanding instrumental embracing slight but certain dark wave and post punk essences to its suggestion heavy canter to provide a feast for the imagination and senses.
Next up Down Again By Blackwaterside echoes the concept of the dark sad tale shared by the second track, this time though re-imagining the romantic outcome the protagonist in Blackwaterside was expecting rather than the deceit. Again the band treats us to a melodic temptation in voice and sound which chases away the dark a feat its successor, Spindrift, matches but with a shadow draped passage into almost gothic lit introspection. The track is pure charm and again dark intrigue, the band’s music alone as manipulative as it is a platform for the listener to create their own theatre; a richness every song offers up.
From one favourite moment to another as Zeitgeist bounds in with its boisterous waltz. For the main, Hand Rolled Halo has the body gently swaying but here it is urged into full animation as gypsy/jazz and swing irreverence infest the instinctively lively folk heart of the song. Throughout the album the dark strings of the cello transfix and the hot flumes of trumpet incite and here simply throw off any restraints to romp with the feverish appetites escaping the rest of the band.
Through firstly the increasingly infectious and flirtatious serenade of The Scene and lastly the instrumental hinting and pastoral refinement of Dreaming Of St. Jude, the quite magnificent Hand Rolled Halo concludes its temptation and seduction. We called its predecessor spellbinding and no other word truly fits The Eastern Swell’s new adventure either though instantly persuasive and only blossoming in every aspect with every listen, new layers of imagination perpetually unveiled, Hand Rolled Halo borders on alchemy.
Hand Rolled Halo is available now via Stereogram Recordings @ https://stereogramrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/hand-rolled-halo
Pete RingMaster 07/12/2018
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