Reviewed by Jack Derricourt
Owen Davies plays new folk music that promises a catlike flight through clouds. Pop Drone Records brings us the newest release by this articulate artists, the Small Ideas EP. The four tracks are lighthearted and introspective — middle of the road for a petite folk release.
But there are things afoot — oh yes, calculated formulations of song and voice that intrigue and twist as they turn. The tone of the album is dark: hindsight, death, ominous weather; but the meditative quality that proceeds from these concepts provides a playful spin on such heavy matter. “Death comes easy any time,” Davies utters, and death indeed seems to come easily, unleashed from a place of concentrated vocalization, a stage of musical play upon which mortality can gesticulate; it’s a fine thing to watch.
The production is slick, at times almost betraying a TREX vibe — that’d be the beautifully stacked vocal layers at work. The guitar, whether plucked or strummed, is kept very organic sounding, not too manipulated, and it creates a fond contrast between the two main elements of the record. The relative absence of percussion makes the little accents of rhythmic instrumentation that do appear all the more intense to the ear: “91 Twins” is the only fully beat-enshrined track, with electronic snare, bass drum, and shaker providing the soul stuff of the tune. The beat oozes chugging fantasy, and won’t sit still, the song driving on and on like a metronome to sinister tasks and unpleasant premonitions.
The closer, “Dallas,” has a deconstructed folk allure — “Jesus Christ on a motorbike” indeed. The hints of Harry Nilsson embedded in the arrangement were not missed by this reviewer, and were very much appreciated. A lot of the sonics on “Dallas” close up the wildness of the previous three tracks, bringing things to focus on Davies’ delicate guitar and vocal two-punch. To experiment with weirdo accent noises and then go quiet again is a fun way to make an EP. Jolly good.
Owen Davies brings some interesting elements to the ole folk corral. I think you should give his stuff a listen as the snow turns to rain, and the sun comes out somewhere in the middle.
Top Track: “Dallas”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)