Modern Studies “Swell To Great” (Song, By Toad Records, 2016)

modern-studiesThe sea surges and froths throughout these songs. They have all of the delicate beauty of an early morning coastal mist, they drift and coalesce or coalesce then drift. Like tidal surges, the asthmatic wheeze of the bellows haunts them like a ghost ship at sea. Above the drones as the mist burns away it reveals beautiful music that leaks out, morsels of chamber pop lovingly orchestrated, swelling like a Sufjan Stevens song on ‘Dive-Bombing’ which is typical of Emily Scott’s vocals, drifting above marshy strings and woodwinds. Then ‘Bold Fisherman’ with male vocals and repeating patterns is more akin to the avant-folk of David Thomas Broughton; with minimal backing its prow barely breaks the waves.

‘The Sea Horizon’ has the feel of the creaking post-rock soundtracks of The Boxhead Ensemble. There’s something different at each turn linked by the maritime theme, either lyrically or with the sea shanty wheeze of the harmonium. There’s the hypnotic repetition of ‘Everybody’s Saying’ which thicken with each cycle, there’s the gentle lagoon of ‘Black Street’ which in a very good way is the exact opposite of ‘The Girl from Ipanema’. ‘Father is a Craftsman’ is a swaying melodic flow. Like Rachels with vocals, it’s a gentle delight, as is the whole record.

Author: David Cowling

Punk rock, Go-Betweens, REM, Replacments, Husker Du, Minutemen, Will Oldham, Smog, Whiskeytown, Ass Ponys but probably most of all Howe Gelb, led me on this journey.

Leave a Reply