When you hear the flat, tinny acoustic guitar and the sound of sea birds at the beginning of ‘John Taylor’s Month Away’, you suspect that this is a song that has little to do with the chap with the nice hair who played bass on ‘Rio’ and ‘Save A Prayer’. Which is something of a shame, although less so than the lack of acclaim afforded to King Creosote (a.k.a. Kenny Anderson, a.k.a. Scotland’s hardest working musician) in the dozen or so years which preceded the last.
All that has changed, though. Prolific almost to the point of parody, Anderson finally achieved mainstream endorsement with the inclusion of ‘Diamond Mine’, his collaboration with electronica wizard and sometime Sex and the City sound-tracker Jon Hopkins, on the list of nominees for the 2011 Mercury Music Prize. It didn’t win, of course; but then ambient-folk crossover records about the wonders of Scotland’s east coast rarely do. Never do in fact.
Like an oddly matched couple raising well-adjusted, beautifully-mannered children to the chagrin of their mystified and mutually exclusive groups of friends, the union of Hopkins and Anderson is as fruitful as it is unlikely. On ‘John
Taylor’s Month Away’ (YouTube video below), Anderson’s tentative, if faintly knowing, vocal is bolstered by Hopkins’ slow-burn arrangement, which builds into something quite majestic. Meanwhile, Anderson’s more primitive touches give balance to the precision of Hopkins’ musicianship, adding the contours that the rustic subject matter deserves.
A talent like Hopkins’ cannot be fettered forever though, and this is just as well. As ‘John Taylor’s Month Away’ appears to be petering away into the coastal darkness, Hopkins fades back in on a wave or organ and choral harmonies to remind us that we are oceans away from New Romantic frippery. ‘Girls on Fife’, anyone? Thought not.
Image courtesy of Steve Gullick (http://www.gullickphoto.com/)