"It just goes to show you shouldn't judge a promo by its cover eh? Look out for more triteness on my behalf later. But do make an attempt to listen to this "
Daniel Agust – Swallowed a Star (Bertus/One Little Indian)
Okay I put off listening to this for one simple reason. The cover art is dreadfully vain. And I hate vain cover art. Dear me, how vain can you get on my behalf eh? But the promo photo shows a good looking Latin type wearing a hair shirt and holding a wooden chair (or something like a chair; the arty black and white photography meant that I couldn't make it out properly). Anyway the LP crowned this by calling itself Swallowed a Star. A dreadful title, full of faux naivete and false modesty which instantly made me think of Victoria Beckham's automatobiography; Learning to Fly.
Unfair I know, but these things do stick in the craw. However, being bored and in an attempt to delay listening to (and consequently reviewing the Camera Obscura record) I stuck it on. And was amazed by its brilliance and its strangeness.
Enough! To the business in hand!
Someone Swallowed a Star is a gothic lament, accompanied by cellos and a quite chilling vocal delivery not a million miles away from Marc Almond. Not what you'd expect at all. The Moss sounds like its title, it creeps around in a very undemonstrative way despite a refrain involving hand-clap percussion and a muted backing choir. Nobody Else begins with bells tolling. The ubiquitous cello strikes up a chord, introducing in turn an echo-laden voice, seemingly singing from atop an underground train. The cellos return for a quiet middle section, then noises of the street slowly weave themselves into the fabric of the music.
You get the picture. The rest of the LP is cut from the same cloth, The Gray is a beautiful restrained lament, and The Stingray sounds mouldy and damp as if its been recorded in a sewer. In some respects it's very close to Tom Waits' The Black Rider. Other tracks to note are Intersection, an understated mood piece which is complemented by some moody synth and unhinged brass noises, giving a feel of the Associates' White Car in Germany and Till I Know which is a beautifully understated love song, Goff style. If You Leave Me Now is as close as you get to normal on here. Its actually a very good song indeed and fits the accompaniment of (yes) cellos and weird bubbly synths perfectly.
Well, there you are. It just goes to show you shouldn't judge a promo by its cover eh? Look out for more triteness on my behalf later. But do make an attempt to listen to this LP.
Words: Richard Foster.