Yusuf Azak - Go Native

A lot of the songs are wrapped in a mist with only the odd marsh light to prick your attention, even though it’s easily the most uncomplicated of his records that I’ve heard in terms of sound.

(Song, By Toad)

Want to hear a truly great record? Then listen to this. I think it’s absolutely spellbinding. Forever transmitting from another world, or maybe just another bedsit, Azak lays down his groove in a spiritual, slightly ghostly manner. He creates the most unobtrusive of sounds, (sounds heavily tinged by mannerisms of the late 60s), and on here sounds like the most self-effacing of men. I do think, however, that this genial chap routine is a bit of a smokescreen, as Go Native is an extremely perceptive and witty release. Just be aware that you need to pay attention as can miss a miss a lot of what’s going on.

A lot of the songs are wrapped in a mist with only the odd marsh light to prick your attention, even though it’s easily the most uncomplicated of his records that I’ve heard in terms of sound. No: it’s more about the fact that you can get lulled by the atmosphere of the record; you will find it’s a supreme companion to idly while away an hour or two, it's one that can seduce you to be wrapped in a haze of your own thoughts, not taking much notice of anything or anyone. The opener Lay Me Down is a woozy ballad, balancing some intricate – often wildly fluctuating - acoustic passages with a slurred vocal and some very atmospheric production: (the whole record has this feel of being recorded in some echoing, dusty bedsit). It boasts some cracking observations too: “cruising the jungle of the streets” is a brilliantly snaky line.

After that, you get charming gradations of the same template, albeit with a whole host of moods and feelings on display. Sensitive Cell is a hypnotic, thickly strummed fug: it’s very Beatles, very George, a bit Stone Roses even… and mildly uplifting. Swim is a piano-led lullaby with again some blissed out, bittersweet observations. Fade Into Love is the most perky track to date, again driven by a simple and easy to follow melody; (why I think this I really don’t know but it also doesn’t half remind me of something that the Toad and the Rag Doll would sing in Bagpuss).

OK what else? Well, American Eyes is a brilliant synthesis of a soft vocal skein and an intricate British folk guitar patterns; a track that sort of stumbles, rubbing its eyes all the while, into Bert Jansch territory. Smile Tactics and Immunity or Rescue are other tracks that seem to hark back to the golden era of British folk, it’s the way the latter’s guitar melody skittles and skirls along backed by a laconic, slightly reverent organ sound makes it possibly the best track on the LP. The song that sees to break with norm is Go Native, a spooky, dismembered thing that relies on some skittish strings to create the mood. It’s still boss, mind.

Worth it, really.