Spilt Milk – Funeral Blues

So there’s an ephemeral, delicate feel to this new record, Marc having imperceptibly shifted their sound folk-wards and looking to bring a more melancholy note to proceedings, utilising Brenda’s incredibly expressive voice in the mid-range.

(Subbacultcha!)

Ah Spilt Milk, what a band you are. This new release only adds to their formidable reputation as being the street corner crooners of this whole “Dutch alternative music renaissance thing” we keep lying about in the press. This is a fine release and it starts with a breath-taking cover of Bob Dylan’s All The Tired Horses which we know and love, (I think another version of this was on a Subroutine release or an unreleased release, no matter); and it’s welcome anytime on my stereo. What is immediately noticeable is that the band sounds softer and less urban, less existential than on their previous release, Carnet de Voyage, but that’s fine.

So there’s an ephemeral, delicate feel to this new record, Marc having imperceptibly shifted their sound folk-wards; maybe looking to bring a more melancholy note to proceedings, and certainly utilising Brenda’s incredibly expressive voice in the mid-range. And this is a wise manoeuvre because Brenda’s voice has a very magical quality in this mid register, and she holds notes that are damned hard to hold or make a mark with. That she does so on sweet campfire whispers like A Late Walk and Take One Home For the Kiddies or sad songs like How makes everything all the more poignant. In fact most of the new record goes through Brenda, Marc happy to mumble along in the background: this is very noticeable in the bittersweet melancholy of Funeral Blues or Why Did You Go.

This is an eminently listenable record throughout and one - on the strength of Das Musikalisches Opfer and Queen Anne’s Lace looking to break new ground - but best is saved till later, with a track that the band have said holds a peculiar meaning for them. Tea at the Palaz of Hoon –the poem by Wallace Stevens - is a magnificent and stately run through, at once incredibly confident and also almost naked in its sound, balanced as it is on the mere threads of instrumentation and all put through the opalescent filter of Brenda’s voice.

Marvellous, but not unexpected.