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Soft-Hearted Scientists - 2014 - "The Slow Cyclone"

(55:56, ‘Soft-Hearted Scientists’)


1.  Jingle-1 0:18
2.  Flying Horses 2:07
3.  You There Standing in the Shadows 2:37
4.  Drifting Away 5:09
5.  Hermit Crab 3:38
6.  Cwm Cadlan 2:04
7.  South Shropshire Tales 0:51
8.  The Ups and the Downs 3:07
9.  Away 2:52
10. Sonar Rays 3:23
11. Gwawrddydd Gwinllan 0:44
12. Frozen Waterfall 3:38
13. Jingle-2 0:10
14. The Slow Cyclone 1:52
15. Dark Departments 3:05
16. Cobra Clouds 2:56
17. Carnival Song 1:27
18. For You 2:53
19. Melancholy Monday Morning 1:17
20. Where Have All the People Gone 1:47
21. The Unknown Tide 2:44
22. Robots Remember 3:02
23. Jean Vilar 0:53
24. Before I Was Born 3:22


Nathan Hall – vocals; guitars; keyboards, electronics; percussion
Paul Jones – vocals; guitars; keyboards, electronics
Dylan Line – guitars; keyboards, electronics
Michale Bailey – bass 
Gaz Williams – bass 

Prolusion. The UK (Welsh) band SOFT-HEARTED SCIENTISTS (SHS from now on) has been around in one guise or another for the better part of a decade, their career as recording artists starting with a couple of EPs released back in 2004. Since then a fairly large number of productions in various formats has been crafted by them, including four studio albums. "The Slow Cyclone" is the most recent of these, self-released by the band in 2014.

Analysis. SHS isn't a band that will ever intrigue those with a sole fascination for music that emphasizes the rock aspect in music, I suspect, and this album in particular is one that generally shies away from most rock music idioms. In its mainly gentle wandering through two dozen short songs and atmospheric interludes, it isn't an album that will make a strong impact among those with a fascination for mainstream pop music either though, as the manner in which their compositions are assembled and played out does take it away from those realms quite a bit. Even in the fairly short pieces of music on this album the band manages to explore multiple themes with individual songs, although not that often admittedly, but the use of careful but odd sounds and effects is a mainstay throughout. Calm, wandering and plucked acoustic guitars and soft, controlled lead vocals and vocal harmonies are the key features throughout here, the former a cornerstone in just about all songs, the latter a second one in the creations sporting vocal sequences. In some cases actually limited to these two elements, but more often than not we'll be treated to a gently hovering organ, delicate keyboard textures, frail cosmic sounds and delicate percussion or drum details as well. With a liberal flavoring of psychedelic guitar effects by way of the guitar liberally used to further enhance the psychedelic landscapes most often explored. The number of stylistic bases touched upon is a bit more extensive than what this description might indicate though, with one case of an organs=only piece early on in something of a circus music like excursion, quite a few creations closer to ‘60s psychedelic folk music blended with pop sensibilities, and vocals reminding ever so slightly of The Beatles, cinematic intermediate mood explorations, as well as material closer to purebred psychedelic folk music in expression. Not that any of these details are really important in the context of this production as such, but in terms of style those who know that these will guide the material they listen to, this might be worth noting. The key issue throughout here is rather one of approach, mood and atmosphere, at least to my mind. The songs are soft, sweet and charming, with something of a whimsical, naive spirit to them. Pastoral at times, as only British bands can make it, and oddly whimsical in a way that makes comparisons to some of the Canterbury scene bands tempting, at least when it comes to the general mood and a certain use of understatements in the lyrics department. This latter aspect, which I rarely touch upon normally, is perhaps the most important aspect of the album, the code needed to decode the music, if you like. Because it is the manner in which the lyrics and music interact here that spawns the greater contrasts and dramatic tension here, when calm, at times whimsical and at times darker, but always careful musical landscapes and vocals are paired with lyrics that may be totally off-beat, like a song about a hermit crab, or that may deal with topics of a much darker and more grim aspect of reality. As the calm, almost distant lyrics repeat in one of the shorter light toned, psychedelic tinged songs, Where Have All the People Gone. This combination of calm, controlled instruments and vocals with lyrics, that give rise to associations of a much darker kind, creates a feeling of something otherworldly and uncanny on several occasions throughout. The passive, mournful lament as factual description on Robots Remember another example of how the calm music and the lyrics interact to create a mood that has a much stronger emotional impact than one might get by exploring music of a much more vibrant and dramatic nature.

Conclusion. "The Slow Cyclone" is a careful, lo-fi and presumably low-budget creation that hones in on the gentler aspects of psychedelic music, where acoustic guitars, gentle keyboards and careful vocals are the main and key aspects throughout. Understated music from a nation known for understatements, with careful nuances and subtle details being key aspects of the music itself, but at times with stark contrasts between the music played out and the lyrics conveyed as dark topics tend to be explored within a calm and at times whimsical atmosphere. Those fond of acoustic music, folk music and psychedelic folk music will probably be a key audience for this album, and especially those among them with a taste for music that is odd in a charming, sweet manner that sometimes hides a sharp topical edge.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: November 8, 2015
The Rating Room

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