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Soft Hearted Scientists - 2005 - "Uncanny Tales From The Everyday Undergrowth"

(68:41; My Kung Fu)


When this collection was originally released in 2005 it brought together the first three EP’s from this Welsh band, namely ‘Wendigo’, ‘Bethesda’ and ‘Midnight Mutinies’. They then revisited it in 2016 and reissued it as a double album containing not only the original 12 songs but also a demo for each as well, taking the length to more than two hours. The band were originally a duo of Nathan Hall (vocals, guitar, keyboards, drum boxes, percussion, sounds) and Dylan Line (keyboards, Omnichord, guitar, sazz, percussion, sounds, vocals), and to understand a little about their sense of humour, when discussing this album they say “it featured the mighty elastic bass lines of Incredible String Band sorcerer’s apprentice Michael Bailey as a freelance guest star. We met him while beachcombing in Penarth for giant squid. We didn’t find any. Never do. But what the heck, we gained some fearsome bass action. His contribution was so good that we decided for him that he was joining the group. To this day when he tries to tell us that technically he never actually agreed to joining us, we simply tune him out and let him talk himself out.” The line-up was completed by Paul Jones (guitar, mandolin, banjo, keyboards, vocals). They are variously described as folk prog or psychedelic, but however one wishes to describe this it is as solid a slab of wonderful acoustic guitar-based tunes as one is likely to come across. Okay, so they use a drum machine, but to be honest there isn’t much in the way of percussive beats as this is mostly about a great deal of guitars and harmony vocals on songs which have great hooks, and the use of real cymbals definitely makes a difference. The lyrics of “Diving Bell” have to be heard to be believed, with Billy Joe Cyrus is being tortured by the devil for crimes against humanity and has to play "Achy Breaky Heart" on a one-stringed banjo for eternity, and even cutting off his mullet cannot atone for what he has done. I am also very fond of “The Yongy Bongy Bo” which has a musical delicacy offset by the wonderful lyrics, which is the poem by Edward Lear that they have set to music. Given I now live not far from the Coromandel and did live in Dorking in the UK for some 12 years, both of which are referenced in the poem, it seems strangely apposite. This certainly never seems as if it is a compilation of different releases, but far more like a single structured album, and for anyone who enjoys great acoustic music with more than a hint of the late Sixties then this is a must.

Progtector: July 2020

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