Monday, August 25, 2014

REVIEW: Peter Escott - The Long O

The Long O is very intriguing album of somewhat idiosyncratic, keyboard-based ballads and experimental pop from Hobart, Tasmania's poet and musician Peter Escott.  It is true that his output as one half of Native Cats was keyboard-based pop as well, but it seems to me that the similar choice of musical weapons doesn't add up to more of the same.  Without his Native Cats conspirator, bassist Julian Teakle,  Peter's range of expression swings away from that project's dance-oriented tunes to something more insular and dreamy.  The piano, synth, melodica and a touch of guitar are his only tools other than his voice.  The minimal instrumentation leads results in a bounty of space around the chords and lyrics, which both lends power and creates a sense of distance.  There are no players other than Escott on The Long O.  And coupled with Escott's restrained delivery, the overall effect is as if discovering the song and piano man at the nightclub playing for himself after closing.  But rather than feeling like I'm getting leftover material not deemed good enough for the drinkers who stuffed bills in the tip jar, it seems to me that I'm getting the songs that actually mean something to the piano man.

The songs vary between brief snips and more lengthy works.  Some tracks such as "O", are decidedly experimental, while others, "Ship of Theseus" for example, is more meditative.  More straightforward pop is on offer with "My Heaven, My Rules", "No One", "Mealymouth", and "Believe In The Devil World".  For my money, "My Heaven, My Rules" is the highlight of the album and, in fact is one of my favorite songs of the year. Driven by Escott's piano, the song is a crooner's recap of a relationship, in which he points out that the other party never had to live by his rules.  "Mealymouth" is a dream pop creation, all appealing haze.  "Believe in the Devil World" is another delicious slice of cabaret, sung over a simple organ riff and drum machine.  You can stream three of those tracks below, but to stop there would deprive you of the power of "No One" and the quiet, meandering beauty of "Desmond's Song".

Peter Escott - My Heaven My Rules from BSR on Vimeo.

The more dreamy "Mealymouth" --

Bedroom Suck Records

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