Seabuckthorn – A House With Too Much Fire

Seabuckthorn - A House With Too Much Fire, dark mountain with blue-white fog rolling over it.

Sometimes an album can make a strong impression as early as its opening track. Sometimes this impression can be misleading. So it is with Seabuckthorn’s “A House With Too Much Fire”, the beginning of which gestures with a sweep of the arm and sliding, trembling guitar to grand, majestic vistas, an impression made all the more graceful by the music’s elegiac pace. Deep, solid bass and resonant guitar tones add grounding and colour, while the slip-sliding from pitch to pitch keeps things just a little off-balance, marking the piece out from so many obvious and simplistic ambient attempts at the sublime.

After these bold yet pleasingly unstable ambient tones, the album’s second track comes as something of a surprise: ‘Inner’ is a plodding folksy road tune, guitar noodling whimsically over the top of the beat, with faint glimmers in the background. The noodling continues on ‘Disentangled’, this time slower and sans beat. The bluesy, downbeat acoustic guitar riffs of ‘Submerged Past’ push further into folk territories, as do the strident strings of harmonically similar closing track ‘Sent In By The Cold’. To me, these pieces sound more influenced by Appalachian or even non-Western folk traditions than by the English folk of Seabuckthorn’s native land; I’m the first to admit that my knowledge of folk music is sketchy at best, however, so please take any comments on these tracks with a liberal dose of salt.

But folk isn’t the only centre of gravity exerting a pull on “A House With Too Much Fire”; other pieces retain some of the uncertainty and unpredictability of the album opener. ‘Blackout’ features quiet, ambiguous tones over an unobtrusive pulse, including what sounds like a clarinet; this instrument returns to holler in the distance over tremoring guitar on ‘What The Shepherds Call Ghosts’. ‘Somewhat Like Vision’ is slow and languid, with a generally soothing and pastoral sound given an edge by reedy squeaks and other ambiguous sounds, evoking an uneasy sleep. These pieces step away from melody- and rhythm-centric traditions towards a more harmonically and timbrally complex sort of music.

For someone like me, then, “A House With Too Much Fire” is very much a game of two halves, with my enthusiasm for the more abstract, adventurous pieces tempered by the unfamiliar folksy ones — yet even some of the latter have begun to grow on me after repeated listens. If your musical tastes match the Venn diagram drawn by Seabuckthorn’s ambient/folk hybrid, this is one album you definitely need to check out.

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Bookmaker Records

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