Puzzle Muteson’s songs are sensitive and thoughtful incarnations, a series of flowing fairy-tales narrated by a warbling tenor and enchanting, finger-plucked music which is as light and as fair as a maiden’s golden locks. ‘And they all lived happily ever after’ has been removed from the final chapter; this selection has tasted the sour reality of adulthood and the thorny world of relationships. Disney didn’t do the population any favours by painting relationships in pretty pinks and charming knights in shining armour. From the opening bars, Swum’s melodies spin in glistening, translucent webs of fingerstyle guitar. Terry Magson’s quivering voice, as well as his honest writing, lights up the music by sitting front and centre.
Magson hails from the Isle of Wight, home to the legendary music festival and a stunning panorama of altitude-sloped hills, sandy beaches, and restful glens. Folk music is tied to the isle, and Magson’s music has the feeling of folk; updated, fresh, and moving. The fingerpicked guitar supports an aching (and sometimes melancholic) set of vocals, providing a sharp contrast to the more upbeat and optimistic backdrop. Additional calming layers help to wash it all down, with every element combining to produce a startling, original album.
Puzzle Muteson has played a string of festivals throughout Europe, ranging from Iceland Airwaves to All Tomorrow’s Parties (ATP), but Swum’s songs become one, and this resonates all the more through the LP format. The listener goes deeper into the secluded woodland, looking at what he’s nurturing deep in the entangling of boughs and branches. These vocals have experienced much in the way of heartache and hardship, flitting between light and shade in its grim determination to pull through, but also suffering from a recurring erosion of its confidence, and of itself. A brittleness has grown out of its hurting, its hope encased in a jar of glass, to shatter in an instant with the voicing of a single word. A degree of comfort and familiarity pours through a warm melody. Its steam rises up like a fresh cup of tea, and heavenly cushions prop up the drooping vocal. Relationships are complicated things; likewise, like twists in the hair of a Disney princess, Magson’s strings and plucked sequences become entangled in note-knots, either running away from disaster or running into the arms of someone who can console.
Thumper beats criss-cross against the guitar, stuttering as they go. This rhythm gifts more energy to the music, although it can bounce without a beat. These lyrics provide a shelter for the song, and after a serious drought, the vulnerable vocals are able to find some kind of eventual release; raining words of poetry and finding beauty even in the debris of brokenness.