the sly and unseen / caught in the wake forever split 12″
This is RC068 and RC069, a split 12″ LP edition of 100 out October 2014.
Despite being little more than six months old the Spartan immediacy of The Sly and Unseen’s slender catalogue has already caused a splash in the ponds of such taste arbitrating luminaries as Home Normal Records, Crow Verses Crow and Stuart Maconie’s freak zone.
Unsurprising, perhaps, as they combine the widely lauded talents of Katie English (littlebow, Doomed Birds Of Providence, The Owl Service and many others, alongside her solo mainstay Isnaj Dui) and stepping ‘in front of the camera’ Hibernate Records head man Jonathan Lees, lending The Sly And Unseen a track record of genuine musical depth and achievement.
Utilising a battery of more-or-less eccentric acoustic instruments with just a soupcon of effect pedal the template sound of this Halifax based outfit is bare, raw and refreshing. An underlying shruti box supports a cast of mandolins, cellos, glockenspiels, guitars and more. But the coup that they pull off, track after track, is to only deploy the absolute minimum of necessary instruments, creating a breezy and spacious musical world, reminiscent of the moorlands above their hometown, containing both up-tempo lights (‘Seeking Warmth In Our Cold Climes’) and drowsy shadows (‘Faded, Out Of Place’) and fashioning what can only be described as Melodic-Drone. The Sly And Unseen also construct a cliché destroying‘Anti-Field recording’ environment wherein ‘bird calls’ and other ambient sounds are sourced from warped human voices and mechanical toys (the mechanical, percussive ‘pigeon’ in ‘Slumming It Here With Our Common Pigeons’being simultaneously sinister and comedic). Located somewhere in the land of the Penguin Café Orchestra but entirely shorn of tweeness and fully updated for the current decade, these atmospheric, unlaboured, highly intuitive musical compositions create truly essential listening.
Complementing and offsetting The Sly And Unseen’s gentle extroversion are the contemplative structures and inward-looking songs of Caught In The Wake Forever’s Fraser McGowan. Under his solo guise, McGowan has honed his trade mark melancholic sounds and concerns through a plethora of EPs and collaborations and has also released three albums to date, all of which explore listener challenging hyper-personal themes and subjects.
Having grown frustrated with the sense of repetition and routine inherent in the recording process, ‘Evidence Of Fractures’ sees the Paisley based McGowan resolutely and methodically strip bare his technological resources to reinforce his baring-of-the-soul lyricism. Computers are forsaken in favour of simple take analogue improvisation and the stress (both musical and lyrical) is upon breaking old habits, embracing uncertainty and capturing the moment.
The three instrumental tracks were recorded over a two day period and largely improvised using analogue synths and guitar, whereas the songs touch on new ground as well as bringing in the previously unexplored addition of a second vocalist in the form of Donna McInnes.
From the drifting tranquillity of ‘To Wild Flowers Forgotten’ to the downtrodden lounge sensibilities of ‘Erskine’s Greatest’, these densely layered soundscapes provide the listener with tales and moods of fragility.