Ghostwriter – Dimensions EP. Review in The Wire.

May 16, 2013 by Chaffinch


‘The solo project of Devon’s Mark Brend, Ghostwriter has an archaic/modern blend of elements that reminds me a bit of Paul Roland’s long-ago Gothic (not Goth) projects.  The EP is composed of a single track, broken into halves, documenting an imagined walk around London in the 1930’s.  Sparse keyboards and guitar, sound effects and theremin plus heavy atmosphere make for an odd, cinematic whole’.  Byron Coley, The Wire. 

Ghostwriter – Dimensions EP. Review with Is This Music?

May 4, 2013 by Chaffinch

Ghostwriter - DimensionsIs This Music? have recently posted the following review:

Variety is the spice of life, they say, and this 4-track EP from Devon-based songwriter Mark Brend aka Ghostwriter confirms that.
‘Autobiographical Sketch no 1’ itself mixes what the label’s press release calls “sonic collage”, alternating with spooky film music.  An under-2-minute instrumental, it doesn’t really give many clues as to what might follow.
‘Dimensions’ is divided into 2 chapters – the first piano mixed with what might be chatter from Radio Moscow, and a fine throwback to the kind of ambient and experimental music you might have experienced on late night radio in the 90s, especially when some theremin wibbles its way in.
‘Chapter 2’ goes all weird on us for a bit before settling into what could only loosely be described as a ‘groove’, again the indie sounds of 30 years ago recalled a little as the proto-electronica of Sheffield is interspersed with kind of Camberwell-style jazzy percussion.
Another short piece closes – ‘With stringed instruments a song’.  The first part of that description is right, but this is no vocal in the normal sense, instead someone enthusiastically attacking a sitar.  As such, it fits in perfectly.  In all, a strange set that somehow works.

Donald Bush/Is This Music?

Ghostwriter Dimensions – Pennyblackmagazine review

April 20, 2013 by Chaffinch

pennyblackThis is an excellent record, and one can only hope that it isn’t too long a wait for a full length album.” – Benjamin Howarth, Pennyblackmagazine.

Ghostwriter – Dimensions. Review by Delusions of Adequacy

March 14, 2013 by Chaffinch

“the Dimensions EP packs in layers of enigmas whilst sustaining an enthralling overall moodscape. Moreover, it proves that there’s still plenty of musical life left to explore in the seemingly infinite realms of English eccentricity.

More please, when you’re ready Mr. Brend…”

Wonderfully written review of Ghostwriter’s EP can be found at Delusions Of Adequacy.

Ghostwriter – Dimensions. Write-up in God Is In The TV

March 12, 2013 by Chaffinch

godisinthetvAnd staying with strange sounds we’ve just eyed something rather tasty from ex-farina man Mark Brend. Under the guise of Ghostwriter Mr Brend has been working on some sonic mosaics with a collective of friends that include ex-farina partners Matt Gale and Tim Conway along with guest collaborations with belbury poly’s Jim Jupp and Suzy Mangion of george fame.  A seven inch is imminent via the chaffinch imprint, which according to the label blurb is a ‘walk in the 1930’s in the company of Charles Williams’, who for those previously unaware was a much lauded author admired by Auden and Eliot who described his novels as ‘supernatural thrillers’ and is thought to be the inspiration behind Lewis’s ‘that hideous strength’.  There are very brief sound sample of the tracks on the label’s website – ‘dimensions’ we are assuming being the full on 11 minute suite here revealed as being touched by the stilled atmospherics of a rustic flavouring, which later manifests into a decidedly demurred though tear stained lunar lullaby. Elsewhere you’ll find elements of sweetly ached piano braids dissipating into haunting sepia skinned sound spectres, much recalling it should be said the latter work of dream of tall buildings and a beautifully airy crystal tipped pop purred pretty.  As to the single itself, it’s strictly limited to just 200 copies. On a related note we here are still eyeing Mr Brend’s latest tome ’the sound of tomorrow’ published by Bloomsbury – we’ve been on its case for weeks now having been somewhat blown out by Waterstones, which might mean us having to sup with the devil and visit Amazon.”

Mark Barton – God Is In The TV


Ghostwriter – Dimensions. Review in Record Collector

February 28, 2013 by Chaffinch

Record CollectorThere is a review of Dimensions in this month’s Record Collector:

‘These quasi-supernatural concerns, dedicated in part to Christian mystic author Charles Williams, operate along similar lines to Susan Hiller’s art installations, raising questions located at the peripheries of the temporal and otherworldly.

Tuning into Radio Raudive, by way of Ghost Box transmissions (Belbury Poly’s Jim Jupp pops in for a cameo), the four pieces here evoke a forgotten and enchanted Albion, one presided over by gnostic outriders John Dee, Arthur
Machen and Austin Osman Spare.’

Spencer Grady – Record Collector

The Belbury Parish Magazine

February 21, 2013 by Chaffinch

The Belbury Parish MagazineVisit Jim Jupp’s blog site here to read what he has to say about the Ghostwriter Dimensions release.

Ghostwriter’s Dimensions – Norman Records’ Single Of The Week

February 17, 2013 by Chaffinch

Ghostwriter - DimensionsThose lovely people at Norman Records have given Ghostwriter’s Dimensions their Single Of The Week!

Sample quote – “It’s really quite brilliant.”

Lucky Luke – Travelling For A Living review

August 18, 2012 by Chaffinch

Online magazine Pennyblackmusic have a lovely review of the album – “the band’s name and the grim cover do absolutely no justice to their brightly jangling songs, which are of sometimes epic momentum.  Let alone the exquisite vocals which remind of many great names of yesteryear and today.”

Lucky Luke – Travelling For A Living: review

June 26, 2012 by Chaffinch

“Lucky Luke may be no more but this ‘lost’ second album is a welcome reminder of their barren, grainy beauty.”  4/5

Anthony Reynolds – Life’s Too Long: reviews

April 18, 2012 by Chaffinch

Anthony Reynolds - Life's Too Long

The Anthony Reynolds’ career spanning retrospective has received many favourable reviews. Here’s a selection of the best.

MOJO ****

Two-CD retrospective of the gutter glamour genius of poet, author and former Jack front-man Reynolds, designed for “a two-hour car journey along motorways and B-roads.”

Andrew Male

Buzz Magazine *****

The 30 tracks on this double CD showcase literate Cardiff native Reynolds’ work since 1995 and features songs from his band Jack and Jacques, plus Reynolds as a solo artist. It includes the previously unreleased Lolita Elle and Maybe My Love Doesn’t Answer Anything In You Anymore (both recorded live in Paris) and the title track.  The singer/poet/writer’s heavily Cohen-influenced music sounds as fresh now as it did back in the mid-90’s; this compilation is a must-buy for any reynolds fan.


Record Collector ***

In the mid-90s, Anthony Reynolds fronted the band Jack and, later Jacques: both vehicles for his acerbic, gothic and usually chemically-altered missives, detailing the same kind of debauchery as Brett Anderson or

Luke Haines. But, just like Suede and The Auteurs, he never flirted with the themes or successes of Britpop. This best of, featuring plenty more Reynolds incarnations besides, can surely only be of interest to the most hardcore indie archaeologists, right?

Well, yes and no. The first disc sounds the most dated, but is also the more epic. Reynolds’ lyrics range from the nihilistic to the often hilariously mundane (the chorus of Yuka’s Life screams “Fax me!”). The production is sturdy, with Momus’ aural signatures often cropping up (he produced and collaborated). Disc Two brings texture. Blue Party, from Jacques’ 2000 album To Stars, is a rippling Kinksy delicacy, while B-side Beauty And Me finds vocal samples and drum loops adding further depth.

Anthony Reynolds has a devoted if small fanbase, but is perhaps faced with the problem of how to grow it.  Certainly Life’s Too Long will help if somehow stumbled across but, from the cover and title of this compilation alone, you suspect the man himself might not actually care.

Jake Kennedy

Norman Records ****

To be quite honest I’ve never really put a lot of time into Anthony Reynolds’s previous work as a solo artist or with former bands Jack and Jacques, so the prospect of reviewing this mammoth 30-song anthology compiling 16 years’ worth of material from the prolific Welsh singer-songwriter is a bit of a daunting one. On the bright side, though, it’s actually really good and leaves me quite surprised I’ve not given him more time previously. On here he’s effortlessly knocking out sweeping, cinematic indie pop with his rich, deep vocal delivery sounding totally comfortable and unforced. The integration of classical instruments sometimes reminds me of Luke Haines’s work, but without the snide, sneering cynicism that so divides people on Haines (I’m fiercely in the pro camp myself though). It’s quite theatrical and melodramatic and some of these songs really wouldn’t seem out of place in a stage musical, but with his smooth voice and some nice lyrical turns of phrase the quality is pretty consistent, so if that’s your kind of thing then I’d imagine this’ll really float your boat. Sample lyric: “Let’s take the pills from the shelf and slowly feed them to each other until there are none left.” Over the course of these two CDs it really paints the picture of a tortured poet stuck between being an indie rocker and a diva and landing somewhere between Divine Comedy and Vic Chesnutt. Affecting stuff.

The Quietus

The song ‘Cinematic’ name-checks Cocteau, Picasso and Warhol in the first lines before confessing, “I was never there, I only read the book, I only saw the film, I only dreamed the dream… until you and me”. So there, in, like, verse one, you’ve got high art, a dip into wilful bathos, and then a giddy swoop back up to lofty romance. It’s clever and it’s heart-felt and it’s a ride. Such winning melodrama resides in most of Cardiff-based Anthony Reynolds’ songs: they stand out, alone, above. They’re like giraffes in a world of grubs.

Jack – his alma mater – were one of Britain’s most underrated bands in the mid-to-late 90s. Usually compared to The Bad Seeds or Tindersticks (basically because they weren’t strangers to suit-jackets and violins), they had swagger and poise. Despite glowing reviews and a support tour with Suede they never quite caught on: too inclined towards the romantic and artistic, perhaps, for the pragmatic, Blair-ite era, where to be a lad was considered commendable. As Blur’s Mockney mannerisms and Oasis’ salt-of-the-earth blokery flourished, they were deemed too European, too well-read, ambitious, strange. Not indie-spindly enough. It was evident on all their records that they wanted to be musically huge while meaning something, and of course England loathes those who don’t pretend to have their feet planted firmly on the ground.

As former Jack vocalist Reynolds releases his vast, thirty-track Best Of double album, that band’s songs included still resound and roar with wit, wordplay and the wonderful arrangements of chief musician Matthew Scott. Selections from their albums Pioneer SoundtracksThe Jazz Age and (the ‘difficult’ farewell album of 2002) The End Of The Way It’s Always Been pine and prickle with fire and yearning. At their best, Jack combined the cerebral and the physical to a thrilling degree. The adrenalin of ‘Wintercomessummer’, the sexual charge of ‘White Jazz’ (for me, their pinnacle) and the love-under-a-microscope passion of ‘My World Versus Your World’ are several cuts above most game blowhards of the era and, were they to emanate from a new band today, would be eulogised to the skies. ‘Yuka’s Life’, too, is a beautiful thing. (‘Steaming’ and ‘Nico’s Children’ are sadly absent). It’s a pity that final ‘experimental’ album remains relatively overlooked here (though there’s a lovely live version (Paris, 2002) of ‘Maybe My Love Doesn’t Answer Anything In You Anymore’), but hunt it down for yourself and marvel at its fusion of clarity and confusion: the human condition.

Since the band’s demise, Reynolds has carved a niche for himself as one of Britain’s most undervalued singers and has been known to put on theatre tributes to everyone from Sigmund Freud to himself. Get past the comical-lovable levels of narcissism (one wonders if this package really needs over a dozen pictures of its author more than it needs a lyric sheet) and the work shines. Whether collaborating with Momus or the reclusive writer Colin Wilson (in a summit meeting of cult outsiders), he never knowingly shoots for less than galaxies. The songs continue to glorify and romanticise underdogs, losers, self-pity and, in one of his best solo works, from his very fine true-return-to-form 2007 album British Ballads, ‘The Disappointed’. Influenced by the literature of Bukowski and the Fantes, by Bowie and Sylvian, and by the artists he’s in recent years written well-received biographies about – Leonard Cohen, The Walker Brothers, Jeff Buckley – his gigantic voice reaches, against all odds, the epic quality for which the arrangements strain. There may be too many overblown funereal ballads on the second disc here, but ‘Io Bevo (I Drink)’ (co-written and produced by Gianluca Maria Sorace) flares with mischief (“I used to be somebody…I drink because God is dead”) and insight. Its opening couplet bears comparison with any you could name: “I drink because Keith Richards does and Madonna don’t, but should / I drink not to forget but to recall my childhood”. ‘Winterpollen’ (co-written and produced by Richard Bell, once – full disclosure – of my old 90s duo Scalaland) takes a subtler, David Gates/Bread direction. Cuts from the album Neu York show a Kraut-Kunst road half-travelled.  Everywhere, there’s a refusal to settle for the mundane, the OK, the quite good.  It’s all or nothing, or nothing.  Little wonder the rest of Europe – artier, sexier – embraces this artist with more warmth than bad-in-bed Blighty does.  At his own cost, Reynolds has always been impractically blind to the expedient benefits of fitting in, of downsizing to deliver, rubbing along with mediocrity, displaying false modesty, kowtowing to the herd-mentality. We have here a bona-fide provocateur, a gamer Gainsbourg, a Welsh Aznavour, a cut-price Cale, and would do well to realise it. Fortunately life is long – an arduous, unforgiving, distressing trek through heartache, frustration, the crushing of dreams and existential angst, as these louche, literate songs testify – so it’s never too late.

Chris Roberts


Anthony Reynolds really should be a household name such is the consistantly high quality of his recorded output over the last sixteen years, but in keeping with a clutch of other criminally overlooked British songwriters including Roger Quigley (Quigley, At Swim Two Birds, the Montgolfier Brothers), Simon Rivers (The Last Party, the Bitter Springs) and Davey Woodward (The Brilliant Corners, Experimental Pop Band) he, despite one or two skirmishes with the limelight, remains a relatively unmined seam.

The biggest clues to the sound and style of his music lie in the shape of the three published biographies he has written about the Walker Brothers, Jeff Buckley and Leonard Cohen respectively. It is no exaggeration to say that he is worthy of mentioning in the same breath of any of the aforementioned artists.

This compilation opens the lid on every area of his recorded career that has seen him release music under a string of monikers – Jack, Jacques and Anthony before finally settling on his own. Such is the volume of music available to choose from (Reynolds has released seven albums and countless EPs and singles) it must have been difficult to whittle things down to just thirty tracks, as even a sixty track retrospective would still have left a few gems off the final set list.

To assist the casual listener the tracks are roughly in chronological order starting with 4 Jack songs from the ‘Pioneer Soundtracks’ album that launched Reynolds career. They still sound fresh today with ‘Wintercomessummer’ in particular being a joy to hear again – I saw Jack play live back in 1995 when they had only released a couple of singles and have followed Reynolds career ever since.

The songs from the follow-up LP ‘The Jazz Age’ including the timeless ‘Cinematic’ are great tracks as are the trio of Jacques numbers that make up the first disc of this set.

The more dance-orientated songs from Jack third LP, ‘The End of the Way It Has Always Been’ that was released on the cool Les Disques Du Crepuscule record label feature heavily on the second disc along with a collection of more recent songs such as the truly stunning ‘The Disappointed’ from the 2007 ‘British Ballads’ LP. A couple of live tracks including the beautiful ‘Lolita Elle’ originally released on ‘The Jazz Age’ are also here to make this a brilliant introduction to potential new fans or a timely reminder to the enlightened as to the immense talent Anthony Reynolds is.

Dixie Ernill

OMH Music ****

Back in 2000 an album called To Stars, by a band named Jacques, showed off Anthony Reynolds’ Welsh croon of a voice slipping and sliding in a mixture of songs both upbeat and despairing. Blue Party and London Loves You, two of the best tracks from that album, perfectly represent the shabby-chic glory of the band’s sound and make for a pleasing in-road to Life Is Too Long: Songs 1995-2011, Reynolds’ double-disc career collection.

Reynolds has had many incarnations and almost as many record labels over the span of this retrospective, kicking off with the extraordinary Pioneer Soundtracks from the band Jack, with Reynolds and Matthew Scott at its core. Originally released in 1996 to great acclaim and then re-released in 2007 with additional tracks, it’s one of those albums that never grow stale. Rocking beats and poetic lyrics about love, death and drinking carry you with them, and inspired orchestration – with masses of judiciously used strings – creates an unforgettable sound. Filthy Names is as lush as it comes, in every sense – the voice at its best, the orchestration plaintive and beguiling. Biography Of A First Son rollicks along and White Jazz and Wintercomessummer play with sound and atmosphere.

The Jazz Age followed in 1998 with the incomparable song of lost love, 3 O’Clock In The Morning, the fun, name-dropping Cinematic that chronicles Reynolds’ love of literature (Charles Bukowski and John Fante are constant muses), the visual arts, and in particular European film-makers. These songs are never ordinary, and usually stuffed full of cultural references, some more obscure than others.

Things fell apart a bit after the end of his collaboration with Matthew Scott and the split from Too Pure, but there have been some memorable moments since, often on minor labels and very frequently released as EPs, so this collection is a real treasure chest bringing them together. From The End Of The Way It’s Always Been (2002) we have The Emperor Of New London, with the unforgettable voiceover by Dan Fante, son of John “ “I’m so fucking high death wouldn’t dare interrupt me now” – and Sleepin’ Makes Me Thirsty, a splendid lament to lost youth. The romantic If July Were A Kingdom is from Neu York (2004), the stately magnificence of The Disappointed from British Ballads (2007).

Reynolds’ experimental side is represented by Life Is All There Is, with the voice of the British philosopher and novelist Colin Wilson, and the sweet, early track Whilst High I Had This Premonition also makes the cut. There are a couple of terrific live versions from 2002 (Lolita Elle, Maybe My Love Doesn’t Answer Anything In You Anymore), and rarities such as Beauty And Me, from one of the many EPs. And the final, and title, track is a new song that returns to the glorious, romantic melancholy that is the hallmark of this complex, talented and sometimes infuriatingly self-destructive artist.

A treat for Reynolds’ hardcore fans, and a brilliant introduction for those who have yet to be sucked into this poetic and complex world, Life Is Too Long: Songs 1995-2011 makes the case for Reynolds’ poetic canon of work as one replete with many an underappreciated gem.

Helen Wright

Froggy Delight

Les fans d’Anthony Reynolds le savent. L’ex-leader de Jack, groupe de pop anglais qui connut son heure de gloire dans les années 90, n’a jamais réellsement quitté l’actualité musicale.

Pourtant, sa carrière faite de hauts (petite célébrité pendant la période Jack) et de bas (pas mal d’errances ensuite, un désert qui est passé par la campagne anglaise et le soleil espagnol) n’a jamais réellement été interompu et de collaborations en rééditions, en passant par deux albums solo et l’écriture de quelques biographies (notamment sur les Walker Brothers et sur Léonard Cohen), le Gallois se retrouve aujourd’hui à sortir (enfin) une compilation de son travail de 1995 à 2011, intitulée de façon très optimiste Life’s too long.

Ce double album, avec un très joli livret (préférez la version disque à la version numérique donc) est avant tout un disque d’amour. Dédié à sa compagne Cathy dont le portrait orne par ailleurs la pochette de Kingdom Of Me, EP tiré de cette compilation, ce disque est avant tout une sorte d’hommage, de présent amoureux de Reynolds à celle qui partage ses jours lui offrant le meilleur de ce qu’elle aime, parmi ses très nombreuses compositions.

Excellente occasion pour nous de retrouver ou découvrir 30 morceaux remis légèrement au goût du jour. Il y a de tout sur cet album : de vieux titres incontournables, des morceaux plus récents, des ballades, des chansons plus énergiques, anecdotiques ou indispensables.

Les quelques incontournables sont là comme “White jazz” mais manque tout de même “Nico’s children” ou des choses plus triviales comme “I love my radio on” que l’on trouvait sur l’album solo d’Anthony.

Les British Ballads, autre disque solo sorti sous son nom complet, sont également de la partie. Tout comme le très beau “Filthy names” et beaucoup de compositions de l’époque Jack/Jacques. Une pop aussi énergique que mélancolique. Autre pièce maitresse de cette compilation, “Io bevo“, magnifique et poignante” ballade” inspirée par une chanson d’Aznavour et co-écrite avec Gianluca Maria Sorace du groupe italien Hollowblue.

Au total, 30 titres pour faire un tour d’horizon assez complet du bonhomme et à la fois faire patienter et donner envie d’une suite à cette déjà jolie carrière à la frontière du crooner, du dandy pop et de la folk. So british.

Posted in Anthony Reynolds, Reviews |

Pennyblackmusic – first review of Life’s Too Long

February 5, 2012 by Chaffinch

Anthony Reynolds - Life's Too Long‘Anthony Reynolds really should be a household name such is the consistantly high quality of his recorded output over the last sixteen years, but in keeping with a clutch of other criminally overlooked British songwriters including Roger Quigley (Quigley, At Swim Two Birds, the Montgolfier Brothers), Simon Rivers (The Last Party, the Bitter Springs) and Davey Woodward (The Brilliant Corners, Experimental Pop Band) he, despite one or two skirmishes with the limelight, remains a relatively unmined seam.’

Read the full review here –

Close Your Eyes EP review on

September 2, 2010 by Chaffinch

Another lovely review from the fantastic 7inches blog.

The Whisper EP – new review from 7inches.blogspot!

July 12, 2010 by Chaffinch

Whisper EP‘this EP is a perfect introduction to the label’s ideology and some of the contemporary talent out of Scotland.’

Read the full review here:

Blues For Bobby Solo review on 7inches.blogspot

June 15, 2010 by Chaffinch

‘sounding like Peter Murphy or recent era Bowie.  It’s a produced dark superstar vocal style… it’s Bono in the desert wearing a leather jacket and sunglasses in front of a windmachine.  It’s songs about black coffee, getting drunk one night stands…in a mysterious foreign cafe.’Read the full review here:

Review of Blues For Bobby Solo EP

April 9, 2010 by Chaffinch

Another strong review for Anthony’s new EP.“recalls Scott Walker at his very best.”“An excellent EP from a still very much under-rated talent.”See Penny Black Music.

Review of Music and Maths from Song By Toad

April 9, 2010 by Chaffinch

 … each song is full of little moments which make you sit up and take notice.

Burnt Island – Music and Maths reviews

March 31, 2010 by Chaffinch

Some lovely reviews at the following:THE SCOTSMAN – SKINNY –—music-and-maths-epSCOTLAND ON SUNDAY –

A Dance Half To Death – The Second Hand Marching Band: reviews

March 19, 2010 by Chaffinch

Second Hand Marching Band - A Dance Half To DeathThe Second Hand Marching Band are a band of 22+ people from Scotland that play untraditional folk music. They are also members of another 20+ Scottish bands, such as Eagleowl, Q without U, Dananananaykroyd, The Just Joans, Lula Maes and How to Swim. They’ve garnered comparisons to Beirut and Sufjan Stevens but the band think their sound is more informed by Glasgow’s post-rock crew, bands such as Mogwai, with the songs building up in layers, albeit with acoustic instruments and not distorted guitars.After listening to the EP a few times I think the band are spot on – there is layered feel to the sound on this EP that gives the band a post rock feel – albeit with a pop charm that definetely makes this a must hear release. This feel is underpinned by some gorgeous instrumentation with accordions, ukeleles, mandolins, brass, saxophones, clarinets, flutes and glockenspiels all evident on the EP. I’d say the best way to get a handle on the band is to listen to one of their songs as they’ve built a sound that is all their own.
Lostmusic – January 2009
Anyway first up is a CD by The Second Hand Marching Band called ‘A Dance To Half Death’ . Probably the easiest thing I’ve ever had to review. They are a Scottish folk collective. They come from Fife and they sound like a twee Scottish version of Beirut. Lots of parping horns, wheezing accordians and choraled vocals. It all has a very uplifting feel and I could imagine sloshing pints of beer around to this, singing along and making a fool of myself.

I love the name of the record label – Chaffinch Records. How delightful. In this day and age of misery, stabbings and poverty its nice to hear something that reminds me of the beautiful Scottish countryside and a much more innocent time.

I’ll give you more comparisons if you want? Vashti Bunyan, the Fence Collective, Lucky Luke, Beirut (again) the music from the Wickerman or a happy Matt Elliott.

Norman Records – 19 January 2009. SINGLE OF THE WEEK

See, this is why we keep blathering on and doing this thing to death – because we know lurking somewhere out there is the next great, or at least potentially great, new band.

Presenting, then, The Second Hand Marching Band.

You’re intrigued already, we can tell. Based in Glasgow and formed in December 2007 to “play songs with many instruments that could be danced to” they number between 16 and 22, but don’t go thinking this is mere Polyphonic Spree gimmickry. Including members of many other bands, including Dananananaykroyd (drummer Paul Carlin), Eagleowl, Q Without U, The Just Joans and The Occasional Flickers (and, it suggests here, soon ex-Teenage Fanclub/Mogwai drummer Brendan O’Hare), their number includes mandolinists, ukeleleists, glockenspiel (two!), accordion, flute, clarinet, melodica and a three piece internal brass section, we’re dealing with sprawling folk of the Sufjan/Beirut end at heart, but with a cheerfully ramshackle chorality pitched somewhere between revivalist joy and huddling together for warmth and safety and an admitted post-rock influence in the way the layers of instruments slowly build and crescendo.

You’d imagine they’re something special live, although they’re only playing across Scotland at the moment. Fair enough, as despite the whole Balkan/Americana reference points it is ultimately a very Scottish sounding thing. They released a limited edition EP, A Dance To Half Death, last week, available from their Myspace and through Chaffinch Records. Watch them, because if we’re any judge – pause for readers to make faces and odd noises behind hands – they’re building up to something very interesting.
Sweeping The Nation – 20 January 2009
A mournful accordion propels a darkly romantic waltz, as boy-girl vocals sigh with solomn devotion, chuffing off two minutes in.
7/10 John Earls, Channel 4′s Planet Sound. 26 January 2009
Already gaining something of a novelty act reputation due to their sheer size – 23 members and counting? Only the Polyphonic Spree can better this, and whatever happened to them?

However, unlike that choir, all the members of the band are gainfully employed and not just singing or playing triangle. And moreover, the six tracks here are as fine as anything you’ll find at the horribly corporate Celtic Connections festival, or indeed on Radio 2. That’s to say, if they were stripped down to one man and a guitar then these tunes would still work as folk-pop classics. The title track isn’t the half of it either – in fact, there’s a slight weakness about this with a too-warbly vocal. But ‘Dance To Half Death’ is a tune that Vashti or James Yorkston would be proud of.

Similarly, ‘We Walk In The Room’ with its boy-girl vocals could be enough to reunite Richard and Linda Thompson, a song they’d be proud to have written. But it’s particularly Scots, even down to the warning “don’t go outside in the rain or snow” on ‘Don’t’. This lot could be going places – and I’m not just talking Glastonbury or Cambridge. Though they’ll need a big bus…
Calum Craig – Is This Music? January 2009

Close Your Eyes EP: reviews

March 19, 2010 by Chaffinch

Here’s Close Your Eyes EP which is a split four song EP featuring 1. The Stevenson Ranch Davidians with Let It All Go which is a Spiritualized sounding groove out. 2. James William Hindle and Calvin Halliday produce a gentle cover by Jackson Brown in a lovely tartan shirted delicate way. Track 3 is Fence Collective member Rich Amino with Molly May and another acoustic guitar track which makes ya foot tap and your mouth smile at the repetitive ha ha chorus. Track 4 and Sancho has plugged in his computer and is making pretty electronic pop niceness with jerky beats and xylophone tinkling.
Maggie, Norman Records 2007.
From the little label that brought you the splendid Anthony Reynolds EP, Close Your Eyes showcases 4 other eclectic artists that should woo your affections. The California based Stevenson Ranch Davidians lead off the EP with “Let It All Go”. The band’s straight-forward, jangly nature is layered with reverbed chords, southern organ fills, and a bit of alt-country psychedelia. I’d like to hear an album’s worth of this stuff.

The folky duo of James William Hindle & Calvin Halliday play an intimate cover of Jackson Browne’s ode to Nico, “Birds Of St. Marks”. Their guitar and vocal tones are warm and inviting, creating a cozy, introspective soundtrack. Next up is Rich Amino, a Londoner who devours smart, indie art-pop, as proven by his sweet gem “Molly May”. My guess is that Amino owns every Jens Lekman single. A great, simple…simply great song. This 4-song EP is concluded with Sancho’s “You’re My Lemonade”, a weirded out and abstract collage of percussion, synth yanking, and chilled out guitar work. Think of Air in jamming mode, and you’d have the right idea.

This is a fun little EP that works well to illustrate the strength of Chaffinch. More power to them.
The Black And White Magazine 2007