When unassuming young Orkney music-maker Erland Cooper picked up his guitar and travelled the length of the country to play a show in London’s Notting Hill, little did he know that a chance encounter with musical veteran Simon Tong (The Verve, The Good The Bad & The Queen, and Gorillaz) would be the start of a unique songwriting friendship. Together they formed Erland & The Carnival and now, nearly a decade later, arrives Closing Time - the band’s third, most accomplished album yet.
Opening a new chapter, Closing Time is an understated, inward looking collection of songs that feature stunning string arrangements and Erland’s impassioned vocals at centre stage.
Recorded in Damon Albarn’s studio13 with previous Erland & The Carnival engineer Steve Sedgewick and mixed by London Grammar producer Tim Bran, despite creating more than 40 songs in the process of writing the album (“Some of the song melodies and ideas on this may have even been written when I was 21 to be honest. ‘Sometimes’ certainly was,” admits Erland), it was a brilliantly spontaneous and productive time taking just over 3 days to come to fruition.
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Erland Cooper is a strange specimen, someone playing a style of music which I tend to dislike - earnest, sweeping indie rock with big sentimental arrangements that is in many ways as radio-bland as Coldplay, The National or Stornoway - and yet consistently manages to do it in a way that I find quite engaging and charming. It flies against all logic that I should like him but previous Erland & The Carnival albums have left me pleasantly surprised and I really liked his Magnetic North album too.
He and his Carnival are back again this week with 'Closing Time', perhaps his most downbeat and thoughtful offering to date. It's a pretty decent collection but a little bit one-mood compared to his more varied previous offerings, sticking to a sombre, slow-paced plod through some simple, pretty songs with the exception of wistful pop anthem 'Birth Of A Nation' which comes as a British Sea Power-esque breath of fresh air mid-album.
There are some clever production touches that raise it above your average indie whiners - There's some cool synth touches on 'They're Talking About You Again' and the call-and-response between Cooper and some backwards tape loops in closer 'Daughter' has an inexplicable brittle soulful punch that left me speechless for a few moments after the album finished. I'm not sure they quite scale the heights of previous albums like 'Nightingale' here, but it's a solid and worthy effort nonetheless, with enough highlights to keep faithful fans happy.
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