Peter Escott has been carefully learning and unlearning the piano since childhood; recorded an unknown number of self-released, increasingly intricate and discordant instrumental piano CD-Rs, added a fairly serviceable singing voice to his playing on his let's-try-something-that-might-make-sense-to-people debut Slowcoach (independently released, 2008); then, to his own astonishment on top of everyone else's, made a sudden anxiety-defying shift from shy retirer to flamboyant frontman with compact, concise bass-and-machines duo The Native Cats, who have thrilled crowds from Gonerfest in Memphis to the Sydney Opera House. And now, like an introvert finding an empty room at a house party, Escott has returned to keeping his own counsel and suffering his own consequences, with his new solo album for Bedroom Suck Records, The Long O. Featuring no other performers and limited to the only instruments he knows how to play - piano, synth, melodica, and a solitary, awkwardly self-taught guitar chord - The Long O is as haunting as it is direct, with Escott's voice lending a reserved gravity to the often soaring arrangements.
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This is a really unusual album of bedroom pop that sits somewhere in between the organ based lo-fi pop of Young Marble Giants, the crooning storytelling of Adam Green and the outsider music of Daniel Johnston. Most tracks are based around two instruments - fizzing organ and/or bar-room piano. The combination of this with Escott’s rich, brown baritone leads to an album which is often as close to Randy Newman as it is to Jad Fair.
The songs are generally quite standard things, heading towards Brill Building territory but are performed in a slap-dash off the cuff manner which gives them their outsider status. The closest comparison is Adam Green; the songs are very similar melodically and structure-wise to Green’s lop-sided efforts and have the same off beat charm. Its a mixed bag in terms of quality with some great little tunes like ‘Believe In a Devil World’, a two chord trudge that is sweetly melodic. At other points the voice wavers and it comes close to spiralling into off-key caterwauling yet Escott tends to know how to pull it back from the abyss with heartfelt genuine delivery and some pretty nice churchy organ sounds.
Its not as if this kind of stuff hasn’t been done before. Liam Hayes’ Plush project and Parker Paul have dabbled in similar territories but there is something really stand alone about this. Its like one man given free reign over a keyboard for a day and recording everything that comes out, for better or for worse.
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