Following a series of albums veering from instrumental soundtrack work to folk songs in collaboration with the likes of James Yorkston and Adrian Crowley, the Big Eyes Family players are set to release their first album of new material in over six years. 'Oh!' is a lush and melancholic take on the type of space age batchelor pad pop previously peddled by the likes of Broadcast and United States of America. They don't veer too far from their folky roots though with a lilting cover of Lal Waterson's 'Song For Thirza an album highlight. Sharron Kraus and Aby Vulliamy (Trembling Bells/Aidan Moffat) guest.
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Sorta folkies The Big Eyes Family Players haven’t made a peep of that thing we call “sonic art” in six years, so you can understand they’d be a little confused. Having made meditative instrumental music and the kind of pastoral, star-gazing ballads worthy of a field and a wooden gate, they now return somewhere in the between, creating with Broadcast’s chill approach to the cosmos, Arthur Russell’s suspended melancholy, James Yorkston’s civility and Wilco’s grown-up Americana.
I like to be provided with all things soft, so it’s the softer moments that work best; ‘Oh!’ strikes at first with the kind of tentatively rocking psychedelia of a great Cate Le Bon cut, but it sounds best relaxed, the drums brushing against the orchestration like water on a boatside. At its sparsest, this record can do many things; it can be strong, settling medicine or an ominous trip into the unknown, with ghostly guitar tones that echo Christina Carter’s improvisations (if they were cut cleaner). When the pieces get fuller, they tend to throw away what good they had going on, such as those moments in which a lonely guitar figure is joined by shimmering drumbeats, yawning synths and a way over-bolstered vocal harmony -- leave the wallowing alone, 'kay?
Big Eyes Family Players are ultimately a weird band, discombobulating a bunch of genres no one’s really tried to trace through a family tree: you want to sound like Lal Waterson and Broadcast at the same time? A’ight. At the same time, there’s a real charm to these odd songs: a melody can transcend genre hybrid, and even atmosphere, and so there are moments that twist and turn the synths like ‘Ha Ha Sound’ but sound as pastoral and folkloric as anything. ‘Oh!’ is wading happily through the swamp.
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- 'Oh!' by The Big Eyes Family Players
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