Matt Elliott launched his career with ferocious albums of experimental drum and bass under his The Third Eye Foundation alias, but on his subsequent solo work he’s focused that energy on inventive folk and acoustic music. The Calm Before continues this approach with six pieces of delicate and rich songwriting.
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Matt Elliott’s move from drum’n’ bass ’n’ noise troubadour with Third Eye Foundation to dark folkster could never have been predicted but on this his eight (is that right?) solo album he has reached a career high point in terms of his songwriting based work.
'The Calm Before' is a beautiful album of gentle classical guitar meditations augmented by gentle cello lines and piano notes. Elliott takes the less is more approach of similarly minded stark but beautiful LPs such as Nick Drake’s ‘Pink Moon’ and Sun Kil Moon’s ‘Admiral Fell Promises’ using beautiful evocative guitar playing and hushed, whispered vocals to create an air of..indeed…calm. The title track is a slowly unfurling of gorgeous folk craft with Elliott’s soft baritone following the melody lines before the whole thing drifts into a wind whipped long instrumental passage. On ‘The Feat of St Stephen’ Elliott comes across initially like a folky Serge Gainsbourg before the melody lines start to climb upwards and upwards like someone slowly trying to walk up a slide.
Elliott is known for his dark subject matter and this record is no different, religion, child abuse, rejection are all covered so you'll have to prepare to embrace the bleak but the difference between this and previous Elliott albums is that this is a less discordant listen. Sure ‘Wings and Crown’ explodes into a magnificent noisy crescendo but the slightly jarring chords changes and seriously bleak affairs of yore are replaced with a gorgeousness throughout which concludes with the magnificent ’The Allegory of the Cave’ Elliott’s voice delicious amongst Spanish guitars and cello drones until the whole thing ascends to a magnificent peak with wonderful Phillip Glass strings sitting beautifully withy the intricate guitar lines until the calm returns and you are left with a delightful instrumental closing pattern.
What a magnificent album.
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