Sad songwriter Adrian Crowley's fourth album for Chemikal Underground (though he did plenty before this association) finds him disassociating himself with the instrument that has been a constant companion throughout his career. The humble guitar. Instead 'Dark Eyed Messenger' sits Crowley's chocolate brown voice above a combination of pianos, mellotron and strings. Stark.
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For this album mahogany voiced Irishman Adrian Crowley decided to dispense with the guitar that has been a constant throughout his career and concentrate on placing his well worn voice over a mixture of pianos, mellotrons and electronics. My early fears that this was going to be an album of just voice and twinkly piano are thankfully shattered by tracks like 'Silver Birch Tree' which use looped keyboards and strings to build up a dark near electronica sound over which Crowley intones that he's decided to live out his life as a silver birch tree. now there's an idea.
Similarly on the 'By the Time I get to Phoenix' aping 'Halfway to Andalucia' the pianos roll and cavort with nods towards the compositions of the likes of Michael Nyman. 'Catherine in the Dunes' sees Crowley try out a different vocal style which really works - more hushed (if that were possible), his voice floats beautifully over some churning electronics that remind me a bit of 'Drums and Guns' era Low. Good to see him pushing boundaries.
It's bleak...but not too bleak. There's a playfulness about the arrangements that helps assuage what could be a total navel gazing record. At times there's a bit of a disconnect between Crowley's voice and the music - as if the glue that holds his compositions together has been worn away somehow and it flails and loses focus at times. A worthwhile experiment though I wouldn't be unhappy if the guitar was allowed back for the next one.
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