No one evokes the emotional atmospheres of the North quite like Richard Adams, so thank god he's made Belmont Slope, a musical fable about the M62. Mysterious and muffled, he returns with his Declining Winter moniker to detail further secrets hiding in the Yorkshire soil. If it's anything like the magnificent Home for Lost Souls, it should deliver intimate pop gems influenced by his favourite stay-at-home songwriters -- while occasionally reaching for the expanse of old band Hood.
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Heavy is the heart of a lifetime York City supporter; come all ye weary, and hear the Declining Winter’s latest record of National League North pop. Yorkshire grump Richard Adams is a long way out of his tenure in post-rock innovators Hood, but his career since has become something just as interesting, a long-term attempt at perfecting the shapes and textures of bedroom indie pop. That might help explain why ‘Belmont Slope’ sounds overtly similar to its predecessor, the wonderful ‘Home for Lost Souls’ -- further listens reveal even richer songwriting, the brushstrokes softer and the picture clearer than it’s ever been.
First up is Adams’ voice: on ‘Belmont Slope’ it sounds just that little bit more foregrounded, still wearing its brilliant disguise of guitar picking and shuttering drums but peeking out to suggest the humanity behind the picaresque Yorkshire moors. It gives the record that little bit more movement, its emotional state of desperation and destitution feeling, for the first time, like more of a narrative than a meditation. It makes sense, given that the record is named after a landmark you see when you drive down the M62; this record is the Declining Winter’s great, expansive road trip record.
This thing sounds so much richer, more full and refined. Tunes like “Break the Elder” make me start wanting to talk about Adams’ guitar playing skills with hyperbole and gravitas: he echoes the ghosts of some of the all time greats in his melodic pronunciation, bringing the brittle shimmer of early Mark Kozelek to mind, only under the kind of gloomy textural murk of Radiohead. Trumpet sounds come bursting out, too, Adams inviting fanfare into his compact sound.
Talk about experiments, too: the jangling indie folk Adams finds comfort in drifts away on tunes like “Twilight Rating”, where he attempts to make full-on dub techno for the first time in his solo career. These moments are startling in themselves; on the record, they break up the homeliness of driving your car through a twilight motorway, pitching the record into utter darkness and sending us as far as we can go from home. Somehow they feel like a perfect little interruption to the record, the paranormal shadow lifted for a song of guitars and mandolin harping on 'Green' era R.E.M.
How the hell is it possible to make your most refined record and your most ambitious one at the same time? Like this, apparently.
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