As someone who’s found success writing songs for Paloma Faith, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Marianne Faithfull, it’s always been a crying shame that Ed Harcourt has never found commercial success in his own right. The ninth album in a career stretching back to the turn of the millennium, hopefully Monochrome To Colour can correct that. Featuring Portishead’s Clive Deamer on drums, it’s a beautifully crafted mix of ancient and modern instrumentation and styles.
Vinyl Double LP £21.00 PODR148LP
Heavyweight vinyl 2LP on The Point Of Departure Recording Company. Comes in a high gloss gatefold sleeve.
CD £10.50 PODR148CD
CD on The Point Of Departure Recording Company.
Christ if this album isn't the richest slice of chocolate cake I’ve heard in years. It’s so rich I feel forced out of my skin, as though there's not enough room inside me for all that richness. Ed Harcourt’s ‘Monochrome To Colour’ is very much what you’d call neoclassical, using classical instrumentation and form to create something that appeals beyond the listenership of BBC Radio 3. If you like Max Richter and Nils Frahm and Jóhann Jóhannsson you’ll probably like this too. It’s all big and bright and bold, every track wears its heart on its sleeve and is also thrusting its sleeve into your face. ‘Her Blood Is Volcanic’ has the sort of undulating string that gets described as mournful, so presumably for Harcourt having volcanic blood is bad.
The other band ‘Monochrome To Colour’ reminds me is Sigur Rós, especially in the expansiveness of the arrangements and the sweetness of the melodies. The xylophone melody in ‘Childhood’ sounds unnervingly like ‘Hoppípolla’, I felt like I was having acid flashbacks to a thousand twee adverts all at once.
It’s when Harcourt does things a bit differently that ‘Monochrome To Colour’ really lives up to its name. ‘Drowning Dreams’ introduces some quite lovely lurid saxophones that are mixed perfectly; they sound like they’re coming from within all the strings. ‘After The Carnival’ introduces some upbeat drums to go in a more Cinematic Orchestra direction, and ‘Death Of The Siren’ begins all ambient before introducing furious piano and an unexpected climax. My favourite is ‘So Here’s To You, Hally’. It’s Harcourt and his most restrained and personal feeling, just him and his piano. The simplicity means it’s by far the most nuanced thing here, something the album could do with more of.
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