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It took me awhile but I finally fell in love with Gravenhurst’s first two albums. In the early 2000’s I have to admit my reaction to them signing to Warp was one of sheer disbelief. There were far better bands out there at the time doing a kinda similar thing and more deserving of the Warp dollar. I thought them chancers, misery merchants and I thought Nick Talbot’s voice too high for the Nick Drake influenced melancholic folk he peddled. However, after falling in love with his version of Husker Du’s ‘Diane’ on ‘Black Holes in the Sand’ (2004), I invested in both albums and was duly rewarded.
The mini LP ‘Black Holes in the Sand’ in my opinion is Gravenhurst’s high water moment and the point where everything fell into place. The eerie acoustic plucking of the opening title track sets the mood and when Talbot whispers “in the small hours I realised what I had done” it introduces a sense of unease that continues throughout the record. This is a wracked and ruined Nick Drake at 3AM after some perilous event has occurred in his life, comforting himself in the ancient plucks of the acoustic guitar as he slowly spills his secrets into a whirring tape recorder. The superb ‘Diane’ pushes this unease into violence ....“I think I’ll just rape you and kill you” when sung in Talbot’s clear choirboy voice is almost too hard to bear.
This is not to say that the debut ‘Flashlight Seasons’ is in anyway inferior - there are some superb tracks; ‘I Turn My Face to the Forest Floor’ and the superb ‘Bluebeard’ with it’s infectious doomy chorus is just drop dead brilliant. The closing ‘Hopechapel Hill’ is the light at the end of the tunnel, serving the exact same purpose as ‘From the Morning’ does on ‘Pink Moon’, the morning after a terrifying night, light streaming through the curtains and everything is ok.
Following these albums Talbot moved further into a post rock direction introducing electronics and other debris into his sound but to me he never topped these eerie, folky early recordings. Warp continue to believe in his talents and on the CD version add a bonus disc of ten ‘Lost Songs’ recorded between 2000 and 2004.
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