Shiver me timbers, roll up roll up for the psychedelic carnival that is ‘effigies’ by Nathan Hall and the Sinister Locals. Stepping out of the shadows of his more recognisable Soft Hearted Scientists guise, incidentally the band are on a year sabbatical, Mr Hall follows his recently well received ‘the Volga Sturgeon Face’ EP with this vivid and lush dream coat. In many ways, ‘Effigies’ provides for classic Soft Hearted Scientists fayre, those remembering the band’s first three EP’s from many years ago that appeared on the sadly defunct my kung Fu will be instantly drawn to its richly threaded tapestry of strange delights and hurdy gurd-ian mysteries for this ultimately is a wondrous voyage to secret villages, strange lands, forgotten folklores and distant dreams all kaleidoscopically coloured and radiantly abundant in a peculiar peppering of yarns, bewitchment and heraldic tales.
As noted in previous dispatches, ‘Effigies’ is a seafaring mysterio amid whose crew the ghosts of XTC, William D Drake (see ‘spider skin’), the Cardiacs, the Soft Boys and Syd Barrett sail, here you’ll be affectionately taken by hand to familiar sightings and settings for the tracks appearing on that aforementioned EP feature here in their entirety. ‘like a setting sun’ – the best moment of that set by several yards, comes prettily purred in a breezy pastoral airiness that instantly recalls the celebrated musical craft of a ‘mummer’ era XTC albeit here impishly daubed and inked by the waywardly woozy charms of a ‘gigglegoo’ era Freed Unit. ‘Catacombs of Camden Town’ arrives adoringly lilted in lazy eyed rustic sprays which gently scratched reveal a cornucopia of haunted memories and sorrowed introspection. Elsewhere there’s the fan faring pomp and hurrah of ‘everybody’s burning effigies’, a stirring and effervescent sun bathed joyous parade of jubilant fairgrounds and afternoon brass bands gathered in merriment for a weirdly surreal mayday festooned village green carnival. Lest we forget mention of ‘song for the flowers’ which still, all these months on since first hearing, is to these ears a dead eyed nod to the bliss toning softly turned campfire psych of a youthful Earlies.
So that’s the EP tracks done with, now onwards to the other hidden gems lurking within, such as, for instance ‘plant your flag’ – a Meek tweaked psych pill, its baroque ghosted steam punk sonic inventory providing a vintage echo much in tune with the Victoriana detailing applied to wax by Paul Roland. ‘the sighing song’ – the shortest track here bar the end credits farewell salute that is ‘song from the haunted pavilion’ – shimmers with dreamy delight traced all the time in a vividly bright posy of pastoral cascades and lightly layered crystal tipped drift washes. For us though, best moment of the set by a short head is ‘the unholy ghost’ for here amid the eerie enchantment and the whiff of old English peculiar, eccentricity is in abundance with the spirits of the Barrett, the Cardiacs and Giant Paw conspiring to reign all manner of wizardry, waywardness and olde worldle ne’er do well’ing in concocting a ghostly brew of macabre musical hall merriment. That said, ‘stained glass girl’ is no slouch in the affection stakes, swashbuckling high seas adventuring replete with ghouls and supernatural visitations make this a jaunty jamboree. Into the final straight, ‘your name in flames’ with its crystalline cosmic unworldliness has an air of the spectral symphonia beauty that piped through the core of Porcupine Tree’s ‘stupid dream’ while the hymnally hued ‘we’ll go walking (please don’t let us lose the things that make us who we are)’, (good luck with the t-shirts for that one), is dappled in dreamy swirls upon a wonderfully sleepy headed hypnotic campfire charming,, think Clinic in cahoots with a debut album era Toshack Highway. Which all leaves ‘song from the haunted pavilion’ to set its course for the disappearing horizons and with it bringing a wheezing close to the proceedings courtesy of a sepia scratched Sunday bandstand soiree. Irresistibly out of time, out of fashion and out of this world.
Further reading ….