archive review originally published on the losing today site c. 2007 ….
Though we might have placed the laurel reef upon the head of Dreams of Tall Buildings (reviewed elsewhere previously) for having the best looking packaging this tasty little morsel runs it a close second. Described by them Static dudes as a ‘fancy string wrapped CD-r limited to 100 copies’ – well don’t know about you but it had us a whooping in anticipation – this package is indeed fancily wrapped up like a letter if truth be known, concealing inside a CD housed in a tracing paper sleeve itself playing home to six tracks. And while we are at it word is those 100 copies are fast disappearing at such a rate that Sting and Co may well in the short term future organise some kind of conservation related enterprise (oh goody – now now at the back) and if only to pour salt in the wounds – a quick check on ebay tells us that currently there is a copy undergoing a fierce bidding war standing at £21(which by the time this reaches cyberspace it would have been snapped up – UPDATE – yep). In all honesty one of THE best things to come out of Static since they mended the gear shaft on the old beaten up hippy truck and took the Caravan for a leg stretch to the lakes for a spot of tea and scones – and with a roster that includes the time and time again uncovering of quality gems (read Tunng, d_rradio – who incidentally feature elsewhere among these very pages, fortdax so on and so forth) then you have an inkling that by saying that alone that this release is truly of the very special variety. Okay no details about Shady Bard however as to references points try Radiohead and the Earlies. Believe it or not we’ve had this precious little delicacy in our mits for weeks now and have yet to sit through it in it’s entirety without breaking down in a heap of blubbering baby like wailing sounds. Sublime in the way it literally destroys you this EP is quietly magnificent, sensitive, mellow, melodically perfect and one for snuggling under the blankets to. Autumnal of that there‘s no doubt, hurting and lost in a maddening world of quick firing three minute fumbles in the sack of pop – Shady Bard’s compositions are measured, elegant cast and lasting. Once the frosty opening of the introductory instrumental thread of ’The Origin of Trees’ with it’s yawning strings and lullaby-esque piano keys passes into the ether from out of the snowbound daybreak comes the enchanting softly treading ’Treeology’. Think of the more mercurial and less fractured moments from Thom Yorke’s psyche, add to it a vocal that sounds not unlike a younger and tearfully stained King Creosote and the gentle but subtle haunting splash of conscience pulling cascading chords braided by an complement of softy impatient strings that together hover ominously with the implied threat that they’ll soon unhook themselves from their serene mooring. Absolutely amazing stuff. The equally arresting ‘These Quiet Times’ next which you feel would be enhanced immensely by a backdrop of snow drifts outside, horse chestnuts roasting on a roaring open fire and an array of some suitably ’Giles’ inspired choir singers outside distantly peddling their Xmas fair into the cold night air. A bigger bollocks variant of Coldplay’s ’Clocks’ undoubtedly carrying in its wake twice the emotional baggage and bringing with it a sense of unerring majesty. Whatever scant traces of your heart strings that have been left unplucked by ’Treeology’ are soon torn to ribbons as this piano led ballad sets about you with crushing finality. Maybe it’s just me but every time I hear ‘Bobby’ I keep finding myself singing ‘Fernando’ by ABBA or should that be ‘Angelo’ by er – the Brotherhood of Man (I do worry about myself sometimes) – think upon it as a delicately teased Dream Academy with celestially strewn piano keys, heavenly harmonies and breezy harmonicas all combining to bask you in a tingling glow. By the time the nuzzlingly statue-esque instrumental ’From the ground up’ arrives on the hi-fi you’re literally emotionally shot, an elegant, windswept and richly colour coded sense of grandeur confined, wrapped lovingly and parcelled up as a neatly touching 3 and a half minute love note of sorts. The crafted ’Memory Tree’ brings up the rear admirably – a timeless crossing with Robert Wyatt on one side and the earlier recorded outings of the Earlies on the other, frail and fragile and possessing a toy room sentiment that many fans of the recent Magnetaphone album may well connect with, this cutely honed gem twinkles and yawns with all the disarming affection of a bed time story book, quite beautifully even if I do say so myself. As if you really expected anything different – Joint Single of the Missive and that’s regardless of the fact that sitting at the tail end of this missive lurks the incredibly wonderful fortdax – again on the same label, must be something in the water.