, May 5th, 2011 10:53
Kent-born multi-instrumentalist Alexander Tucker has released a monumental album in Dorwytch. Even compared to 2005's Old Fog, this is a record that people should be talking about. Or rather, it's a record that should be making people shut up and listen. When we first played this in the office initially it was the tunes that we loved. A week of afternoons was brightened considerably by the insistent cello-folk of 'His Arm Has Grown Long'; the gentle fingerpicking of 'Red String'; the chiming lullaby of 'Matter'; the lightly sun dappled English prettiness of 'Hose'; and so on and so forth. But it was only when I got it home to a pair of monolithic 1970s stereo speakers that it transformed into a pool of potential deep listening. A relatively still surface daring you to dive in, its sharp, cold depth containing bindweed, or maybe worse... things that threaten to drag you under, away from surface beauty into a totally different, forbidding world.
Tracks such as the aforementioned 'His Arm Has Grown Long' are built up from a scratchy cello riff, built up in layer after looped layer. The vibrations of each additional lamina drone off one another, as if giving voice to the communion of shrinking boards on a sunbaked, Doldrum-trapped ship. While this is ostensibly a solo album, the free improv drummer Paul May adds a staccato sprinkling of magic to the track. (Other well-chosen guests include Duke Garwood, Jess Bryant and Daniel O'Sullivan.) Tucker works with loop pedals to free himself up from the politics of being in a band but the very fact he uses this process pales into insignificance on Dorwytch compared to the songwriting and sound-sculpturing. It is merely a means to an end rather than the central process (as with artists such as Juana Molina). For there is a world of chaos lurking within these repetitively riffed compositions, with voices and strings, shadow and fog threatening to spiral out of control at any second.
The song 'Matter' places Tucker firmly in a lineage of fine English folk and sees him treading in the same metaphysical footsteps as leonine philosopher/comic book writer/magus Alan Moore. The protagonist of this beautiful song sees "organic matter growing instead of limbs" and delves into the same murky space between flora and fauna that Moore's Swamp Thing lives in. Even the interludes here are perfectly considered (he was working on the material for this album for three years), as in the collection of synthesizer drones - part Cluster, part Lichens - that is 'Half Vast', which unfolds from a synthetic buzz into an organic elegy, as if by a giant machine trying to imagine the mineral origins of its components.
Tucker is an artist in the most traditional, least ostentatious sense of the word. He is interested in art that depicts and craft that works. He started as a painter, something you can tell from not just his audio textures but his brightly radiant imagist lyricism as well. Once obsessed with creating an image, always obsessed with it. And with this newfound confidence in his lyrics has come a newfound confidence in his own voice to deliver them. His singing has never been stronger, even though sometimes (as on 'Craters') he sounds less like a radical English folk performer and more like Brian Eno wandering through Another Green World - no bad thing in my opinion. A great, grand album. A keeper, as they say.