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Robin Guthrie
Carousel Julian Marszalek , September 4th, 2009 06:59

Such is the idiosyncratic and characteristic sound of Robin Guthrie's output that it becomes all too easy to take him and his skills as a guitarist for granted. Much like Durutti Column's Vini Reilly, Guthrie is frequently overlooked as a master of his craft and subsequently lumped in with any number of hackneyed clichés focussing on the — ahem — glacial and celestial nature of his work. A crying shame as there remains so much more to the former Cocteau Twins mainstay.

Though the shadow of Cocteau Twins does tend to colour any expectations of Carousel, it isn't too long before the nagging voice at the back of the head stops whispering, "Yeah, I can just hear what Elizabeth Fraser would have sung here" and the album begins to stand proud on its own terms. 'Delight' is where Guthrie's experiences as composer of film scores comes to the fore as the layers of harmonised guitars are eschewed for a starker sound that succeeds in painting noir-ish images in the mind's eye.

Similarly, the exquisitely tender 'Mission Dolores' evokes the spectre of Air taking The Who's 'Behind Blue Eyes' for a midnight stroll along the Seine, and the result raises eyebrows as much as it soothes the ears. Indeed, the overriding mood of the album is that of tranquillity and calm; yet listening to the painstaking work on display here suggests hard graft rather than a laissez-fair approach to studio craft.

Crucially, Carousel never slips into the realms of indulgence and with the tracks hovering around the three-minute mark, Guthrie's vignettes are a satisfying snapshot of coloured sound. This is music that rises and falls; be it the cosmic Duane Eddy twang of 'Sparkle' or the haunting tension of 'Little Big Fish', Guthrie's ability to plot and navigate a journey of carefully manipulated sound remains undiminished.

Carousel is a fragile delight from the first note to the last. It may contain few surprises, but Guthrie continuing ability to sculpt such beautiful pieces in voice that's wholly and uniquely his own is cause enough for celebration.