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Slim Twig
A Hound At The Hem (Reissue) Richard Pearmain , December 8th, 2014 16:24

Hailing from a family of film makers, Toronto's Max Turnbull (better known as Slim Twig) has certainly built up an interesting CV – from appearances in low budget indie movies, including one for which he composed the score, to numerous record releases, both solo and as a member of the now defunct Tropics. He's also managed to fit in the time to produce two US Girls albums, so clearly young Mr Twig is no slouch.

His second album, A Hound At The Hem is getting the reissue treatment on Twig's new label, DFA. Originally recorded in 2010 and subsequently available on Twig's own Calico label, it's described as being thematically inspired by Nabokov's Lolita, exploring (as the publicity puts it) "the troubling and the taboo". Such a bold statement of intent shouldn't really come as any surprise to anyone who's been following Twig's progress, with the amount of praise and the comparisons drawn to this clearly mercurial talent.

For a newcomer to Slim Twig's oeuvre, the album's opener, Heavy Splendour, sets you up for the deep end that you're about to be thrown into – luxuriant yet unsettling strings give way to an incessant ra-ta-tat ra-ta-tat riff and off kilter drumming. Above it all are Slim Twig's heavily reverbed vocals, swooping between Gene Vincent highs and Nick Cave lows. In fact, that's one common element to all the tracks on the album, alongside some very old school production techniques - Twig's switch of vocals and mannerisms, as though playing (at least) two different personas.

The deceptively jaunty Clerical Collar, where Twig appears at times to be impersonating Bryan Ferry circa For Your Pleasure, is followed by the more downbeat Widow, Were You Younger, which seems to take its musical cue from the John Lennon of Give Me Some Truth. Shroud By The Sheetful opts for the baroque and roll approach before giving way to the 4/4 stomp of All This Wanting, whilst Hover On A Sliver is a disorientating dose of sequencer, strings and stuttering drums. Maintain The Charade is as close as Slim Twig comes to the conventional – 60s psych infused with a fuzzed up guitar and squealing saxes at the end, but still pervading a sense of unease, you're still not entirely sure where the song is going to go next. The album closes with Blonde Ascending (Come Into The Clatter), which effectively distils the various elements of the other songs through the filter marked "epic" – a sweeping arrangement and languid vocals rounding off what is a quite extraordinary record.

A Hound At The Hem won't be everyone's cup of tea, it's wilful obtuseness may grate with some, but it's an album to persevere with – you can take the concept with a pinch of salt, but you can't deny that it's an album that's brimming with ideas and invention. The re-release through DFA will introduce it to a much wider audience than before, and though it's effectively a stopgap until new material is forthcoming, it does make you wonder what Slim Twig could possibly come up with next.