The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Reviews

Andrew Tuttle
Alexandra Zara Hedderman , July 21st, 2020 08:20

Evoking the Alexandra Hills of Queensland, Australia's Andrew Tuttle creates sublime soundscapes of plucked and strummed strings, finds Zara Hedderman

Across Studio Ghibli’s feature-length films, audiences are taken on thrilling adventures led by the children in their respective animated worlds. Ignited by imagination, their play takes place outside, amongst fields of colourful wildflowers and forests inhabited by magical cuddly creatures. Many of director Hayao Miyazaki’s thematical inspirations are borne from a disdain for capitalism, modern technology and the disruption to the integrity of the environment; "Nature – the mountains and rivers – was being destroyed in the name of economic progress," he said of growing-up under the Shōwa regime.

Similarly, Australian songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Tuttle’s fourth record, Alexandra is a stunning meditation centred on his hometown competing with rapid urbanisation. As a child, his family relocated to the Redlands, a quiet rural town outside of Brisbane, with the intention of living a quiet life. However, the peaceful landscape was disrupted by infrastructural development. Since the beginning of Tuttle’s career, stemming back to his 2015 debut Slowcation, the songwriter demonstrates an impressively efficient and economical approach in his spacious compositions. Spanning just thirty-four minutes, these nine instrumentals are a loosely guided tour of the Alexandra neighbourhood where Tuttle found his musical footing; from leafy trails to echoey shopping centres.

Alexandra’s soothing ambient-folk arrangements represent Tuttle’s experience of the co-existence between nature and suburbia by melding organic instrumentation with processed electronics. As with most instrumentally-based records, the listener is given the opportunity to forge their own connection with the music in the absence of predisposed sentiments carved out in the lyrics. The potential, then, for specific movements or chords to resonate is far greater since instrumental music speaks an international and inclusive vernacular.

Opener ‘Sun At 5 In 4161’ takes off with a buoyant guitar melody emitting a golden glow akin to that of William Tyler’s - formerly of Lambchop and Silver Jews - recent output, setting the tone for this texturally dynamic record. From there, Tuttle’s protagonists shift between acoustic guitar and banjo, supported by sublime soundscapes featuring faraway sax solos (heard on the aforementioned opener), hopeful new-age sounding synth lines (‘Tallowwood View’), and layered field recordings (Cambridge Drive Shopping Centre’).

One such supporting role in Alexandra, whose performance provides one of the record’s most emotive moments, is the wailing pedal steel on ‘Hilliard Creek, Finucane Road’. Countering Tuttle’s resplendent banjo, a shimmering synth line ties the tonally disparate worlds together. Elsewhere, brief scrambles of instrumentation meander into rippling melodies on ‘Scribbly Gums Park’ while its companion piece ‘Scribbly Gums Trail’ commands attention via the striking interplay of trickling piano, banjo and fiddle. In each composition, there’s an unwavering cinematic quality in the crispness of the production and the ease in which the arrangements flow. In this regard, Tuttle has created an album best enjoyed chronologically.

There’s an endearing earnestness permeating Tuttle’s amble through the various landmarks of his beloved Alexandra Hills. Along the way, his arrangements, in a stream-of-conscious flow, create a childlike wonderment depicted in Miyazaki’s films, providing a restorative portal of escapism.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.