Review by David Waterfield
Release date: 2 June 2014
Picture the scene; it’s a carefree Saturday night and people are out enjoying themselves. Without warning a gunman opens fire and starts shooting people indiscriminately. A bullet rips through one of his victims, ending their life and as they lie there dying – with no chance to say goodbye to the people they love – time freezes. The victim and the killer meet and he is forced to feel the full weight of all that he has taken away: all the hopes, all the dreams, all the possibilities, all the memories, all the love…
That’s the premise behind Dressed In Voices, the new album from Mostly Autumn. It’s a dark, bold, sweeping work, the band’s first concept album, and in this age of downloads and streaming it is that rarest and most precious of things: an album that is best listened to as a complete work.
Ascending other-worldly keyboards and approaching footsteps evoke a sense of oncoming menace that leads into the dramatic and haunting album opener ‘Saturday Night’. This song and the two that follow – ‘Not Yours To Take’ and the passionate, ethereal ‘Running’ – sets the scene and the remainder of the album has a sense of foreboding as it’s all played out in the shadow of that impending bullet.
Scenes from the victim’s life unfold via the soaring guitars, swirling Hammond organ and galloping rhythms of ‘Down By The River’ and the rootsy acoustic stomp of ‘Skin On Skin’. ‘The House On The Hill’ brings to life warm, nostalgic recollections of an idyllic childhood. It’s a beautiful song with Celtic touches (courtesy of Troy Donockley), a tender lead vocal from Olivia Sparnenn-Josh and the addition of pedal steel guitar lends it a mellow, slightly country feel.
‘The Last Day’ (the only co-write from Iain Jennings on the album) is an excellent song that builds from keyboard and vocals with musical and lyrical nods to ‘The Last Bright Light’ and ‘The Spirit Of Autumn Past’ whilst the title track is another one from the Bryan Josh top drawer. The album closes with ‘Box Of Tears’, a heartbreakingly poignant song with Anne-Marie Helder on flute utilised to great effect.
With so much going on musically, emotionally and narratively it’s an album that you have to spend time with and it is something of a departure for Mostly Autumn. But Dressed In Voices is a magnificent and ambitious album; a dark, powerful, ominous, eerie, inventive, passionate, thrilling and frequently unpredictable ride that reveals hidden depths with repeated plays. It’s a fine addition to the rich and much loved body of work of one of my favourite bands.
And for all its dark and unsettling subject matter it’s also a strangely life-affirming album; a reminder of how precious, fragile and valuable one human life is – and how easily it can all be taken away. Even by Mostly Autumn standards Dressed In Voices is spine-tingling stuff.
9 out of 10
- Saturday Night
- Not Yours To Take
- See You
- First Day At School
- Down By The River
- Skin On Skin
- The House On The Hill
- The Last Day
- Dressed In Voices
- The Library
- Box Of Tears