Grasscut – 1-inch/Half-mile (Ninja Tune/Border) CD REVIEW

Grasscut is one of those odd things Ninja Tune throw up every now and again, maybe just to prove that as a label, they really are capable of odd esoterica beyond all bounds. Unfortunately, this kind of thing tends to get lost in the clutter. Bigger names and more easily digestible music hogs the lime-light, while an album as excellent (albeit unpronounceable) as this fails to get the attention it deserves.

This is the project of Andrew Philips, a chap who has worked with “world music crossover” group One Giant Leap, but don’t hold that against him. Apparently he’s a film music composer, and his debut as Grasscut certainly betrays his eclectic musicality.

More importantly, however, he’s come through with an album that cuts through (ha-ha!) the morass of contemporary releases with a very specific, and very English sound, that’s simply gorgeous. This is British art pop for people who have a penchant for the likes of 1970s-style Brian Eno, Robert Wyatt through to late-period Talk Talk; music that’s not afraid to be a little ambitious, to have clever bits because it makes things more interesting, and to be crafted using anything that makes it more of a compelling canvas. That means orchestrations, but also electronic elements.

The album also works as a kind of movie for the ears, as quite a few of the songs have some kind of quaint, old-world charm vested in them because of the voices that inhabit them. ‘1941’, for instance, has an old lady talking about that year, and ‘In Her Pride’ features narration over sad strings and accordion.

This kind of baroque pop with vast horizons has become increasingly rare, and therefore we shouldn’t let examples of it blow away into sale bins. 1-inch/half mile deserves your ears. GARY STEEL

SOUND = 3.5

MUSIC = 4

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