record reviews - february


ALEX REX

Andromeda (Tin Angel)

71VDUQ9K6aL. AC SL1200

His second solo album since the demise of Trembling Bells comes in the wake of two years spent in therapy, the gym and on Tinder and is a far darker beast that Otterburn. It opens with no less that folk legend Shirley Collins speaking Song of Self Doubt to a backdrop of drone, chimes and birdsong before launching into the slow march, mournful Handful of Hair, sounding like a strangled country Cohen.

Built around the core of multi-instrumentalist Rory Haye, bassist Audrey Bizouerne and pianist Georgia Seddon and variously featuring contributions from former Bells member Lavinia Blackwell on piano and vocals and Stevie Jackson from Belle and Sebastian, I Am Happy is steeped in Nick Cave gloom and torments while the tone’s probably summed up by the title of Funeral Music For Alex Rex which has him speaking the lyrics over a maelstrom backdrop.

The singer-songwriter confession of Oblivion is, however, somewhat musically lighter and folksier than it sounds while Coward’s Song sets lines from Richard III to a sparse country waltz, Rottweiler covers the mental turmoil effects of self-deception and self-destruction and Haunted House spins a strung out, ghostly tale of an emotional poltergeist seeking love.” I weathered the storm by becoming the weather” he sings on The Uses of Trauma, an almost sedate number when set against the subsequent I’m Not Hurting No More which features him reciting a poem against a relentlessly percussive noise that’s rather like having your head up against some industrial panel beater. It ends on a quieter, slow waltzing piano accompanied note with Pass The Mask, a melodically keening song informed by the anxiety of childbearing which he describes as “about the relay baton of disappointment handed through the generations”. Probably not an album to play before going to bed.

Mike Davies

roots-and-branches.com 2020