Wilds by The Soundcarriers


“Wilds” is The Soundcarriers’ fifth album, their first being in 2009 and their fourth in 2014.

The album was recorded in four different locations: a cottage in Derbyshire, a road in Nottingham, a disused unnamed primary school and a Nottingham art gallery. They didn’t want the sound of the music to be too polished and they developed the idea of the music being made in the wild. Hence the name of the album.

The music of The Soundcarriers is sometimes described as “hauntological”. This was not a term that I had come across before. As a generic term, not specific to music, hauntology refers to using elements from the social or cultural past. Musically, groups such as Broadcast, the Focus Group, Belbury Poly and the Advisory Circle use sounds of old music technology to enhance their brand of British electronic music. These sounds might include scratchy vinyl records, public information films, hiss from cassette tape, the experimental music of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop or film and television soundtracks. The effect is to present an alternative present – a parallel universe that may have been imagined in the past but never materialised. The result is unsettling; a musical landscape which, at first seems familiar, but is always just slightly out of focus.

The genre of hauntological music was developed by Ghost Box Records who released The Soundcarriers last album, “Entropicalia”, which included a twelve minute groove narrated by Elijah Wood. The founder of Ghost Box Records, Jim Jupp, switches the concept of hauntology around by defining it as the misremembered past of a parallel world.

Now, I don’t want to be controversial but….. Hang on, I don’t mind being controversial. Let’s start again.

The concept of hauntological music doesn’t sound very different to me. It’s not possible for anyone to make music without it reflecting the music that they have listened to in the past. Every past experience informs the present. A “misremembered past” sounds like “the past” to me. Unless you’re Lt. Commander Data of the USS Enterprise, who has a perfect memory, there’s no such thing as the absolute truth when it comes to the past. Today, Peter came over and we watched a couple of hours of Peter Jackson’s astonishingly good “Get Back” film. The overwhelming impression created is a complete 180 degree turn around from Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s “Let It Be”. I’m under no illusion that either film is “the truth”. We see what we are presented with and it’s the same with our memories which are far from perfect. A few years ago, Dominic West, Ruth Wilson and Maura Tierney starred in a great TV series called “The Affair” and, in the early episodes, the same scenes were shown from two different perspectives. The first half hour might show a husband acting reasonably and talking calmly when he returns home late one evening, only to be berated by his wife, because that’s how Dominic West’s character remembered it. The second half hour would show the same scenes from Maura Tierney’s character’s perspective in which her husband rolled in past midnight, drunk and abusive. This is how memory works. What May or may not have actually happened is irrelevant. All we have is our recollection and interpretation. Hauntological music might make actual use of old sounds or might sound like music made in the Sixties, but in that it’s not unusual. When Paul McCartney sung “Now she’s hit the big time”, on “Honey Pie” from “The Beatles” as if it was played through a wind up gramophone accompanied by crackles from a 78rpm record, was that hauntology? No. It was just making clever use of technology to invoke the past. Alternatively, yes it was and it epitomises the genre perfectly.

“Wilds” doesn’t make specific use of old sounds but, musically, it is very much rooted in the past. That’s not to say that it sounds like it could have been released fifty years ago. It’s a perfect combination of a modern sounding electronic album using the melodic elements of groups such as Pentangle, Jefferson Airplane and The United States Of America. The drumming on the album is phenomenal: aggressive, mixed high and inventive but never intrusive. It perfectly accentuates the power of the singing which is mainly by Leonore Wheatley. There’s not many, if any, musicians named after the heroine of Beethoven’s only opera, “Fidelio”. The only other person I know with this name is my sister who was blessed (she would say, cursed) with Leonore as a middle name.

While the vocals on “Falling Back” are certainly reminiscent of a blissed out Pentangle, Adam Conn’s drumming is redolent of Keef Hartley and Paul Isherwood’s bass playing would be worthy of Kraftwerk.

“At The Time” starts with a ringing guitar and soon moves into an intense motorik beat with vocals drifting over from another world. Or maybe the past? It’s a great example of how music on this album can be simultaneously exciting and blissed out. I’m reminded of the best grooves that The Blue Aeroplanes managed to achieve on “Beatsongs” and “Swagger” if they were backing Mama Cass and Michelle Phillips.

By contrast, the final track, “Happens Too Soon” is slower and more reflective, yet builds into a life affirming crescendo of psychedelic noise. It’s a wonderful end to 38 minutes of wonderful music.

Of course, labels don’t matter. As I wrote a few days ago, writing about music is a bit like dancing about food. Whilst it’s convenient to be able to categorise music, in the end it’s the emotional response of the listener that’s the only thing that matters. Already, January 2022 has given us new albums by Anais Mitchell and The Soundcarriers. It’s going to be yet another astonishing year for new music.

Published by wilfulsprinter

Music lover

4 thoughts on “Wilds by The Soundcarriers

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