Grasscut - 1 Inch / 1/2 Mile

2010-06-27 | |

To mention the name Grasscut at this point in time is, truthfully, the way to get a response equalling "Who?" Sad as that truth is, it's what puts them out in that great moment of Tony Wilson-esque "History". No doubt the speech has made its rounds on this blog quite enough, but, to refresh you on it (breifly - Ed.): A moment in history doesn't require a vast following: 3 at the death of Julius Caesar, 13 at the Last Supper, a few dozen at the first Sex Pistols gig in Manchester which lead to Factory Records being created. Therefore, this little-known Brighton twosome are obviously destined for greatness in the world.

The debut album of Brighton-based duo Andrew Phillips and Marcus O'Dair, simplistically titled 1 Inch / 1/2 Mile, is a musical map of the lives and times of the British Isles. Travelling from the Suffolk South Downs, via Wales, Brighton, and the words of Ezra Pound and Hilaire Belloc, the sounds that emanate from this album encapsulate a sense of electronica, and a long-forgotten time. In places, it is woeful, folorn, a total post-punk, post-apocalyptic masterwork. In others, it actually reeks of Steampunk, but, I am hesitant to call it that, since it's more structured and narrative; a sort of Steamfolk, if you will.

From almost sounding like a half-baked 65 Days of Static, this duo build up the album through High Downs, Old Machines and Meltwater, before falling into what I can only describe as the best piece of sampling I have heard thus far. That comes in the shape of The Tin Man, a song that involves a creaky gate recorded on a mobile phone, "the People's Tenor" on a '20s vinyl, and the story of a man with a metal cane. It is at this point where the Marmite Factor comes into it - you'll either love the high-pitched, antiquated vocals from the recorded gramophone, or you'll loathe the entire project thus far. From then on, it drifts between Eluvium and 65DOS in equal measure; ambient, enthralling, and slightly quirky.

Personally, there are few faults within this album. Okay, that was far too subjective. Objectively: There are flaws. They're not gaping holes, but they do strike you as obvious ones - sometimes the melodies don't match the sampled lyrics. Other times, the songs just sound out of place (Muppet being a key example). However, what it does is falls into that category of music that I actually think lacks a name at present. It's in there with groups like the Unextraordinary Gentlemen, or The Correspondents. If labelling and genre pigeonholing were my cup-of-tea, I'd have to pin them all under the same Retronica label.

So, insofar as Retronica goes, this is a pretty decent attempt at reconciling the past and the present. This is also a pretty good attempt taking a road-less-travelled. In fact, despite it probably fading into obscurity very quickly, I think 1 Inch / 1/2 Mile has all the makings of a genre-definer, if taken into the fold, and given pride of place with the other Retronica albums of note. Here's hoping, eh?

Overall: 6/10 - A bit ropey in places, but, all the trappings of a good, solid album lie under the cracks in the masonry.

Top Track - The Door in the Wall

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