Finally, a vinyl pressing of Thomas Bush’s Old and Red, via his commendably unhurried Men Scryfa private press (last seen abetting John T. Gast's Exile in 2013). What a record it is: taking in droll, digressive threshold-pop, plaintive minimal synth moods and strange rhythm-box geometries, before heading deep into the woods and time-dilating free-folk abstraction.
Drawn from the green-grey and eerie heart of the English countryside – specifically the north-eastern edge of the Wyre forest, between Stourbridge and Kidderminster, Old and Red will resonate with anyone attuned to the mysterious – sometimes malign, sometimes mirthful – energies interred in their native landscape.
Opener ‘Down Street’, skirting the brim of Robert Wyatt's Old Rottenhat, sounds like King Penda pouring his heart out down the Coach & Horses after pissing away his pension at Coral. ‘Champg’ - part Lifetones, part Rizan Said – is a fizzing action-painting of hi-life guitar, staccato string-stabs +sputtering computerized riddim. ‘Flood’ comes over like the bastard child of Eyeless In Gaza’s ‘Veil Like Calm’ and Scott’s Climate of Hunter, and while the salty old geezer recounting a tale of fishing-rod-related misadventure in 'Presence: Martin' is compelling enough on his own, his words takes on a sadder, more surreal air thanks to whining unheimlich electronics +strung-out, quasi-medieval guitar drones that seem to plumb for the most justified-n-ancient wellsprings of Acid Albion.
Epic murder ballad 'Ripe' - with Karin Bähler Lavér's otherworldly vocals suspended in thick cobwebs of reverb/delay – is like A Dream of Wessex scored by Thuja or F ingers, while 'Requiem For Forest Glades'’s brittle pastoral techno summons Call Back The Giants, or Another Green Eno with one hand tied behind his back.
For all its heavy psychogeography, what makes Old and Red special is its wit, its playfulness, its lightness of touch. It sees England for what it is: an inexhaustible site of hauntings and myth and metaphysical potential, yes, but also one of endless boredom/bathos/banality, endless ENDLESSNESS, where ecstatic pagan ritual realistically = queuing up for a cheese&onion bake from Greggs. Yeah...some people just get it. Album of the year, no contest. Edition of 300 in hand-assembled sleeves.