Wildeflower - Harbour & Good Company [EP]
I guess if you're an artist making what could loosely be termed as pastoral folk music, then the name Wildeflower is as apt as any name could be. And it's the one chosen by Egham-based singer and song writer Max Kinghorn-Mills for his current project playing - yes - pastoral folk music. Following the birdsong-flecked single 'Good Girl', Mills gives us a 10" EP by the name of Harbour & Good Company: it's 4 songs of mainly double/triple tracked acoustic guitars and three part harmonies that recalls modern folk-influenced acts like Grizzly Bear, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci and Jim O'Rourke as much as it harks back to the likes of Nick Drake and Fairport Convention.
I often think it's a bit lazy of a reviewer to say "x sounds like y or z" but in this case there's really no escaping the above comparisons. Wildeflower makes music that wears its influences on its sleeve proudly - plus, Mills' voice is strikingly similar to Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste so as soon as he opens his mouth you're put in mind of someone else. The opening notes of first track 'Everything Forever' also set the tone; dropping you plum in the middle of Fairport territory with plucked acoustic lines straight from a medieval madrigal while Mills sings, surrounded by harmonies, "settle down, little one." It's a song that seems to beg to be taken in as slowly as possible, and the rudimentary production also nods towards simplicity and taking things easy - it's a very pleasant start indeed. Second track 'Nothing Really Happens' is a more sprightly affair, with the acoustic strums backed up by lovely, airy harmonies... yet, like the title of the song nothing really happens. Again, it's pleasant but it doesn't seem like quite enough.
The best moment is actually when Mills doesn't sing: 'All Year Round' is an instrumental which recalls the circular patterns of the Louisville post-rock scene, with the welcome addition of some basic piano and charming melodica. Maybe it's because there's no vocals that it avoids direct comparison (and suffers as a result), but it just works better than the other tracks on the EP. Final track 'Circle Expands' brings back the vocals and while you can't help but admire the intricacies of the playing and the construction of the gorgeous harmonies, it all just lacks a little hook or a bit of oomph to make it irresistible.
They're only two releases into their career - not even an album yet - so really Mills and Wildeflower have all the time in the world to hone and perfect their sound and vision. Harbour & Good Company isn't by any means a bad record - it's a starting point, and we'll hear from them again.