Label: Navigator Records Release Date: Out Now Website: Don’t be put off by folk music. I know it conjures up horrible nightmarish flashbacks of Steeleye Span appearing on Crackerjack, bawdy cider sloshed fiddlers and feral Cornishmen with hideous beards performing on top of hay bales. But let’s get past those preconceptions. Martin Green is to the accordion what Seb Rochford is to the drums, a man who bounces from the traditional to the experimental almost seamlessly. As an infant Green suckled from the squeezebox; his family, themselves traditional musicians sent young Martin off to learn the Accordion under the tutelage of the great Alberto Santilly. He then became somewhat of a Luke Skywalker figure, learning the ways of the folk under Obi Wan. On his voyage he teamed up with Eliza Carthy (who I’m not going to call Princess Leia) contributing notably on the acclaimed Red Rice. He’s also worked with the likes of Nitin Sawhney, Joan Baez and Hugh Cornwall. Some may also be familiar with Green’s work in acts such as Lau, and with Joe Townsend on Return to the Woods. The Martin Green Machine came together initially to participate in Scotland’s premier winter music festival ‘Celtic Connections’ as a commission piece; having been well received the collective of musicians have finally decided to put something down on record. First Sightings is an album that is sure to go beyond being a token entry on the Mercury Prize short list; it’s potentially the bomb of musical escapism that we all have been waiting to explode in 2009. Starting with ‘Repetition’ a maddening jolt through the mind of a sufferer of OCD, it’s an opener which could upon first listen turn many to hit skip and pass straight on to track two, as the song is a test of endurance as much as it is a challenging listen. Green himself comes to the party on ‘23A’ with a delicate solo that breaks out into a triumphant storm. You can almost imagine a little fishing vessel struggling in choppy waters off the coast of Scotland as he plays. Inge Thomson provides vocals on ‘Quayle Paint’, Thomson who has recently worked with the bard of bleak Bonnie Prince Billy, offers a serene softness, alluring like that of Asami Yamazaki in Audition, complimenting the delicate acoustic guitar and towering brass section that powers the track along. ‘Horse’ is a lush harpy’s call; the track disfigures itself in Tom Cook’s dizzying epileptic guitar work. ‘Give Up The Body’ features Demmy who I’m assuming by his accent is French, he knows the world is not a fair place and that the devil always prevails, or so he says in his irritating evil clown like introduction. Thankfully the beauty of the music returns to overwhelm his pessimism. ‘Rory’ saunters into ‘PSP’, a track which jerks into life with “ba do ba” jazz calls, plain daft but it works. ‘Can’t Use A Map’ pinball’s all over the place, once again channeling free spirits and flippant philosophy “Can’t use a map if you don’t know where you are”. It certainly leaves you disorientated. Sophie Bancroft provides the ethereal vocals on ‘Shudder’ which freaks a bit Mars Volta before the album closes with ‘The Disappearing Platelayer’ featuring the walkabout dream poetry of Moff Skellington, a song which takes the listener hand in hand on a wander through Thomas Hardy-eque fields, only it’s set somewhere up North.
First Sightings is an Odyssey, boundless and consuming.