Label: Navigator Records Release date: 10/05/10 Link: Official Website Inge Thomson may already be familiar to some. Having once made up one quarter of Scottish folk outfit Harem Scarem and most recently teaming up with the king of introspective Americana and owner of one of the best beards in the business, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, she has decided to go it alone and has released her debut solo album Shipwrecks & Static this week. Hailing from remote Shetland island Fair Isle, the isolated island life of her early years proves to be her main source of inspiration on this record, and not surprisingly the ocean and it’s vast space claim no small part of her creative flow. On this album she marries the celtic folk stylings of her roots with electronic bleeps, blips and general noodlings, (which unfortunately sounds a damn sight better on paper than in reality), and creates an eccentricity that is intrinsic to this record. Album opener ‘John’ may be one of the most grating songs I have ever heard. With Thomson’s quirky sea shanty style accordion (as opposed to sexy, atmospheric French accordion. Ooh la la) and multi layered close harmony vocals courtesy of Mr Moog having me scrabbling for the skip button, it’s not a great way to kick off an album. Admittedly it does get markedly better from track two onwards, although there is an overwhelming sense that something is missing from the album throughout. As to be expected from Thomson, accordion appears frequently, such as on the charmingly delicate opening of album highlight ‘Tin Man’, and luckily in a much more appealing way than on ‘John’. Some of her melodies are really rather lovely, such as on eccentric love song ‘Take My Time’ or on the delicate, stargazey ‘Marie Celeste’, but on the whole many of her quirky nuggets of eccentricity left me cold. The production is thin, reedy and sparse – perhaps a subconscious reflection of her isolated upbringing – but ultimately creating a body of work lacking a bit of good old fashioned depth and soul. Frustratingly many of the tracks on this record have moments of understated charm and brilliance yet it’s hard to get past Inge’s infuriatingly saccharin baby voiced vocals. With this sort of female/cutesy/ leftfield/eccentrica sound you either have to go all out ‘call the men in white coats’ bonkers a la CocoRosie or write some bloody good tracks a la First Aid Kit, be they a little more commercially viable. Thomson never quite achieves either. Her sweeter than syrup voice seems too commercial to be paired successfully with the rambling sonic backdrops that she creates. Annoyingly, she seems to be set on using cheesy keyboard echoes and sweeping faux vocal effects to fill out her songs which makes her sound a little too close to tacky to be fully enjoyable. If this was an album of instrumentals then there is a good chance that I would be tripping off down to my local Our Price to get a copy, but as it is I may just leave it to the die hard Thomson fans to pour over. Photobucket