For all the sun-kissed frolicking depicted in their publicity photos, London folk fivepiece The Magic Lantern sound on their début album like very serious people indeed. A title like A World in a Grain of Sand implies that this a record with important things to say and so it proves; Australian ex-pat Jamie Doe and his group have grappled eloquently with indifference, hope and mortality before even their opening number has drawn to a close.

That song, the tender acoustic meditation of “Somebody Told Me”, is a tough act to follow. Although the band never match it for sheer emotional impact, there are flashes of its brilliant directness elsewhere – the shimmering single “Cut From Stone” is another early highlight in this respect, while the later “Shine a Light On” doffs a cap to the socially aware populism and reggae lilt of Bob Marley.

While these memorable moments get the Lantern's messages across engagingly, a large part of the group's identity is drawn from classical composition and this has an altogether more alienating impact. “Laura's Song” and “The Ship That Washed Away” both begin promisingly, but far outstay their welcome due to the inclusion of minimalist and avant- garde outros, respectively. It's at disappointing junctures like these when the band's efforts to reconcile the “lyrical directness of folk, the freedom of jazz and the experimental openness of contemporary classical music” serve only to compromise rather than enrich their sound.

As the songs wear on, the lyrical themes gradually transform into another burden to the album's accessibility. Where “Somebody Told Me” was questioning and inspiring, “Patriots” and “A Man & His Dog” flirt dangerously with becoming tiresomely solemn. The latter song, whilst seeming innocuous enough to begin with, eventually reveals itself as essentially a chamber folk rewrite of Black Sabbath's bleak apocalypse tale “Into the Void” - hardly a lighters-in-the-air moment.

A World in a Grain of Sand is evidence enough The Magic Lantern are a group of musicians with real talent in both composition and playing. It's a shame that, apparently in a bid to demonstrate those skills to the full, the band have passed up the chance to make a truly lovable album. Nevertheless, if Jamie Doe's crew can work on the better part of their sound – the part that spawned “Somebody Told Me” and “Shine a Light On” - they have the potential to become something special indeed.

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