The fourth album from Shetlander Johnny Lamb, AKA Thirty Ponds Of Bone, is a more expansive affair than his previous releases. At its core is the stark and often dark folk sound he uses so well. But many different instruments are used here in the carefully layered musical tapestry that Lamb creates. And the end result is a varied album that mixes wistful and often romantic lyrics with a range of very different musical approaches.
Lamb plays all of the instruments himself, recording “in a cellar somewhere in West Cornwall”. There are no edits or overdubs and no software used to manipulate the sound. It is all real and played as live, then mixed together to create the final product. The process is, according to its creator, something like taxidermy, hence the album’s title. I’m not sure of the comparison but the approach appears to works very well.
There are a number of very good songs amongst the album’s ten tracks. Pasganger, Or The Wagon might be the best of them all, a folk rock vibe added to passionately delivered lyrics in a dramatic song delivered with a flourish. The relatively simple Two Birds in the Brine opens with a mandolin over a deep drone with Lamb’s vocals providing the melody.
Ribbon is much more expansive with big guitars and subtle brass combining in what appears to be a dark love song. The Expelled comes close to a rock sound with big crunchy guitar chords over a droning synth. And the closing acoustic I’ll Go Too returns to the simpler sound to back a fine emotional vocal performance that ends the album on a note of melancholy.
Johnny Lamb has created another very good collection of songs. The broader soundscape here gives great scope for his fine lyrical style to shine, and the mix of folky, shoegazy, alt-rock tones is always interesting. And there are surprises too, with change of pace or the sudden introduction of brass or organ sounds taking the music in very different directions. The Taxidermist is a deep album that bears careful listening, and every repeat seems to allow the listener to discover something new.
Venue: The Taxidermist
Support Band: Armellodie Records