Pearse McLoughlin – Twine EP

Review by Chris Oliver

I don’t really like EPs – they are neither one thing nor the other. They require too much investment to be just a taster, and there isn’t enough room on them to really develop an overarching theme, or to create a real emotional journey; they are just a collection of songs. EPs either disappoint, or beg to be played repeatedly. Pearse McLoughlin’s Twine falls in to the latter category.

It’s classic man-with-guitar folk music. The chords are major-key, but chosen well; they don’t go where I expect, and that’s nice. I like to be surprised – especially when the arrangements walk the line between ‘tried and tested’ and ‘old and cliché’. That said, the arrangements in general do a lot for the impact of the music. McLoughlin uses the minimum throughout – the vocal harmonies are well placed and not overdone, the percussion lilts along in the background, providing movement and vitality without distracting from the rest of the music, and the choices of supporting instruments are well-made. Twine avoids the overcrowded feel that’s so easy to get on quiet, folky music; it is sparse, with every part adding something, and it doesn’t fall victim to an over-abundance of musicians, all wanting to add their part to songs which don’t need it.

First song, ‘Twine’, has a catchy chorus – the vocal melody and rhythm sounds a little like ‘Read my Mind’ by the Killers. The other choruses on this record have a really familiar sound to them too. ‘Morning Mist’ has a slightly South American feel, somehow, with its off-beat guitar playing, and horse-hoof drum-beat. ‘Mercedes and The Kingfisher’ is the most narrative of these tracks, conjuring a blend of pastoral and homely images. On this song in particular, McLoughlin’s vocals sound a little like Damon Albarn on the quieter Blur songs. Last song ‘Spherosphere’ is great – taking the feeling of the earlier songs and ramping up the energy. The cello is good on this album, but particularly stands out on this track.

‘Twine’ could be more polished – I don’t think it gains anything from the one or two little imperfections in there – but independents can’t spend forever in the studio to get everything perfect, I guess. I like a lot of the words on the EP: the dedication on the album sleeve: ‘to all the kind spirits with whom I share these precious days’, on the song ‘Twine’: ‘we’ll inhabit this time, you and I, as best we can’, and ‘Spherosphere’s’ ‘You and I have hearts, that are lonely hunters’.

I don’t often comment on cover art – because nowadays it’s usually fairly nondescript, but I really like the cover of Twine, a beautifully illustrated picture of a raven against a grey sky; it succeeds in giving an atmosphere and background to the music – which is valuable with so few songs. I look forward to hearing Pearse McLoughlin’s upcoming second album, where he can hopefully take songs of this quality, and weave them in to a coherent framework.

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