Shearwater – The Golden Archipelago

Release Date 15/02/2010 (Matador)

By Chris Gilliver

For those of you who weren’t cool enough to be in the Young Ornithologists Club (YOC for short), Shearwaters are medium-sized long-winged seabirds with over thirty species; and for those of you not familiar with tectonic geography, an archipelago is a chain or cluster of islands.

Together they create a sense of something remote, wild and pristine – a separate, ideal landscape, which remains undisturbed and undiscovered by the outside world. In this same manner Shearwater shape their sound.

Their seemingly simple but subtly intricate folk rock soundscape comes straight out of The Strawbs songbook. It is both biblical and beautiful, and with only guitars, piano and glockenspiel the instrumentation levitates to levels of near perfection. Jonathan Meiberg’s vocals accompany, and with his intermittently twee manner in the long tradition of British folk, it might be stinging for some. But his soft intensity augments and dramatises the otherwise retiring music, providing it with a much needed dark, doom-laden edge. The result is something blinding, both in the isolation of its stylings and in the level of accomplishment achieved with such an otherwise simple sound.

Like the Shearwater, The Golden Archipelago might remain out at sea, undiscovered and underappreciated. But unlike such a natural paradise, whose beauty need to remain isolated for its protection, I hope that this does not happen. It would be tragic if such a fine album were to remain disregarded.


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