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Charlotte Church

E P 3
alligator wine records

The disc starts with a soft ethereal keyboard and sigh of a vocal from la Church. It conjures up a haunted wood of music and the spell is enhanced by light percussion and string patches..punchy guitar moves the song on, with a murky jangle thereunder. The drums are reverbed to a hollow thump. Before long an airy vocal in operatic mode is floating above the soundwash. Other worldly maybe but emphatically warmer than the CCEP2 ‘Spaceface’ disc works.

After ‘ Sparrow’ comes the out-there chorale and stabbing unsettling heartbeat of ‘Remains’, the pace dropping away a tad and an ominous mood before drifting into the electro-enhanced ‘Like a Fool’.   Still the musical backdrops are kept airy and sparse. When the group plays live their sense of shape and purpose – though far from conventional in format – is beyond doubt. Almost like a bunch of boffins at work in a mood laboratory. Church sounds unhurried, all the melodies coming from here impassioned vocal work and occasional layering but also full-on into the sonic brew.

At this point the listener does feel borne away to some world of mystery and the legato guitar coda of ‘Like a Fool’ is like an inexorable incoming tide, giving way to that clear sweet voice and fading on a solemn drum & cymbal stomp

Then , the jewel in this set’s crown – ‘Magician’s Assistant’. Again not a conventional ‘song’ but a rolling organ-borne canoe of an arrangement…shut your eyes and the ‘Waterlilies’ impressionist paintings come to mind. Here she comes now, it’s Monet, Monet. This is one of the best examples of Charlotte’s coasting voice. A clipped horn chart adds to the drama and the solo guitar drifts off in drowning confusion, like Sonny Sharrock thrown overboard. Weird, but beautifully weird….

“House Upon The Sea’ is as mystic and understated as other cuts here, an underlying urgency at the number’s core.   My bet is that Church was listening to Jeff Buckley when this one was composed ; maybe my friend Gary Lucas, the Magic Band guitar maestro and writing collaborator with Buckley J might concur. I shall ask him.

The edgy ‘ I Can Dream’ could use a more interesting bassline against the tapping percussion….too much root-note to enhance  the recording with any depth, but again the singing is beguiling and – dare I say it ? – sexually charged. Sounds like several Churches singing over the bridge…. She lets herself go on this one, as dragonfly guitar runs bubble away in the mix.  Is this the most romantic song CC has ever recorded ? I would say so

The promo video for ‘Water Tower’ is as haunting as the song.  As elemental as anything Nick Drake came up with, certainly.  Drake’s actress sister Gabriella once told me that whatever her late brother was seeking – physically, spiritually – he never found it in his short life. He would deliver tapes to his label and disappear again. A full-blooded arrangement here and clear vocal, cutting down to nothing as the cut fades

This EP series is proving to be winner. Church does not have to adhere to one style or over-egg the pudding, simply make the statement in the set of songs and move on. It’s liberating.
This latest outing brings out the best in her thus far, I would argue. For what it’s worth, I think she looks a lot more natural and alluring in the mystery woodland look and attire than the faux Bjork alien costumes she sported for the CCEP2 era but these days Church is all about self-expression and let’s face it nobody else seems to be making music of this depth, originality and well, purity

I am reminded of my jealousy as youngster of Rupert’s storybook adventures. If the inquisitive bear went to the seaside, it would not be divebombing seagulls or broken deckchairs for him, no…rather smugglers to catch. In our village wood there was a rusting tractor, whereas in Nutwood Rupert would find pagoda’s, magicians and professors, not to mention dragons…these EPs seem to be 1/ Charlotte’s New Adventure  2/ Charlotte and the Icy Wastes and now, with 3/ Charlotte Through The Looking Glass.  Follow and savour…4 is being created

Pete Sargeant

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