Erland and The Carnival – Nightingale (Full Time Hobby)

March 31, 2011 by  

Erland and the Carnival have hardly waited a year since the release of their debut to throw this album our way. This time around they’re living up to their name even more explicitly, bouncing restless organ melodies over ‘tales of yesterday’ lyricism. Like the soundtrack to a simultaneously terrifying and intensely intriguing freak show from days gone by, Nightingale plays out with a mania that manages to charm. Few bands could perhaps pull off this sort of pre-industrial era remniscnence without coming off as pretentious or unimaginative. Erland and the Carnival are neither, and the twists and turns of this record are plain proof.

In case it may have slipped below your radar, Erland and the Carnival’s band member list reads like a who’s who of those you’d most like to see form an alt-folk supergroup. Erland Cooper himself is an Orcadian singer whose lush and textured vocal lends the record its ethereal quality throughout. He’s joined by Simon Tong (The Good The Bad And The Queen, The Verve) and David Nock (The Cult, The Orb, The Fireman) and together they shake off those second release nerves with damn good results. From the crashing, time signature-twisting opener ‘So Tired In The Morning’ to ‘I’m Not Really Here’s slow growth into a faraway tale, the record’s first half plays out with conviction. Long dynamic builds are one of this band’s strengths and they’re not afraid to show those chops off.

The album’s highlights range from shimmering restraint to thunders of near-hypnotic instrumentation. ‘Nightingale’ gives us the best of both of those worlds, and has one of those beautifully melancholy chord progressions in its chorus. On ‘Dream Of The Rood’ the band sample lyrics from what is believed to be one of the oldest pieces of early English literature, adding to the otherworldly feel on the album.

Nightingale only stalls where ‘Springtime’ sounds like a confusing rip-off of ‘Mad World’ and ‘Nothing Can Remain’ rolls to a slight standstill. Luckily the closing track comes along to save the day. Cooper coos us to the record’s end, flanked by tinkles of that ubiquitous organ and rippling guitar lines. The tone of his voice would be enough to tame the rowdiest lion in the mad circus this album conjures: step right up, one and all.