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james mckeown - english dream (cd)


ARTIST // james mckeown
LABEL // dub ditch picnic (ca)
CAT // pf-ddp1971030cd


I'm always one for the jazzy folk of the late 60s / early 70s British scene, so I feel comfortable in saying that English singer-songwriter James McKeown gently drops a modern classic into our waiting palms with his sophomore effort"English Dream". A healthy blend of guitars both electric and acoustic, shimmering vibes and peripheral percussion, vocals syncopated & just shaky enough to sit on the edges of centre stage, reverb & other effects utilised to a perfect extent we aren't bathing in it & it's certainly not clean. Despite the slight obscurity of the comparison, I feel that this album bears a strong acoustic kinship with Air's"Virgin Suicides" soundtrack. I won't apologise for that reference. Opener Dead Maids, with its classic strummed guitar, hazy vibes, dream-pop armchair restlessness, and Canterbury bass, is an instant classic. Life Aboard the International Space Station takes heed from its name, delivering a jazzy acoustic / electric guitar ballad rife with spaced-out ambiance and plenty of aural lifts and drops. See the Skies reads like a lost Beatles / Pink Floyd demo, leaping in and out of moments touching on what sounds like a soft dream-pop rendition of Morrissey's"I Am The Sun, I Am the Air". A rolling, knotted & plucked acoustic line introduces Tolerance, a track revelling in a mechanic, mindless motion of time, holding true to its lyrics. I could happily sit with this track on repeat for hours on end, with it easily delivering a stream of beautiful, solid lines and self-supported, layered vocals. Summerrainrummersky and Ghost In Your Life simmer in their own basted fluids, flutes and other instruments of unknown origin finding their fluttering place amongst the guitar we've come to know and love, a hard-strummed twang adding unexpected percussion to an otherwise floating affair. Jack Hare, starting out a bit shaky, has the same jazzy elements that made Life Aboard[...] such a treat, but the melodies somehow don't pull the same weight. Storm-Bird, Storm-Dreamer allows for a nice little breather with an instrumental foray through various fingerstyle techniques and general atmospherics. Closing track The Architects Grave pulls elements of the previous tracks together for a dreamily depressed & generally melancholic sendoff, ending with a beautiful, layered acoustic duet. All in all, this album is very, very English. Obviously, the artist being based in the UK and the album being named"English Dream" lend a hand to this predisposition. Regardless of these clear indications, this collection of dreams could be named anything else in the world and it would still very much retain the classic English themes.