Post Electric (label)
31 January 2023 (released)
31 January 2023
In 2021 Hamish Hawk (the person and the group) quietly exploded into popular consciousness with the glorious album ‘Heavy Elevator’, its gnomic title containing endless pearls of infinite wisdom, chock-full of droll observations delivered straight from the heart, untapped and once trapped reservations uttered eruditely and emotionally. Musically intricate, elegantly expansive and escapist, ‘Caterpillar’s mutant-discofunk leaving the listener with a lot to larvae … Great, life-raising pop music as it ought to be.
Follow up ‘Angel by Numbers’ (produced once more by Idlewild’s Rod Jones) carries on with aplomb from its predecessor, the song titles in themselves promising further mini-epics, multi-layered stories offering filmic fantasies of snapshot encounters where fate lies in furtive wait, a pale gaze poetically delivering distilled (day)dreams of unfulfilled wishes and deep-welled anguishes.
Finding beauty in the mundane, booty in the arcane, drawing inspiration from all walks of life (historically and metaphorically), a past and present cast of thousands includes ‘king in the ring’ Elvis; pop-artist David Hockney; Mr and Mrs Salvador Dali; a paean to 60s folk singer Bridget St. John all of whom in Hawk’s universe mingle with the everyday passers-by that tend to pass us by.
Throughout Hawk’s commanding croon exudes elegance. On earlier releases (2018’s ‘Zero to One’; 2019’s ‘Laziest River’) Hawk’s voice seems trapped in its own rapture, still not confident to be convinced of its own majesty. Nowadays, Hawk’s Caledonian burr crackles and pops, it soars and skates, swoons and communes. The musical backdrop, cinematic orchestration and structural scene-setting is again expertly supplied by Andrew Pearson (guitars), Stefan Maurice (keyboards and drums) and Alex Duthie (bass), John Cashman (keyboards).
The titular lead single became an immediate anthem for these climes: free spirits trapped along rigid paths, constrained by debts and unrestrained by thoughts of death, the signifiers of ‘living’ evident in wedding dresses, joint bank accounts and itemised bills. The upbeat joie de vivre cloaks the (dep)repressive realities. ‘Money’s wonderfully wailing chorus at first distracting from the objet d’ire within the narration, observing the truism that ostentatious affluence rarely – if ever- equates to earthy elegance.
Two duets feature: ‘Frontman’ with Anna B. Savage (who has her own new album out in 2 weeks) has an Ivor Cutlerish folk-feel (minus the surreal-alignments) and the country-tinged ‘Rest and Veneers’ with Samantha Crain is a rumination on meditation.
The standout in a sea of sublimity is ‘Once upon an acid glance’, opening with thoughts of disbelief and longing towards an unrequited amor the song gradually builds into a wall of sound of dreamy clangour and faraway cries.
Vocally, sonically, texturally, the album reminds of none more than criminally forgotten compatriot Ross Middleton whose two groups in the early 1980s - Positive Noise and especially Leisure Process International – helped broaden the potentialities of pop albeit sadly to critical yet not popular acclaim. Joined by the equally magisterial multi-instrumentalist Gary Barnacle, the duo’s short-lived existence delivered four pristine-pop capsules. Time for a reappraisal, methinks.
Hamish Hawk takes me, you, us, the listeners, the believing, on a jaunt down Predestination Boulevard. Enjoy the trip.