REIGNS: The House On The Causeway (Monotreme Records)


Posted on Feb 23rd 2009 12:51 am

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Reigns: The House On The Causeway

The House On The Causeway
Monotreme Records 2009
11 Tracks. 42mins55secs

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Reigns go to great lengths to give their records unique contexts. With their first album, We Lowered A Microphone Into The Ground (2005), brothers Tim and Roo Farthing, who occasionally refer to themselves as Operatives A and B, proclaimed to have done just that in a bottomless ground hole somewhere on the Somerset Downs. With their second, Styne Vallis (2006), they found themselves in the quest to find a mysterious submerged village in Wessex, so it is no surprise to see that their third, released on Monotreme, comes with its own odd and wonderful story.

There is, we are told, a small man-made causeway that goes pointlessly about half a mile into the English Channel somewhere between Black Ven and Golden Cap on the South coast of England. The causeway is almost constantly shrouded in dense fog, and a high pitched noise can sometimes be heard coming from the sea when the fog is at its densest. Occasionally, the fog lifts for a while, and it is during one of these rare moments of recess that the Farthing brothers ventured onto the structure, only to find themselves surrounded by the sea. Walking to an elevated point at the end of the causeway, they found a house, not visible from the shore, which, although uninhabited, appeared to be set up for welcoming visitors. The pair spent two days in the house, taking photographs and recording whatever noise they could hear. This album is the memento of this odd journey.

The sonic universe that serves the two brothers is as complex and imaginative as the stories that act as backbones for their records. Using piano, acoustic and electric guitars and found sounds, arranged into pieces that range from elegant folk to ethereal post-rock to create a surprisingly evocative and cinematic patchwork, the pair, who occasionally add processed vocals to give their tracks a slightly chilling slant, know how to create dramatic effects, sometimes with very little. There is here a much great contrast of atmospheres and tones than on their previous records, especially with Crex, Crex, Crex, which drifts well into noise territory for a while, or Mab Crease and it almost pop volutes.

Elsewhere, the Farthing brothers create rather haunting pieces, like on Vaulted, with its wonderfully airy piano motif, on the ghostly Take It Down, with its recurring noises and nonsensical vocals, or on the subdued and dreamy Your Tiny Hand Is Frozen. It is there, on the most delicate and fragile compositions, that Reigns really come to their own. They have a knack for weaving superbly effective melodies and arrangements which can generate some magnificent moments. Reigns however here fail to entirely recreate the tension and strong narrative that were the driving forces of their previous records. While The House On The Causeway harbours many impressive moments, it lacks some of the panache of its predecessors, and ultimately doesn’t quite capture the imagination in the same way.


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