Posted on Aug 15th 2012 01:44 am
09 Tracks. 48mins38secs
Following a stint on 4AD, for which is recorded two albums, the second of which, Amateur Dramatics (2008), never received a full UK release, although it was eventually picked up by Audio Dregs in the US who gave it a CD release in 2009, Bristol-based David Edwards, AKA Minotaur Shock, has returned to Melodic, the Manchester label which issued his first album, Chiffs-Chaffs And Willow Warblers, over ten years ago. Melodic was Edwards’s home for three years, and published a number of EPs on the label, most of which were eventually collected on Rinse in 2003.
Orchard doesn’t only denote a return to Melodic, but also a return to the rich symbiotic acoustic/electronic sound of Edwards’s early records which often saw him lumbered with the somewhat inelegant folktronica tag, something which he has always been keen to distance himself from. He never ventured far from this particular template, but with Maritime (2005) and Amateur Dramatics (2008), Edwards appeared to favour a more purely electronic approach. Here thought, he once again weaves acoustic instrumentation and electronics into tight knit soundscapes and brings them to life through beautifully crafted melodies.
Edwards recorded the foundations of the album at home before moving to a fully fledged studio, a first, to consolidate Orchard by developing the acoustic elements of his compositions. While this has taken away none of Minotaur Shock’s gentle pastoral charm, it results in a more confident and ambitious overall sound. Janet, which opens, is a fine example of how this is applied. Although in essence a pretty simple and straightforward piece, it sparkles with delicate percussions and swirling loops, whilst a violin adds a touch of melancholy on occasions. This is even more potent on Ocean Swell or the more nuanced Through The Pupils Of Goats, one of the stand-out tracks on here, its two part format allowing Edwards to shifts between acoustic and electronics to develop one of his most cinematic pieces yet.
On Westonbirt, Edwards dares an incursion into linear beats, an echo of Principle Participant, his techno-influenced side project, under which banner he has published an EP and album in recent years, but here again, he slowly brings acoustic instrumentation into what is, initially, a purely electronic piece. He adopts a similarly linear structure on Saundersfoot, but in this case, the focus is on dreamy soundscapes and sun-drenched melody rather than on the dance floor. This is however a fairly unique set of occurrences on this album, and soon, Edwards is back assembling complex structures, at times breaking his pieces into compartmented sections, as is the case on Lending Library, where different blocks are articulated around one central theme, at others building up on an initial momentum to carry a whole piece (Quint), before concluding with the rather sophisticated and nonchalant Adventure Orchard, where synths and acoustic guitars circle around each for a while before eventually coming together in the second half of the piece.
Whilst he still carries much of the delicate pastoral feel which characterised previous releases, David Edwards has undoubtedly grown in confidence over recent years, and this is very much reflected in his overall sound, but also in the level of complexity of his compositions, yet, Orchard remains a deeply enjoyable record throughout.
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