Published on 31st August 2019
Emmett Elvin – The End of Music
Well known quotable curmudgeon, scatological juvenile humourist, and sometime genius musician Frank Zappa once said of music journalism: “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture”. Emmett Elvin, purveyor of keyboard goodness for Knifeworld and Guapo, is nothing if not a sonic architect, so I think that passes Uncle Frank’s test and entitles me to pirouette lyrically about Mr Elvin’s latest impossible structure.
Mein Velt, Me – Munched Softie is an album steeped in the art of seduction by way of expensive ice cream. Mettle Vein M – Endemic of Huts is an album with no roof. Len Emmitev – Send Chime Tofu is an album of Cossack dancing choons, played on spoons. All of this is true, in the post-fact world. Mr Elvin has entitled the alternate universe version of this erudite waxing I’m Element TV – Hum Defections, and that’s as good a title as any.
Where were we? Oh yeah… a new album from he of the angular frame and impish twinkle of the eye, come on down, man about town, and Moscow Commuter of the Year, Emmett Elvin. When he’s not composing scores for musicals in the Russian capital, or maybe while he was there, Mr Elvin has put together a rather joyous assemblage of sounds that rush headlong into an unknown future with all the carefree glee of an anarchist on happy pills. It could be “just a new deal in the old game”, but that’s damning with faint praise, for this is Emmett’s most complete and cohesive work yet.
Elctro-lurch and toy-town keyboards announce Know Nothing, “… cursed blind, inside minds that never started”. All hail the Victory of Stupid, the world over. One surmises that this is probably not going to be a happy album, lyrically at least. How could it, in these benighted days? On t’other hand all the best art is created in fractious times, and The End of Music certainly fits that theory. But, there’s the thing, a lot of this album is instru-mental, and the music, for the most part, is manically “up”, or when taking a breather, merely bubbling just below a taut surface tension. Fire up those long-dormant synapses, let it all in, say I!
The sturm und drang of Magnus Opium nearly buries its short lyric, which I might add, ends on a note of optimism, in a clatter of prog-glam drums and charging synths. Elsewhere, classical guitar interludes let in some air, and the short but weighty Tombstone reminds me of Thomas Leer.
Very marginally the longest song on the album is Through The Hoops, mysteriously tagged on the CD itself as ‘Wilson’s Demise’, which in my mind makes it a eulogy to Jim’s ex-pooch from Friday Night Dinner. It probably isn’t, but as the lyrics to this one are not in the booklet, and I always struggle with deciphering singers – aged 4-ish, I thought Roy Orbison was singing about “Freddy Woman”, much to my mum’s amusement – it will remain in my noggin a poem to the non-threatening doggy. It features a long instrumental outro, a slowly ascending and uplifting charge not a million miles from the Mew stable, and ends with a reflective string section. Very prog – eek!
The tumbling riff and wayward synths of album centrepiece Everything Falls Away is infected with the possibilities that may have occurred had Brian Eno joined King Crimson in 1973. The song’s lyric, sung in entwined, nay, almost visceral physical harmony with Eden Ellis Duke, sees the protagonist letting go of uncertainty and doubt as he/she plunges into the fire of the abstract. A bonfire of vanities, if you will, welcoming an ever-shifting and indefinable future. Or maybe it’s not that at all. Frankly, does it matter? It leaves me in the midst of a headrush, and in that respect it fits the album’s cinematic qualities perfectly.
The Butterfly in the Labyrinth flutters tragically against the windowpane, the insistent rhythm and rattling beat increasing the tension, until it falls fluttering to the floor. Some BIG guitar shows Mr Elvin is no slouch on the six strings, amongst the many other instruments he picks up along the way throughout the course of this beguiling collection, pinned out on a frame for our perusal.
If there is a policy statement here, it is within No Wonder, a charging alien musical fairground ride wherein the declamatory “England’s dreaming, England’s drowning, put the river to fire now, where the mind stops, where the cowards lie, as they fear the impossible” is as ambiguous (or not) as you’d like or need it to be. Are you worried yet? This leads into the trio of tunes that end the album: The End of Music is edgy and serene simultaneously, as it toys with Glass-ian minimalism and alt-rock, and has another of those propulsive rhythms that are central to the album’s ever onward forward motion. The End of Everything slows down enough for a few minutes’ reflection, soothing bottleneck guitar caressing the listener as the looming edge approaches. We end with a short and sort-of instrumental reprise adorned with heavily treated vocals of the aforementioned Everything Falls Away. Are we falling, or hasn’t it happened yet?… LOOK OUT, CLIFF!!!
After the dust has settled, and six minutes of silence, the whole album is rewound to the beginning, lives flash before eyes.
Just time to mention that it all sounds sumptuously inviting thanks to Mark Cawthra’s sublime skills in the knob-twiddling department. If this is The End of Music, then I’ll at least leave it all behind with a grin on my careworn features, despite the fact that the picture on the last page of the booklet shows Mr Elvin resplendent in pinny and rubber gloves. It all helps it round the s-bend to the sunlit uplands, I’ve no doubt.
Yours Sincerely, Ron Treewright.
01. Know Nothing (4:46)
02. Magnus Opium (5:34)
03. To Live And Die In Llangrannog (4:29)
04. Tombstone (0:52)
05. Through The Hoops (7:07)
06. Everything Falls Away (3:57)
07. Staggered (3:46)
08. Butterfly In The Labyrinth (7:04)
09. No Wonder (5:38)
10. The End Of Music (4:55)
11. The End Of Everything (3:31)
12. Everything Falls Away (Reprise) (8:04)
Total Time – 59:44
Emmett Elvin – Acoustic & Electric 6 & 12-string Guitars, Bass Guitar, Acoustic Piano, Rhodes, Nord Synth, Casserole, Biscuit Tin, Percussion, Recorders, Vox, etc.
Alex Thomas – Drums & Percussion
Sarah Anderson – Violin, Viola
Eden Duke – Stacked Harmony Vocals (tracks 6 & 12)
Olga Lisikova – Vocals (track 9)
Record Label: Sad Eggplant Music
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 23rd August 2019