Midwich Assembly - 'Bewilderland'

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Midwich Assembly - 'Bewilderland'

Well paced, well played, beautifully arranged.

Soft. As a barrel of feathers. As Jeremy Hunt's cheeks. This is a calming soundscape of Proggy sounds with occasional rude incursions of noise. Unsurprisingly, this started as a festival piece which then became the impetus for the band and this album; it has a rather self important feeling to it, where navels are well viewed. And yet...soundscapes can often seem very obvious, lots of noodling with one idea strung out to breaking point. This is not like that.

In fact, on occasion, it's gorgeous. The first track, ‘The Morning Sounds Under Hushed Skies’ is just that, an evocation of a day breaking, with town sounds approaching and a cockerel crowing, almost as good as the woozy, warm feeling to XTC's ‘Summer's Cauldron’ and with a beautifully simple piano. But then ‘Catch The Light’ is quietly triumphant: a funky bass line and wash of guitars with whizzing synths and a narration which is just there if you want it. Even a toy trumpet appears. This is epic in an Ultrasound way, but no fuss; it has a gentility which is admirable.



But then the title track provides a rude awakening with its ‘Gimme All Your Lovin'’ beat and a twang of guitars duelling with bleeping synths; even ‘Sledgehammer’ gets a referencing. But the biggest reference here is Porcupine Tree. Not the oafish rocking of Muse for this band, no, the gentle musings of the deeply musical are what works here. Although ‘No Comedy’ almost reveals an industrial backline, they don't swamp the electric piano, the contemplative vocals, a plaintive trumpet, an angular solo; so calming and so progressive.

A couple of sorbets prepare the palate for the big, pieced-together songs, lovely, simple Yes-inflected guitars, so natural, as if this is everything it should be and everything you would need. Well paced, well played, beautifully arranged. This album may be a barrel of feathers. But they're peacock feathers.

Steve Swift

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