Well in honour of the sun beginning to show its face shyly around these parts recently I reached for another one of those LPs that I seem to have been the only person to ever have bought, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci The Blue Trees, a mini album by everybody’s favourite band from Carmarthen.

They’re an important lot to me, Gorky’s, partly because they’re from my hometown and partly because my brother got me into them.  They started precociously young in a Technicolor blaze of pastoral bilingual psychedelia and quirkiness, before evolving into a very rural-sounding not-quite folk outfit.  Both ends of their sound life have their champions but I’m a bit less discriminating than that and I just tend to love it all.

The Blue Trees, from 2000, is firmly in their pastoral phase and I defy anyone not to be charmed and uplifted by ‘This Summer’s Been Good From The Start’, an ode to teenage friendships, hazy school holidays, sleeping outdoors and wistfully unrequited crushes; or at least that’s what I hear in it.  What Gorky’s always seem to be able to capture for me is a certain flavour of innocence and childlike happiness, or maybe it’s just me extrapolating wildly from my own memories.  Like all the best things in life it doesn’t last any longer than 2:39 and has a touch of bluegrass about it.

Three of the eight tracks on The Blue Trees are acoustic instrumentals which in other circumstances would have had me reaching for the tone arm way before now, but not so much here.  The opening, title track is the least interesting of the three, it’s perfectly nice and sets the scene for the gentleness that lies within but doesn’t take us anywhere substantial.  Maybe I am missing the point though, possibly it functions as the airlock between The Blue Trees and the rest of the world’s hurly burly – a chance to decompress and acclimatize appropriately.   Gorwel Owen’s production, as always, is crisp and warm, he captures the feeling of a band playing around a campfire perfectly, cleanly.

My favourite instrumental track here is ‘Foot and Mouth ’68’, inspired by their producer’s memories of the disease’s outbreak in North Wales that year.  In the excerpt from Gorwel Owen (age 9) on the back cover I was intrigued to see the mention of the ‘disinfectant straw on Menai Bridge because of the foot and mouth disease’.  Britain was wracked by foot and mouth again in 2001 and the childminder who looked after my baby son at the time lived on a farm and we had to hand him over to her at the end of her drive across a barricade and mat of the disinfectant straw every morning, like a little prisoner exchanged at our own rural Glienicke Bridge.  But I digress … ‘Foot and Mouth ’68’ is a tense, atmospheric track based around a keyboard drone that veers off in a Gallic direction half way through, redolent of shapes half glimpsed in the mist.

On paper ‘Lady Fair’ really isn’t the sort of thing I would usually like because at no point does the titular* lady gyrate brazenly during the song, or get very angry about stuff.  It is instead a rather lovely acoustic yearning beastie with a hint of the medieval about it,

With sun beating down from above
What use is sun when you haven’t got love

I could listen to this for hours on repeat, gentility and contemplation never sounded so good.  Richard James’ picking is perfect in its’ simplicity but the real star is Megan Childs’ violin which underlines the whole proceedings rather beautifully.

The instrumental ‘Wrong Turnings’ takes a dab or two from Nick Drakes’ paintbox to great effect before the upbeat ‘Fresher Than The Sweetness In Water’, which sounds like Kevin Ayers** in hoedown mode and never fails to widen my grin.  The only misstep on The Blue Trees for me is ‘Face Like Summer’, which sounds a little forced and is a return to previous indiecoustica.

The final track ‘Sbia Ar y Seren’ is the only track sung in Welsh on the album and whilst I translated the last part to ‘ … at the star’, I was a bit flummoxed by ‘sbia’ and worried that my Welsh was getting too rusty.  When I had to stoop to looking it up I found that ‘sbia’ is a North Walian regional word for ‘look’ – they’re a funny breed up that end of the country.  The track itself, a lucid graceful paean to wonderment and (yet more) yearning is another joy.

So despite the fact that the sun has thought better of enriching our April I can still hear echoes of its warmth in my speakers tonight.

753 Down.

*I love that word, it makes me deliriously happy every time I write it.

**Gorkys worshipped Kevin Ayers.

Cherry tree blossom – snapped today

21 thoughts on “Acoustic Airlock

  1. I was always desperate to like them but remained unmoved. I’ll give them another go, not only because I totally trust your judgement but also due to a fondness for the lost art of the mini-album (See also The Cramps, Screaming Blue Messiahs and 23 Skidoo). “…the gentleness which lies within but doesn’t take us anywhere substantial”? Surely a song by Felt?

    1. Lawrence from Felt, not thought about them for ages. I loved the Denim album (Denim on Ice?).

      Wow, what a blast from the past.

      I’m totally with you on mini-LPs, far too many music chaps try and cram too much on an album.

  2. I read somewhere that when they are performing, and the audience seems a little subdued, they yell out “We come from the same town as 1537” to get the crowd fired up

    1. I’ve never minded helping out young bands by lending my name to their efforts.

      It does drive an audience absolutely freakin bonkers though.

  3. This is new to me, despite having a respectable Gorky’s collection (though none on vinyl).

    I do love ‘indiecoustica’. Can’t wait to see it as a section in record shops around the globe.

    1. It is a bit of an obscure one, possibly because nobody really knows how seriously to treat mini-LPs and it was right at the end of their shelf life.

      And thank you very much, I think indiecoustica really will catch on.

  4. Ah yes, I remember the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001. When I flew to America that summer, I had to walk through a footbath of disinfectant as the US and Canada was equally paranoid about it spreading to their country. Living in Gloucestershire, I remember a lot of fields and public footpaths being closed. As for the band, the name is familiar, I think they played Trinity College a couple of times when I was there but never saw them.

    1. I’m not surprised they played there, I always liked the fact they were bilingual and would just sing in whichever language best suited the song.

  5. I know the band, but not too much of their stuff (kinda dipped in at the suggestion of an old work pal, but never stayed too long). The sleeve is pretty wonderful, though!

  6. Those hometown recordings (especially when introduced by a sibling) are a powerful force.
    And I quite like that notion of 2:39 being the ‘peak of fun’ time for any activity – though I may have taken slightly longer to read this one, my enjoyment of reading this post did not peak too early here Joe!

Leave a Reply