Reviews:: Songs of the Green Pheasant Aerial Days

I’m not going to lie to you. When I stumbled upon Songs of the Green Pheasant, I assumed I’d be listening to a musician whose hobbies include renaissance fairs, multi-sided die and celibacy. Branded as a folk artist loved by Devendra, you kind of know what to expect… OR DO YOU?

SOtGP is actually one man - Duncan Sumpner, and trying to type cast him as another freak/neo folk artist was a rash judgment on my part. Expanding his lo-fi approach from 4-tracks to a much richer 8, his new album – Aerial Days (released on the lovely Fat Cat records) – uses more instrumentation and it really helps him make a jump in accessibility.

From the first track - Pink by White - SotGP touches upon the classic 60’s folk artistry of Simon and Garfunkel, but unlike so many artists who sample too liberally from the duo, Duncan maintains his own voice and style throughout the process. He straddles the line between past and present nicely. The acoustic guitar and vocal tones are folk heavy, but he adds enough effects and sounds (like the bongos near the end of the opening track) to keep it interesting.

Purposely, the album plays like a collection of songs; each of which represents a certain period in his life. One doesn’t lead into the other, or build upon his existing work, which is obvious as the record moves into Remembering and Forgetting. The vocals echo and often take on the sounds of a choral arrangement, but never dominate or distract you from the melody.

On first listen, you might be wondering how this record was put together, but his goal was to simply trigger memories. While this works conceptually, it does make the album tough to ingest without several listens. Personally, I think he’s strongest he embraces percussion and textures and gradual crescendos, like he does on tracks like Wolves Against Snowmen and Stars from Birds, but Duncan explores so many sounds that it’s hard to tell which one he favors.

The album is seven songs long, highlighted by a nice version of Dear Prudence that was recorded for a radio show. What I particularly like about this cover is the sincerity. Duncan doesn’t try to change this song to make you forget the original, he simply plays his take on the music. Adding chimes, a bigger kick drum, and vocal reverb helps make his take fresh without drifting too far from what makes the song great.

Usually albums that focus on personal experiences tend to be self-indulgent, but that isn’t the case with Aerial Days. Duncan manages to make his thoughts into stories that are worth telling, and certainly worth listening to.
MP3:: Wolves Amongst Snowmen

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