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31 October 2011

Dando Shaft - 'An Evening With...' (Decca)

Hey, I fucked up!  I thought this was the second or third Dando Shaft release, since it isn't self-titled (and is so much better)!  But actually, we're looking at their debut, before Polly Bolton joined the band, and when Martin Jenkins is really much more of a leader.  So really, this should have come before the last post, but such inaccuracies are a true joy in the Internet anyway.  There's singing on every track except for the lovely 'Drops of Brandy', and the band relies much more on cellos and violins to make a chamber-music feel.  The songs are longer, with four per side, and the highlight, 'September Wine', creeps in slowly over some hand bells before unfolding into a murky ballad that could be mid-90s slowcore in places.  There isn't a breakdown of exact credits but the band is probably mostly the same lineup as the next one, yet way less bouncy and fast.  Taking time to stretch out really helps Dando Shaft, in my opinion, even if it puts them closer to the 'folk' side of folk-rock.  'In the Country' gets into a gentle strum that walks slowly across the vinyl, with flute filling out the hippie quotient and lyrics about appreciating nature -- could it get any better?  'Cat Song' has a slightly music hall lean, with charmingly pedestrian lyrics as well.  There's so much to like about this record - it's remarkable in it's unremarkableness; psychedelic in it's pure niceness, and there's a hint of menace to the chord progressions on 'Rain' and 'Cold Wind'.  The former is a weird death song, I think, and 'End of the Game' has a similar sense of resignation (or else it's just about the weekend).  Whomever sings on most of side 1 really has a Tim Buckley feel, but I still feel like there are so many Bert Janchisms in the guitar riffing.  Maybe I just like this record cause it's on nicer vinyl - Decca's pressing is lovely, and the very thickly arranged songs (which Jenkins is responsible for) always breathe, cause the dynamic range is just right. 

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