The Stormy Seas Play…Alasdair Roberts

Ok folks, I won’t beat about the bush on this one – I love Edinburgh’s The Stormy Seas. Their first album Of Rust and Loss was released in November 2011, I believe it to be something of a modern day maritime marvel. It’s the kind of music you’ll like more the more you listen to it, sea shanty like tunes which are refreshingly original. They also have a little more lyrical weight and musical play than your average folkish fodder.

Stormy drummer Graeme shared Alasdair Roberts Spoils, with this story…

Five years ago I wasn’t playing in a band, hadn’t for a while and generally saw playing music as something consigned to the past. I was enticed along to St Paul’s Church one Friday night to hear some fellow play what was sold to me as ‘really good folky stuff’. I went along, more out of curiosity about the set-up than anything else – bring your own bottle gigs in churches was a new one on me. I’m glad I went. That fellow was Alasdair Roberts and within a few months I was back in a band and as enthusiastic about playing as I had been at fifteen.

In 2008 Alasdair Roberts released Spoils. I bought it the day it came out and to this day, not a fortnight has gone by when I haven’t listened to it in it’s entirety. It’s a rare thing for me to find an album, or any piece of art for that matter, which seems to bleed beyond it’s medium in the way Spoils does. It evokes cinema, in particular, ‘You Muses Assist’ and ‘Ned Ludd’s Rant (For a World Rebarbarised)’ conjures the spirit of Bill Douglas’ ‘Comrades’. The lyrics are poem-like in their precision and on each listen at least a line or two will always astound me.

The music itself is at once antiquated and modernist – like aural Art Nouveau – and really does sound quite like nothing else (that has happened upon my ears at least). Baroque and 19th century guitars sit atop whistling and buzzing synths, while the drumming is free and idiosyncratic. This strange, timeless quality, and the fact that I hear the most simple and sparse sections with the same reverence and amazement as the more intricate passages creates a multiplicity that serves to support the lyrical themes. The opening track, The Flyting of Grief and Joy (Eternal Return) is something of a mission statement in it’s allusion to reincarnation and the cyclic nature of existence; themes repeated and expanded upon throughout Spoils. Though the album is dealing with pretty esoteric theological musings, the tone is never churchy or preachy or smug. Though it is hallucinatory in it’s shifting, multi-faceted deceptiveness, a psychedelic freak out this is not. It is, despite what I’ve said here, a comparatively light and easy listen. You may even get a giggle at the absurd ‘Unyoked Oxen Turn’.

Quite how influential Alasdair Roberts has been on the sound of The Stormy Seas, I couldn’t say, though I can say that hearing an album like this makes me sure I want to keep making music for as long as I can.

Listen to The Stormy Seas, Of Rust and Loss here. Highlights including the sweeping Are You My Maker and thundering Morbid Desires.

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