Thursday, 15 December 2011

King Creosote & Jon Hopkins - Diamond Mine

I personally adore Scottish music. From the Indie Pop sweetness of 'Belle & Sebastian', the delicate dynamics of 'Mogwai' and the lyricism of late Folk artist Bert Jansch, Scottish music has always been an attraction to me. King Creosote has released over 30 albums, collaborating with many independent Scottish Folk artists appearing in the many projects such as 'The Burns Unit' and the 'Fence Collective' collaborations. Jon Hopkins is becoming a big name in British Electronic music, collaborating with such acts as Coldplay and Brian Eno. His early Ambient recordings gave him his break in studio material, releasing my personal favourite of his, 'Insides', in 2009. Unlike many others, I was aware of KC's material prior to the announcement of Diamond Mine. His albums reflect personal emotions and sweet Folk music; it's just a shame his music has been ignored for so long and almost forgotten by those early original fans.

The album opens with musique concrète of a waitress, children and what I imagine Jon Hopkins and King Creosote in a little cafe. The delicate piano is reminiscent of Michael Kamen's score to Band of Brothers, with notation and emotional mood setting the vibe early on. Reverb and the opening vocal segment play an important role in setting the already established mood. With the conceptual ideas already in place, it allowed the following tracks to take the listener on an emotional ride.

Instrumentation is heavily used on the following track 'John Taylor's Month Away'. King Creosote is introduced with his acoustic guitar riff which is met alongside Jon's synthesized bass and fantastic organ playing. Heavy vocal samples are used melodically towards the end of the track with increased field recordings and heavier bass. Inbetween this, the guitar work stays the same, keeping the song grounded and authentic. The final few minutes consist of Hopkins brilliant and textured ambiance with harmonic vocals.

This track could possibly be the song of the year. With lyrics taken from an earlier KC recording and the base of the song taken from KC's performance-only recording, 'Bats In The Attic' combines beautiful, emotive vocals with Hopkins well established piano playing. A sampled guitar riff is taken from the aforementioned performance-only recording, with Hopkins editing the sample taking away notes, only keeping the basic structure. Drum work is minimal and takes the listener on a journey with the combined electronic bass. The mix between Folk and Electronic is clearly working, with spectacular emotion given by both KC and the female companion.

'Running On Fumes' combines the field recordings sampled by Hopkins and KC's rippling guitar work. The samples create the mood, then the guitar work adds to the mood giving room for KC's blissful vocal. He sings with his heart and I can only imagine him singing this song with his eyes closed, focused on getting his story across. Vocal samples close the track with the already used, but effective harmonic, choir like vocal harmonies. The ambient field recording add that extra hint of Scottish emptiness and cloudy, wet days with the wind and insects adding their sound of Scotland into this recording. The final two minutes are Hopkins experimenting with a field recording over his light organ playing, with significant synthetic atmosphere.

With 'Bubble', the listener is encapsulated in glitch beats and twinkly keyboard playing, backed by KC's strong vocal work. This song features some of the best lyrics on the album, " I won't let you fall, As low as I've been. I promise to crawl, Until I'm back on my feet". The instrumental improves with time, the song progresses in to a wall of layers. Piano, several acoustic guitars, the glitch like beat, vocal harmonies and a field recording all add to the sad, emotive track, which is one of the saddest on the short album. It flows straight into the quieter, reflective 'Your Own Spell'. Now I've seen Jon Hopkins live on more than one occasion; his music provides many emotions, but nothing compares to his beautiful piano compositions, only guiding KC into commercial success with a prolific future career on what I can only imagine being a very lengthy major record label. This track doesn't eclipse or provide the listener with a wall of sound, it gives emotion, pure, magical emotion given by this duo of talent. The track ends with soft strings which only elevates the previous two minutes of sadness.

The final track is 'Your Young Voice'. Here KC plays a stylistic guitar riff with high pitched vocals singing a well written, repeated verse. It reads, "It's your young voice that's keeping me holding on, to my dull life, to my dull life". The eerie atmosphere only adds to the imagery and perfect, sad mood given by KC's guitar work and vocals. Jon also plays piano which enters with reverb as KC's guitar fades. This is the point where a reflection takes place, the vocals stop and all you hear is a small percussive sample and Jon's delicate piano riff. This is a perfect end to a perfect album.

Where albums fail in relating to the audience, Diamond Mine only takes advantage. The clear, depressive and emotional atmosphere created gives the listener something to think about and that's what this is all about, it's about reflection and getting a response from the listener. Diamond Mine takes emotional music to the next level, with perfect string work and skillful piano compositions. I saw the duo perform the album live entirely, that performance only strengthened my opinion of the album. This is a great album and one which will be remembered in years to come as one of Britain's great collaboration efforts. I'm writing this in December 2011, during the mass publication by countless critics.. The 'End of year lists'. Diamond Mine should be placed within the top 10 at least.

9.0

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