Seabuckthorn – A House With Too Much Fire

Album Review | Bookmaker | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5

A House With Too Much Fire layers guitar tones and pedal steel like glissendoes. Slowly building sounds suggest Desert sunrises or open urban spaces unfolding in front of you. The tracks are comparatively brief, but without percussion time drips by, as measured as a Godfrey Reggio Philip Glass Music and Film collaboration. Staccato string like motifs on tracks like “Figure Afar” give the music one foot in the hypnotic minimalism camp. The landscape imagery on the sleeve and the shifting soundscape suggests a gloriously blissed William Tyler, Dean McPhee or even country ambient wizard BJ Cole let loose in the world of weird ECM Jazz. This is Seabuckthorn or Andy Cartwright’s ninth release, rather like Stephan Micus he layers and plays different instruments to create a whole that sounds at times like traditional music from a lost civilization he’s discovered in the mountain territory of his Alpine home. “Inner” pairs a treated American Tribal Drum rhythm with a meandering Desert Rock guitar line, we are in the bleached bone and wind sculpted landscape of a Georgia O’Keefe painting. Disentangled is a fragile disconnected piece with a lone picked guitar line wafting over the ambience. “It Was Aglow” takes the shimmering looped guitars of Durutti Column to this barren landscape. The piece packs in so much, an album highlight and a long journey in a comparatively short track. Blackout oozes atmosphere, wind instruments call, guitars squall over a slowly shifting scene. Andy Cartwright and Seabuckthorn have, on the strength of this cinematic album, a lot to offer the world of the soundtrack, with the way they conjure smouldering shimmering ‘scapes’ before your ears and eyes. It isn’t just atmospherics though, that sells the music short, “Submerged Past”, another strong track is built around a beautifully nimble acoustic part and some huge electric chords. Stately, majestic music with layers of guitars and percussion. If Tangerine Dream had stuck with guitars and played the Folk Clubs, capitalising on “Cloudburst Flight” they might have sounded like this. “Sent in by the Cold” has that spectral, spatial quality of ECM music, the bowed and stroked guitar building long resonant notes that hang in the air, you can feel the harsh outside pressing down. With the pastoral beauty of “Submerged Past”, the bleached wild west of ‘Inner’, the clanking industrial landscape of “Somewhat Like Vision” and all points in between this is an emotional and atmospheric album that takes you places. It can be background or it can be everything, something you can get lost in.