Album Review | A Buzz Supreme Records | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5
Five years on from Arnaut, Angus McOg are back with Beginners. Since the 2013 release the acoustic guitars, pump organ and Folk feel has evolved, with a wider musical palette now being dexterously wielded. The Wicker Man Psych Folk vibe has metamorphosed into a shimmering Sigur Ros like pastoral music. Electronica and keyboards join the acoustic guitars with splashes of lush strings and drum loops. The World has rolled on and so have Angus McOg. “Laika” opens like a post rock Barclay James Harvest, with warbling mellotron like keyboard notes and a chorus of languid but smooth vocals straight from Mojave 3. “A Rooftop Love Song” continues the laid back Mojave 3 vibe, but this romantic song has a superb groove and some wonderful looping 80s Shoegaze guitars. Maybe it’s the Rooftop mention but there are moments of a shimmering Blue Nile minimalist perfection.
“Turkish Delight” has a slightly harder feel and stabs of delayed U2’s Edge guitar. The first perfect moment of the album is at about the 4 minute mark where the killer bass and Durruti Column guitar riff kicks in then we are really cooking. From that moment on, “Between The Lines” carries you away on a pillow of Siren vocals, stroked acoustic guitars and electronics. Think wafting 4AD meets Prefab Sprout. Antonio Tavoni’s vocal is in the mix, but just the sound of it, rather than individual words, pulls you in John Martyn like. There are even a few Get Carter like discordant noises at the end in this seven minute soundscape that doesn’t overstay its welcome. “Ulysses” has a real 80s Electro rock feel, with its driving rythmn, it builds too, to a distorted Sigur Ros climax, with a disquieting Helter Skelter false end only to return for some more. “Turn The Corner” is a softly breathed, quieter affair, a duduk, picked guitars and sublime vocals build a softly swaying picture. The pay off moment is the flugelhorn at the end. The title track, with its insistent guitar and rolling bass rhythm, is probably closest to the feel of the previous album. Except that the whole thing has a kind of Led Zeppelin Kashmir hallucinatory shimmer and shine to it. “Cold Sand” is built round a powerful percussive drum part from Nicola Bigi and some huge sounding, harmonium like, bass notes. The whole thing sounds like it’s lifted off a late period glorious Talk Talk or Mark Holis album with its hymn like glow of righteous melancholia, carried on mellotron waves. “Chanting Mime Hands” has another glorious guitar motif, fine vocal, rolling drum part, slowly building to a slow burn that ends the album.
Through veils of sounds and with an array of instruments, the band gently subvert the form in a kind of post rock-pop way. Tracks shimmer and ripple like heat mirages carrying glimpsed emotional vocals. Songs develop, to sound like ends that surprise and reveal themselves as middles like auditory trompe l’oiel. Sonic slights of hand are played like musical Russian dolls with revealed layers of interest and delight not nasty surprises of difficult listening. This is blissed out glimmering pop prog for the chilled out listener.