Over the course of its ethereal runtime, Cold Seeds succeeds marvellously in constructing its own slow-motion mythology, inventing its own musical language, and traversing vast expanses of flickering emotion. Cold Seeds is a collaboration between Kenny Anderson, better known as King Creosote, and Frances Donnelly of Animal Magic Tricks, along with Neil Pennycook and Peter Harvey of Meursault; a Scottish indie-folk supergroup if ever there was one.
The term “supergroup” tends to call up memories of bloated and largely commercial bands of the past. There’s usually an accompanying sense of too many cooks stirring the same pot, everyone soloing over each other at all times. But Cold Seeds – who would almost certainly shy away from the term – have choreographed an intricate dance of rotating musicians and traded vocals. The arrangements are sparse and organic, building and falling on their own, often leaning on the steady melancholy of Peter Harvey’s cello.
The album carries an almost impossible level of homespun charm. The whole of it is permeated with a warm layer of room noise and tape hiss; the opening track, Leave Me Alone To Die In The Ground, features an impromptu appearance by the family cat.
But accompanying the knitted-by-hand feel of the production, Cold Seeds also makes use of a nearly otherworldly aesthetic. The album maintains a ghost-ship detachedness from all things terrestrial, and the result is a swooning, all-encompassing trip to somewhere you’ve never been.
It’s as if the music has been recorded in some remote, pastoral locale – untouched by modern notions of hipness and cynicism – and transmitted by radio across a frozen sea. And after a journey of untold and unknowable years and distance, the residual music has reached only a single lucky listener who’s stumbled upon its phantom frequency while fiddling with the knobs of an old upright in an antiques shop.
Leave Me Alone To Lie In The Ground opens the album with a sense of spontaneous creation, seeming to be orchestrated and arranged over the course of the recording. King is a beautiful fingerpicked acoustic jaunt, haunted by Frances Donnelly’s reverb-soaked vocals. Bubble is a serenade dreamt in the waning glow of a shared bottle of red wine; television talking threatens to invade the sway.
Crank Resolutions is a fireside waltz filled with subdued longing for a girl who “wears the perfume of Mexican birds.” Later, in The Perfume Of Mexican Birds, she is reconsidered to a sobering admission: “I did it again; I was the wrong boy again.”
A new imagining of King Creosote’s By Eleven O’Clock She’d Left seems a revelation when the lead is given to Donnelly, whispered and slightly slurred, and lock-armed with the stomping riffraff pub choir.
Please Don’t Send Me Home could very well have shattered the illusion, sounding so unlike the rest of the album with its distorted vocals and bleary organ. Instead, though, it fits the whole nicely, adding another layer to the mystery; it’s a shouted, desperate plea from the other side, caught in a moment of haunted honesty.
And it’s a shock when the album ends. Your eyes open, and it could well have been a dream. Cold Seeds is a staggering accomplishment of emotional transmigration. Each note is a captured fragment of a shared existence, a snapshot of something half-remembered.