As the vocal half of Scots miserablists Arab Strap Aidan Moffat’s tales of wry drunken fumblings and regret, soaked in booze, were couched in sympathetic musical backgrounds provided by Malcolm Middleton that encompassed post-rock, acoustic and elements of dance music. It’s a surprise then to hear the musical works of the voice step out from behind the microphone to provide a sensitive organic instrumental album of such beauty and pastoral textures. It’s a far cry from the self-loathing that characterised his contributions to Arab Strap.
Recorded before that duo split up this is in itself a departure from Moffat’s previous outings as L. Pierre with the ‘critically acclaimed’ (trans: sold bobbins, loved by critics) (Hypnogogia (2002) and Touchpool (2004) which leant heavily on drum loops and effects.
Opening and closing to the sound of waves crashing against the shore, there is a sense of an organic cycle completing and repeating or, god forbid, a concept album about the sea, nature and the great outdoors sprang from the use of Minidisc field recordings. Mercifully Moffat is not one to linger on the ‘hello birds, hello trees’ path of nature witlessness. Instead Dip takes a deeper breath and soaks up the ambience of the sea through these field recordings and teases tunes from them gently that enhance the experience and sense of universal rhythms and cyclical patterns carrying on regardless of any onlookers. It’s also helpful that there aren’t any messy vocals/lyrics to muddy the whole thing up.
Gullsong teeters on free-jazz rising up in swells of harmonium what sounds like the sea tuning up, a whale choir and random trumpets, double bass and violins rolling out amid the surge and splash. Anyone looking for a discernible ‘hook’ would be directed elsewhere, for like enjoyment of nature ‘these things (as a certain drinks manufacturer once said)’cannot be rushed’, and the rewards are much greater for it.
Bleeding into its tail is Weir’s Way; all 11 and a half minutes of it! A drawn-out acoustic sigh of banjo, trumpet and cello tinkling away like pebbles on the shore that sounds in places like a wholemeal version of Spiritualised without the drugs but more of the spaced-out grooves unfolding like a cosmic yawn. Gust builds a choral loop that shimmers in its own haze without touching ground at any point. Anywhere else it would be dismissed as trite filler but here it makes absolute sense.
Ache is full of crackling, morose, mournful strings and piano slide over a double bass pulse that aches and tugs at the heartstrings like the soundtrack to the saddest film ever imagined…but in a good way! Contrasting this is Hike, positively bouncy and upbeat in mood, conjuring with the term ‘baroque-tronica’ as neo-classical strings counterpoint hissing drum machines, crunching boots (hiking) and a sense of fun that sums up the organic feel to the album before the reflective Drift rounds things off with ambient washes of strings and piano and finally the ever-present sea.
So, an unexpected turn from our commentator on urban squalor with this dreamlike, abstract paean to Mother Nature and the great outdoors. It’s a deviation from the normal path expected, but aren’t those enticing journeys worth taking once in a while?