Swooning in with melodies you can file somewherebetween The Byrds and Sigur Ros, thedebut album from The High Wire is aptly named, not somuch for the desert heat depicted on its sleeve as forthe promise of the sunshine that late spring andsummer will bring. Tim Crompton’s music blossoms withthe heady scent of May flowers, a reward for sufferingthrough what’s left of winter and the spring rainthat’s yet to come.
Hazy, drenched in orchestral strings and coming inshort at a blissful twenty-something minutes, it’s asomewhat frustrating album, however: excellentchill-out music except that you generally need tochill-out for longer than this, perfect backgroundmusic for the indie dinner party as long as you’reonly planning on serving one course.
What there is of it, though, is small but perfectlyformed. Ranging from instrumental, to using voices asinstruments in tracks whose lyrics can’t really bediscerned, to songs with proper words (heard mostclearly on Easy, a radio-friendly pebble to pleaseFlaming Lips fans). More recently, bands suchas Blackbright Morning Light and Yorioshave ploughed the same furlough.
You Don’t Know What I Know adds a heartbeat bassline to underpin the delicate beauty of the earliersongs. It’s a hymn to anyone who’s kept a foot in thedoors of perception, the kind of music through which,if you close your eyes and concentrate on yourbreathing, you’ll be allowed a brief glimpse backthrough the keyhole.
All of this is much what you’d expect of an albumlent vocals by A Girl Called Eddy and EmmaMcGlynn, produced by Julian Simmons who countsboth of them – as well as Guillemots andMidlake – amongst his repertoire. Thepsychedelic influences are gently West Coast, runningtheir fingers down the G-spots of today’s soniccathedrals before going home to plunder the quietermoments of Love and Gram Parsons,particularly on Rope Walking.
Beautiful as it is, where Ahead Of The Rain failsto lift itself above the average is in its lack ofsubstance. When the music is so gossamer light, wecould do with a little more of it: twenty minutes istoo short a time to fit in eight tracks unless you’readrenelin-fueled speed freak punks. As a result, it’sall a bit insubstantial, leaving you wanting more notbecause it was so good but because you feel youhaven’t yet had enough.
In the modern world of downloads and MP3s, there’sno reason for albums to be stuck into a rut of 40-45minute conformity but at the same time if you’re goingto short-change the listener, you really need to havea good reason why and The High Wire don’t. Let’s hopetheir live performances are more substantial.