Album Reviews

Alexander Tucker – Third Mouth

(Thrill Jockey) UK release date: 2 April 2012

The notion of an artist glimpsing the future through the prism of the past is not a new development; if anything, it’s a very current trend, spearheaded by nu-folk meanderings of Six Organs Of Admittance, and the insistent, hammering drone of Sunn O))) and Jackie-O Motherfucker, each offering their own take on magickal folk, steeped in pagan dread and the ethereal footprints of their talismanic forbearers, long-forgotten ’70s weirdoes Comus and Forest.

Kent musician Alexander Tucker has not only collaborated with two of the above artists but, crucially, he also looks very much the part – lank, heavy metal hair, pointed beard and a dark expression channelling all manner of rustic improprieties. The man himself has done the rounds over the last 20 years or so, beginning as the vocalist in hardcore outfit Suction before forming post-rock noiseniks Unhome and eventually flying solo in the early noughties. Moving away from his rockist roots, Tucker embraced a more organic sound, aligning doom and drone tropes with harmonies worthy of the Eagles on 2008’s Portal before a further shift towards conventional songwriting on 2011’s Dorwytch.

The primary influence on Third Mouth, conceptually at least, is Tucker’s mother and the apparent spirits which spoke through her when Tucker was a child. Thus – a third mouth rather than a third eye. This notion of the music operating as a conduit is reflected in the lyrics which transmit a distinct sense of the eerie and the unsettling encased in the unknown. And the opening track on the album, A Dried Seahorse, begins with our man solemnly intoning of “doors creaking, exposing murky spaces within…” provides more than adequate commentary for what’s in store. His very mannered, almost RP-style pronunciation gives his lyrics a deep gravitas which may sound hackneyed under the influence of less measured tones.

Tucker comes into his own on The Glass Axe, his gentle guitar supplanted by deft xylophone flourishes, ushering in what might be described as an acoustic prog workout which glides into the sublime on the introduction of Frances Morgan’s celestial backing vocals. Indeed, the spectre of space rock (or space folk?) is never far from Tucker’s palette – Andromeon glides by in a haze of cosmic ruminations while Sitting In A Bardo Pond is a jaunty tribute to Bardo Pond Tucker’s one-time tour mates and purveyors of Philadelphia’s finest brand of psychedelic insanity. Indeed, the collaborations serve to bolster Tucker’s musical vision without ever encroaching on his territory. Karl Brummer’s saxophone adds a fluorescent dash to the otherwise murky meanderings of Amon Hen and frequent collaborator Daniel O’Sullivan combines with Tucker on the electronic-only closer Rh to create a fittingly grand finale to the album’s mystic charms.

Third Mouth may display a relatively slight sound but this is a misnomer. With this, his fifth release, Alexander Tucker muscles up to his psych-folk antecedents to posit himself as an artist of singular merit, as comfortable within the realms of conventional song as well as the abstract sound world. If this is the future through the past, then long may it continue.

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