At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man, it is true to say that we live in an age where it has never been easier to record an album and upload it for public consumption. It therefore comes as something of a pleasure to report King Creosote and Jon Hopkins spent some seven years making Diamond Mine, during which time no deadlines or even strict musical guidelines were imposed – a true labour of love.
The two met in Fife at one of the early Fence Collective festivals, and since then Londoner Hopkins has been a regular visitor to the area. As he stayed in touch with King Creosote (aka Kenny Anderson), the two cultivated a shared objective to record a lyrical and sonic portrait of the East Neuk area Anderson calls home. Naturally lyrical duties fell to Creosote, with a back catalogue of some 20 years’ worth to raid, looking expressly for songs speaking of home and the people close to it. These are complemented with a series of field recordings and beautifully shaded electronica, fresh from Hopkins’ musical tool bench.
The final results are of such subtle beauty they take the breath clean away. As the album gently unfolds we are introduced to the ambience of tea cups clattering together in Kilrenny church, the tide of the Firth of Forth, the sound of distant birdsong and even the whir of Anderson’s bike as he travels along a deserted road. Synthesized sounds drift in and around the soundscapes, before Anderson’s vocals and assorted instruments add colour and emotion.
One thing the listener may not be prepared for on hearing these songs is the sheer strength of feeling that goes behind them. Bats In The Attic worries about the onset of middle age, Anderson fretting that he “counted 18 pulses as Kilrenny church struck three at three o’clock”. Bubbles is especially poignant, the centre of the album, and the resolve of its heart shifting chorus is strengthened by a pure second vocal from Lisa Lindley Jones, a positive and beautifully simple presence.
Anderson’s vocals are deceptive, often inflected and ornamented in such a way that the text lives and breathes through them, his voice sometimes cracking with emotion or suggesting a half smile. Around these Hopkins captures some weird shoreline effects akin to falling asleep in the middle afternoon and waking to find that the wind has changed or it’s started to rain.
This is in effect an old fashioned lettercard from the Fife coast, a series of portraits and landscapes that reveals more with each listen, a record of uncommon beauty that in this case led to tears on public transport, hastily wiped away lest anyone else cotton on to the secret. Secrets like this are meant to be shared, though, for this is a treasure chest of which every listener deserves a part.