Album Reviews

Oddfellow’s Casino – Burning! Burning!

(Nightjar) UK release date: 7 August 2020

Oddfellow's Casino - Burning! Burning! David Bramwell may not be particularly well known but he’s something of a creative polymath. For the last twenty years not only has he released music under the name Oddfellow’s Casino but he’s also carved out a successful career as an author, journalist, radio presenter and podcast maker.

All of these overlapping artistic strands occupy and explore similar thematic ground, namely his interest in the occult, the mythical, the folkloric, the hard to explain and those events that take place at the periphery of society. Lesser heard stories excavated from obscure chapters of history inform much of his creative output and this is very much the case on Burning! Burning!, his seventh studio album.

It’s clear early on that this is an album of sustaining depth and there’s certainly a lot to delve into. Leave Behind is arguably the defining track on the record, being based around the belief of one of Bramwell’s neighbours that her home is haunted by poltergeists. Her voice thoughtfully recounts these experiences alongside a suitably atmospheric backdrop. Bramwell does an excellent job in bringing the stories of others to life but the inclusion of his neighbour’s voice here brings an eerie directness to the song. The more doleful Where Are The Memories Of Henry Sargeant? is Bramwell’s personal follow up, written after the story started to infiltrate his dreams.

Sol Ra is another standout track, inspired by some of the solstice rituals of Wiltshire and it shows how many of his songs here have a peculiarly psychogeographical quality to them, feeling strangely connected to a particular location. Musically, it’s widescreen and melodic, traits which crop up throughout the album. 

The dynamic Strange Lights In The Night Sky brings upsurges of volume, journeying from distortion to melody and back. Lyrically it references the ‘will-o’-the-wisps’ found in old folktales and still witnessed today (Bramwell recently wrote about the phenomena as part of a series of articles in the Guardian, aptly under the ‘weird world’ subheading). Last year Bramwell joined a druidic order – proof, if any were needed, of how he fully immerses himself in those subjects he finds fascinating.

The pastoral and wistful sounding Chime Children is based on another old fable that proposes those born at midnight to be endowed with heightened musical powers. Marian Marks is cut from similar cloth, relating to certain engraved symbols found in old buildings that were intended to ward off evil spirits. They’re indicative of the kind of wide-ranging yet self-contained orchestrated songs that Bramwell does so well, seeming to exist on distant hinterlands where fact and fiction become enjoyably muddied.

If the album has a home it’s undoubtedly southern England and this is reflected in how, musically, we get hints of Robert Wyatt, Syd Barrett, Blur and British Sea Power along the way (although he also throws in a Nico cover and there’s a passing suggestion of prime period Mercury Rev at times as well). Although very different in overall sound, Burning! Burning! also brings to mind Chanctonbury Rings, last year’s excellent album from Justin Hopper, Sharron Kraus and The Belbury Poly.

While this is music inspired by the margins, it doesn’t itself belong in the margins. With two more albums promised over forthcoming months, it’s hard not to feel that this should be the year that Bramwell gets the recognition he deserves.

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Oddfellow’s Casino – Burning! Burning!