BOOKSHOP RECORDS 12th May 2017
A gorgeously gentle album, Diagrams is the banner for Sam Genders’ annual recorded outing, this time, as so often, a collaboration. His last offering was under the name Throws and a team project with Mike Lindsay, who he’d also worked with in their band, Tunng. Mike is here again, offering twittering electronics, alongside a couple of other band members. Sam, like they say in school reports, plays well with others. It sparks things off and here he has taken the words of Dorothy Trogdon, a ninety-year old American poet, and worked them into songs. Ordinarily poems, having their own voice and rhythm, are spoilt by being nailed to music but, on rare occasions the result is great, as it is here. The difference is that Dorothy wrote these to work with Sam and they are close in feeling to the sense of wonder and love of the small and everyday that his previous work hymns.
Dorothy’s work expresses the immanence of nature, the thus-ness of things, the detail in each and every living being, even the unliving natural forces. There is a Lotus Sutra love for life and something of The Incredible String Band in the wondering and wandering thought patterns. The opening track, Under The Graphite Sky, (which we get twice – once as a song and once as a poem, to close) is a gentle offer of kindness in a world where everything works for your good. Pastoral fingers track notes like falling rain with painted highlights of electronic colour. Elsewhere, a wistful song has a solo guitar picking chords atop an electronic water-colour wash in a sweet and slightly downbeat tone. Wild Grasses has brushes on drums, gently striding bass figures.
Strange and magical themes appear. I hear Spaghetti Western at one point, a touch of offbeat Sgt Pepper another time, crooning balladeering ala Scott Walker doing Jacques Brel and a flavour of LA sun-psych-posters, Love. Songs are pictures, some hanging above a drone, some on a flurry of notes, some swinging on a big tune. Images are grass, leaves, sun, dappled colour, woodland, conjuring a loving all-present spirit in the natural world. In the penultimate song, water becomes a metaphor for sorrow. Yet there is no sorrow, only a sense of immanence, kindness and wonder.
This is more pastoral and song-led than anything Genders has done before. He has learnt to use the musical tools instead of follow them and, in doing so has made a rather lovely album.
You can read our previous reviews of Sam Genders’ work here: