Despite their credentials and that Robot Man song, the Aliens just aren’t cutting it. Black Affair, Steve Mason’s new incarnation, is at once audacious and amazing but probably won’t please the faithful. So what are those once enamored with and still lamenting the demise of perhaps the only British band of the last decade to actually be any, er, good, to do? I’m mean fans of the Beta Band, of course. Easy now. You’d do well to investigate this stone cold gem of an EP by Peter Hedley a.k.a. Beneath Fire and Smoke.
Sounding not unlike a Romanian folk band free-styling over the best bits of the Beta’s first three EPs, this has much to commend. No surprise then that Hedley is a sometime collaborator with whacked-out-folk genius, Voice of the Seven Woods. His music is shot through with the same rustic romance and bleary eyed wooziness…but it’s so much more. Opener, Smoke and Flames, is the finest cut. It uncurls, ebbs and flows over euphoric flutes and strings, electro-acoustic beats, monastic, loved-up vocals and down right cheeky Fairport’s style bass. Hot damn! Songs from a Slipway is how A Hawk and A Hacksaw wish they’d sound whilst The Iceberg Waltz deals in the same desolate and disconcerting piano led melancholia last heard on a Beach Boys Smile bootleg circa December 1966. Closer, So It Came To Pass, contorts celestial psychedelic string parts over minimalist bass and heart broken lyrics of unrequited love: So it came to be/That you and me will always be/Apart…
Beautifully packaged vinyl courtesy of the bespoke Battered Ornaments label, this is what it’s all about. No downloads. No guerilla PR campaign. No hype. Music for music’s sake. And don’t doubt it, pal – this is fucking music.
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