Title: The Calm Before
Label: Ici D’Ailleurs
When you’re the guy who has penned Semtex for Third Eye Foundation and has reworked creations by Mogwai, Tarter and Thurston Moore, you don’t expect a record to start with the groans of a viola and the precise string plucking of an acoustic guitar. Neither do you expect to hear Elliott singing, rather sadly, as a lament, as he reflects the oncoming storm. This isn’t drum’n’bass is it? It’s not avant garde. Nor electronica. Where is the electronica? This is folkie vocals over an organic arrangement for goodness sake! What you’re left with, though, is a rather sweet early track, The Calm Before, as Elliott’s rather richly textured voice carries his thoughts to you in a gentle melodic fashion.
The subject matter, it quickly appears, follows this foreboding and dark nature. If you expect energy and chaos and sharp turns then don’t look towards to the musical arrangements, look into the lyrics and the psychology of the same. Elliott, it appears is a pastoral version of Nick Cave. His creation, The Feast of St. Stephen, talks about the manipulation of religion. The fact that religion utilises guilt and its inherent power to twist your thoughts and actions. Elliott touches on religious-based pedophilia and other abuses while liberally spattering his lyrics with vitriolic language that is calmly delivered as if he were talking about daffodils and cloud formations in the shape of little bunny rabbits. All backed by the classic tones of that viola and his acoustic guitar.
The dark nature of Elliott’s thoughts progress to personal rejection, “But you don’t love me” he opines in sheer frustration. Again, very calmly, in terms of his own delivery but the frustration builds into almost screaming madness behind him as a contrast. This is a man on the verge of either a full mental breakdown or, at the least, an nasty ulcer.
Don’t buy this album to groove to while washing the kitchen floor. Buy it to sit on the edge of a seat. Sit and listen to as if hearing the outpourings of a troubled friend who has a lot to say on the subject of life. And then, and only then, drink a large whisky to recover from the fact. You’ll need it.