In this series of posts, we are sharing our own personal thoughts on our Molehills out of Mountains album.  After Sam Kipling last week, this week here are  Sam Lawrence’s reflections on the album.

This album has been forever in the making, or it certainly feels like it. It might not be perfect but it’s pretty good and certainly the best body of work I have ever recorded.  I think it’s unusual in this day and age in that the quality is consistent and it exists as a coherent body of work – there is no filler and I find it hard to pick a stand out track, though a few feel like they have some particular magic for me.  There is a depth to these recordings – dig deeply and at times there is interplay between up to 5 stringed instruments – complimentary weaving not competitive wanking.  It’s clear at least to me that every detail of the arrangements has been picked up delicately, held to the light, turned this way and that way and then placed carefully down on a clean, brushed, purple, well-lit velvet cushion.  Or instead chucked heartlessly into the bin to remain forever in dirty musical landfill…  There might be flaws here and there but I don’t believe that any detract in a overwhelming way.  Over-polished music sucks anyway, doesn’t it? Which is not to say that I think that everyone will like it.  I don’t.

I am listening to this album on vinyl – basically this means that according to my lights I have “made it” . . . We have a “record out” and a publishing deal, and a worldwide distribution deal.  Funny how the industry has changed, we are of course totally skint and largely unknown too . . . The recordings sound soooo much warmer on vinyl than CD.  I have a funny feeling in my bones that this review? retrospective? recounting? response? will take pretty much exactly the same amount of time to write as the LP takes to play through . . .

Molehills Out Of Mountains opens with the track

Cry For The City

Perhaps the intro is an ill-judged fleet-foxes-in-a-cave moment but we like it so who cares. The instrumental tune at the end of the song is called “The Cobblestones Jig” and is played on harmonising mandolin/electric guitar in the style of Thin Lizzy, which is a sound you won’t hear from many beat combos of the present day.  I don’t think that we are a miserable band by the way – though I can understand if you do – a thoughtful song like this ends on an up, lyrically and musically.  I’m not going to try and explain these songs though (and I didn’t write them anyway) – I believe now that that is always a mistake.  If there is meaning and feeling in a song, then the listener will find their own.  It’s pretty much irrelevant if it coincides or not with the meaning invested into the song by the writer.

Don’t Be Scared 48

Some people have picked this as a potential single, and a particularly strong song. I am going to have to be contrary and say that it’s one of my least favourites. I do think the middle 8 (chorus?) is super though. Maybe if I sang more in tune? This seems like a good point to mention that at no point on this record have we resorted to autotune on the vocals – I think that if we had, Albert would have been waiting down a dark alley with a sock full of wet sand. Oh I do like the outro of this song very much – especially my bouzouki. Ruth sings angelically on the outro and I’m sure she’ll be VERY glad to have me point that out…

Constitution Failed

I think that these acoustic ones are my favourites to listen to, as much as the louder ones are my favourites to play live. Breaking my own rule above, this song is obviously about climate change – not about the Polish race… I’d like to give a mention here to my guitar-shaped mandolin, Dorothea.  She sounds pretty fine, and wants to remind me that we were going for something of a Led Zeppelin IV feel – sometimes I think she’d prefer to be owned by Jimmy Page.  Well go to him then, leave me, don’t let me stop you, but don’t come running back to me when he calls you cheap and old with a rattle-prone battery and arthritis in your tuning pegs.

London Road

In the intro, listen carefully – there seems to be a harmonium or such accompanying the guitar.  There isn’t.  It’s some strange but lovely effect of the reverb.  This of course is a Neil McSweeney song, and is SUCH fun to play live, especially given the current “engine room” of the band, Albert and Ruth.  I am childishly excited to hear my guitar solo coming off a 180g vinyl LP.  Yes.  Oh yes.  More!  Louder!  Again!  Wish I hadn’t played that naff note though.  I hope Rhys is similarly excited about his mighty keyboard solo, if only it had been recorded with his SUPER NEW KEYBOARD(TM)!  Come to a gig soon to hear and see the SUPER NEW KEYBOARD(TM)!  It’s red.  Of course.

The Waltz

I like ¾ time.  I love this song, the orchestration is very nice in both senses of the word.  In the future I’d like to see us move into a genre we chip out of the rock’n’roll – see what I did there – called “orchestral folk”, a sound-engineer’s nightmare!  In the instrumental of this song I play a tune on the Uilleann Pipes, which I make for my day job.  The tune is called “Planxty Cowling” and just in case there are any Uilleann geeks reading this it is played on a Hunter “Banjo Blaster” Palosanto concert chanter mkV, 54mm staple, 12.3mm slip, 70% humidity and socks slipped slightly down into the wellies.  It’s also a massive buzz to hear the pipes coming off the vinyl – me and Liam Og O’Flynn and a few others, except that they are properly able to play them and I am shamming…

Like Lovers Do

I like hearing the female vocals on this track, it would be nice for us to do more of this.  Thank you Laura whom I used to sing with at school, and best of luck with your impending nuptials.  I am now, 6 through the vinyl LP, conscious of the detrimental effects caused by the arm of the record player being at a more acute angle to the grooves of the record, introducing some slight distortion (this is the last song of side one).  Did you know that middle tracks of a side of an LP sound better than the first and last because of the tonearm alignment issues?  Technics made a deck that had the arm sliding along a track so it was always at 90 degrees to the groove (so to speak, of course it is a circle really – is this what a tangent is or something?) but unfortunately it sounded rubbish all the time.  In the chorus of this song I am rather much “tonight, Matthew, I am going to be Edge Lite” on the guitar.  Great fun live.


Powerful Pill

Well, I think this one is really strong, but Joe Public seemingly thinks not.  I just like the song a lot a lot a lot, and the arrangement is kind of unusual – in the verses as close as we get to Captain Beefheart.  Not close enough for me, but certainly close enough for everyone else… I’m not really able to put into words what I like about this track, I just think it’s great.  Maybe it’s because it sounds like Christmas, I am writing this in December, and I have just put my tree up.  Is it a no-no in journalism to be time-specific like that? Is it even journalism if it’s only writing about your own album on the internet because Albert has asked you to?  Answers on a postcard please to Samta, North Pole, BD1.

Caught Between Seasons

The jig tune I wrote for this song hasn’t got a name because it is pretentious as hell to name tunes on your own record, as any fool knows!  It’s just part of the song isn’t it?  Like naming the bloody bassline!  I am starting to feel the desire to turn into Glenda Slagg in this review… I think this is another strong song, maybe I just like E major.  Sam Kipling has had a VERY exciting idea for a video for this song, we just need to get back into the black so we can buy 25 metal dustbins.  SO please buy this LP to facilitate the purchase of another dustbin.  Thank you.

Wilful Missing

I don’t think we have wholly captured the amazing sound this song makes in my head, but we have done a good job of trying.  It is soft, like a slow river flowing through deep, tree lined banks – a bird calls out!  Otters slip lovingly into the tepid water as the drums enter the sonic landscape with a splash (cymbal) – PLEASE can I be in Pseuds Corner?  Lovely organic clarinet from our resident Hebden Bridge peacenik Rhys Kelly, recorded of course with a Fair Trade Vegan microphone pointing slightly (actually considerably more than slightly) left of center.  Breaking another rule, to me this song is about the threat of nuclear war – it’s not really written about that at all.

I Am Clay

I think this is as close as we get to Electric Dylan.  A good song to play live, mainly because I have next to nothing to do on it.  Oh wait.  One of the tightest songs on the LP … me not playing much … On this track I particularly love the words and the way they spill out all over the backbeat to anyone who will listen.  Huh.  No-one brings anything small into a bar near here.  They all started out with bad directions. T he girl behind the counter has a tattooed tear – one for every year he’s away she says….

Sleeptalking Over

What to say.  This is a beautiful song and I think I might fight anyone who disagrees.  I play this song myself (i.e. I play and sing it myself) every so often to remind myself why I don’t want to start a solo career.  Does that sound cryptic?  I mean that it’s a better song than I can write myself.  Lovely string arrangement by Albert; filtered through the usual Wilful Missing ever-so-sensitive feedback of “Yeah. That bit’s shit though, change it or lose it”.  But that’s how we get to what we have got, and from which I need now to go and take the needle off the runout groove.  No, good ones don’t do it for you.

Next week, in part 3, Ruth will be giving her take on the album.

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