Seabuckthorn
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Seabuckthorn

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"Seabuckthorn Live Review"

The latest album from Andy Cartwright’s Seabuckthorn provided one of last year’s local musical highlights. Experimental and boldly far-reaching, I was intrigued to see how the recordings would translate into a live setting. Rather than struggling to recreate the scope of his recorded work, Cartwright played a stripped-down set, using only an acoustic guitar and some effects pedals. The opening rendition of Galloping Into Thin Air was slightly jarring, but he hit his stride from then on, holding the audience reverently spellbound till the euphoric, distorted cacophony that signalled the end of his set. Cartwright’s skill on the guitar was impressive, as were the range of sounds he managed to get out of his limited set up, allowing both his American folk and Eastern influences to shine through. Inevitably, the songs slightly missed the carefully layering of the recordings, but nonetheless Cartwright produced an adventurous and enjoyable interpretation of his work.

- Music In Oxford


"'A Mantra Pulled Apart' - Album Review"

Seabuckthorn looks a bit like one of those posh old English names that have had all their syllables blanched out of them over the years, like Featherstonehaugh or Cholmondely. You can imagine an old monocled gent filling in the hotel reception book, wheezing, “It’s pronounced Seddon”. However, it turns out to be a sort of shrub, and this seems fitting because, although your actual seabuckthorn is found in Europe and Asia, this CD brings up images of empty mesas, dusty scrub and hazy sundowns.

This is less a collection of compositions than a series of flourishes and echoes. There are plenty of Spanish guitar trills, but they arrive and drift away like farmsteads on the horizon on a Midwest train ride, instead of sitting in dramatic flamenco centre stage. If The Omega Man were remade on the set of The Good, The Bad & the Ugly this record could be the soundtrack, in which empty Western saloons reverberate to the tread of gunslinging ghosts, and louvre doors hang by one hinge. All of which means it’s a gorgeous listen, and Seabuckthorn (AKA Andy Cartwright) has created the record with precisely the right balance between the eerily spacious and the structured, the ambient and the encapsulating.

Which means that picking favourite tracks is academic, your best bet being to let the record wash over you whilst staring out of the window into the evening. (No, scrub that, we just tried it, and saw a hatchback, a courier’s van and a whippet, so it probably depends on where you live). Still, we like the plucked strings on ‘Illumination’ that are swirling and mysterious like a Nazca earthwork, and ‘Strange Dreams In The Wilderness Again’ in which stalking wolves of static warily eye guitars plucked on the edge of oblivion. Elsewhere we get little flavours of Slint, Fushitsusha, Seefeel and locals Hretha, one of whom guests on the CD.

Perhaps ‘Abyss Eyes’ could be excised without much pain, but there isn’t a moment from this record that is a let down, and there are some gorgeous fragments of song hidden in the bleak expanses of the album. Our choicest moment is on ‘Painted Wolf Howl’, where a forcefully plucked guitar with a vast delay is suddenly shadowed by a glockenspiel to play a lopsided motif that sounds like a mix between ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ and the theme from Crossroads. It’s a sparse and even forbidding album, maybe, but certainly not an empty or ill thought out one.

- Music In Oxford


Discography

ALBUMS:

PREVIOUS:
Twilight Synopsis - Self-Release - 2008
Distant Summer Storm - Dead Pilot Records - 2009
A Mantra Pulled Apart - Self-Release - 2010

FUTURE:
In Nightfall - Label TBA - Spring 2011
Album Title TBA - Dead Pilot Records - Summer 2011

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