Music Reviews
Aerial Days

Songs Of Green Pheasant Aerial Days

(Fat Cat) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

Songs Of Green Pheasant is the name adopted by Duncan Sumpner, a 30-year old artist and teacher from Oughtibridge in Sheffield. SOGP's self-titled debut last year was understated and in parts impressive. In general though, it was an album that suffered from an excessively quietist ethos and rather disappeared into the background. While we at noripcord saw it as perhaps merely a sign of promise, in other parts this freshman effort garnered praise as an outsider for album of the year lists and earned plaudits from other members of the alt. folk scene, including Devendra Banhart, Múm and Vetiver.

Sumpner's second full-length recording shares much with his first's musical ethos: haunting, occasionally multi-tracked vocals, acoustic strings gently plucked, and a homemade, artisan sound to many of the tracks. Where the album shows distinct signs of improvement is in two areas. Firstly, Sumpner had invested more time and attention in the production of this album. Remembering and Forgetting, apparently a meditation on teenage killers, is bolstered by what sounds like the hammering of a dulcimer. Wolves Amongst Snowmen has a delicious, swirling analogue sound in the distance, like the rustling of autumn wind in the trees. Stars from Birds gives the impression of there being a school orchestra tuning up in the next room. The result is that the listener's attention is demanded, rather than somewhat meekly requested. Secondly, the album demonstrates greater musical confidence, both in songwriting and in arrangements. The cover of The Beatles' Dear Prudence ends up sounding like Pink Floyd and Galaxie 500 coming to some sort of agreeable compromise.

Lyrically, the album is a varied selection; the individual tracks don't necessarily bear too much relation to each other, although they provide echoes of diary entries or impressions of snippets of grainy cine-film: provoking memories and sensations without offering a coherent narrative. In itself this asks questions about how and indeed why we remember, and whether the memories provoked by a song or a lyric necessarily have anything to do with what inspired them in the first place.

All of which is say that SOGP is with difficulty pegged as a folk album, despite the clear homemade, in-the-shed aesthetic - once again, the album has been recorded on the outskirts of the peak district. Instead, musical presences as diverse as Simon & Garfunkel, Love, and The Beta Band rub shoulders. There's a clear sense that Sumptner has moved on from his previous album and is broadening his horizons.

Aerial Days is a brief album, as one might expect given the length of this review and SOGP's last effort, but a heartfelt and moving piece throughout and part of the steady rise of the Green Pheasant.