Lawrence English recordings have a distinct sonic signature â€” it’s almost intangible, and quite hard to formulate the exact word that would describe the Room 40 curator’ approach; I’m sure that there would be a suitable word in German, probably one without a direct English translation. But let’s settle on an English word. Palimpsest, the process of obscuring and reiteration that still leaves a trace of the original cipher.
Minamo and Lawrence English collaborated on this release over a number of years. Minamo laid down the spacious and beguiling foundations for A Path Less Travelled in Tokyo, bringing a stately ambience to affairs. Lawrence’ studio alchemy certainly has that intangible palimpsestic something that is his signature, a deftness of touch with the levels of processing applied to the base materials, maybe. The album is littered throughout with field recordings of rain, fireworks, the lazy wash of a soporific sea under a moonlit pier.
‘The Path’ unfolds slowly, as befits a song with such a title. Sparkling chimes, rich guitar sonorities, and what sounds like the drone of a harmonium caress the opening minutes of the album, the warmth of the recording envelops everything. The second part of the piece revolves around the dynamic yet simple interplay of piano, guitar and the power of the drone. ‘Headlights’ is “post-rock’ at its most ethereal, ephemeral and transient, hardly lingering in the mind, but somehow leaving a subtle imprint on your soul.
The centrepiece of A Path Less Travelled is the 17-minute odyssey, ‘Springhead’, which brings to mind the delicate yet muscular sensibilities of late period Talk Talk circa Spirit of Eden, and Bark Psychosis. About half way through, the warm melody abruptly disappears to be replaced by violin-like drone that is almost harsh in comparison, although this is simply a chapter leading towards a more band-oriented instrumental passage. Slowly, lapping waves and snowballs of digital static assert themselves, before a brass and string section bursts into life.
This is music with enough edge to appeal to the more experimental-minded listener, without disenchanting the eclectic ears and magpie sensibilities of your average daytime community radio fan. I could almost imagine dozing off to A Path Less Travelled on a sunny day, and that’s fair praise indeed.