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Feedback File - The Earth Beneath Our Feet

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 8 / 10 / 2015

Feedback File - The Earth Beneath Our Feet
Label: 574261 Records DK
Format: CD


Stunning fourth album from the Feedback File, who by expanding their folk/pop/jazz base with a funk element have made their most diverse yet captivating set to date

‘The Earth Beneath Our Feet’ is the fourth album from a loose collective of musicians who go under the name of the Feedback File. Combining their talents in the mid-nineties to bring the songs of John Almond and Tom Linneen to life, this latest offering finds Almond in charge of the proceedings writing all eight songs, producing, and providing vocals, guitars and keyboards. While there are ten other musicians involved in the recording of the songs (plus the Pleasures Of June who provide backing vocals to one track) and who, without exception, add so much to each track, the album really is a showcase for not only Almond but also for vocalist Sarah Vallance. Almond has stated before that his songs are influenced by "the classic singer songwriters from the 60s and 70s, adding some ambient, jazz and roots overtones" and, of course, if this latest addition to his canon is an indication of what has gone before then he’s described his music perfectly. The opening song, ‘Water, Paint and Air’, is, in a word, beautiful. The mellow sound that the collective have captured recalls lazy summer days, Sarah Vallance’s reflective vocals heighten the experience, the backing is rich yet each individual instrument is clear and makes its own unique mark. The melody is captivating and the listener is left wondering if Almond and company have fired their best shot on this opening cut. Surely no other song on the album is going to match the atmosphere and beauty displayed here? But ‘The Other Girl’ follows, this time with lead vocals by Almond, and it’s obvious then that the opening track, despite it being a perfect pop song, isn’t the only song that is going to impress here. The summery feel is still there coupled with another heavenly melody and a jazzy vibe sneaks in here and there, while memories of bands such as the Free Design come flooding back. When Vallance again joins in with her angelic vocals, the feeling is one of pop heaven. Naming a song ‘Back in the Canyon’ is no surprise; by the time this song makes an appearance as track three it is obvious that this group of musicians can capture the sound of the golden age of music with apparent ease. With Almond and Vallance sharing vocal duties, it’s another sun-kissed pop classic that, despite its debt to the sixties, still sounds fresh and original. Neil Fryer’s tenor sax adds even more texture to the jazz-infused, mellow ‘A Little Conversation’, showing that for all their fondness for the sounds of a certain decade the collective never let the confines of one genre inform their music. At times it feels like that Almond and his collaborators have cherry-picked the best music of the 60s and 70s to create their own take on the sounds of the era. ‘John O’Day’ is a modern-day take on the folk music which was so popular in the 60s. The vocals are taken by Pip Hodge and they suit the chilling tale perfectly. While by the time this track comes along you’ll have fallen for Sarah Vallance’s vocals on the previous songs, you’ll appreciate why Almond chose Hodge to front this tragic tale. But it’s not just the lyrics and those vocals which make this song. The acoustic opening and the lead guitar and drums, courtesy of Simon Plant and Toby Limbrick respectively, all add to the atmospheric quality of the track. What can one say about a song titled ‘Hey Didn’t You Used To Be Bill Fay?’ except that it’s everything you could hope a song bearing that name would be? Maybe it’s a predetermined thing but as the track unfolds you can imagine Fay singing the song. It’s that good, and again those backing vocals from Vallance add a haunting quality to the song. The title song is something of a departure from what has gone before, it’s as though the Chic Organisation has suddenly materilised in the studio; the folk pop which flavoured all of the previous songs is given a Nile Rodgers make-over and it works so well. Not content with throwing that unexpected curve in, Almond and company, at the three minute mark just as you think the song is winding down, funk things up even more. It’s another incredible performance from all concerned and, despite taking a totally different direction than the rest of the album, it slots in perfectly. The album closes, all too soon, with ‘Vera Lynn’ yet another gorgeous melody, a duet between Almond and Vallance which, lyrically, could be interpreted in many ways. The way that those voices blend together, the full, rich sound that Almond’s production lends to the song while still highlighting every instrument and his ability to write such attractive melodies make the song ideal to close the album as it leaves the listener just one option; to play the whole thing through again. ‘The Earth Beneath Our Feet’ has been released with little fanfare or, it appears, publicity, but if any album currently deserves your time then this is the one. Again, it’s a beautiful, rich collection of songs.

Track Listing:-
1 Water, Paint and Air
2 The Other Girl
3 Back in the Canyon
4 A Little Conversation
5 John O'day
6 Hey Didn't You Used to Be Bill Fa
7 The Earth Beneath Our Feet
8 Vera Lynn

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Interview (2016)
Feedback File - Interview
Malcolm Carter takes the opportunity to find out a little more about the Feedback File from John Almond who wrote and produced ‘The Earth Beneath Our Feet’, which was one of the most eclectic and inspiring albums of 2015

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Sans Voix (2020)
Instrumental album from The Feedback File featuring new and old songs, which despite the absence of their usual excellent vocal performances might well be their best yet

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