published: 23 /
In his 'Under the Radar' column, in which he searches out under-rated artists and labels, Keith How examines Soft Hearted Scientists’ front man Nathan Hall and his new band the Sinister Locals’ first album.
‘Effigies’ is the first solo album from the Soft Hearted Scientists’ head honcho Nathan Hall. The Sinister Locals appear to be some very gifted musicians that Hall has probably bribed to accompany him on this new recording. ‘The Volta Sturgeon Face’ EP released earlier this year, although critically acclaimed, passed many by but this full album further enhances Nathan Hall’s growing reputation as a creative force. So, using the four track EP as a template< Hall launches his new album into space.
I am on my fourth listen of this new offering and find it totally captivating. ‘Effigies’ is a pilgrimage into the folk/horror world of Nathan Hall’s mind. While the Soft Hearted Scientists’ shadow is there for all to perceive, Hall is going further into the woods to seemingly “get lost”.
A kaleidoscope of psychedelic journeys await the listener. This is a fine, intelligent album full of twists and turns, superb vocal harmonies and intriguing sonic wizardry. For example, ‘Plant Your Flag’ pounds along joyfully with the occasional echo of the Velvet Underground while carrying an important reminder of life and “neutralising doom and gloom”, and ‘The Unholy Ghost’ gently carries the great British tradition of weird whimsy.
‘Effigies’ is remarkably inventive, full of light and colour. Yes, Hall’s lyrics often venture into the darker areas of life but why not! Instrumentally we are referencing the creativity and experimentation of the 1960’s and early progressive ‘70’s but there is nothing “retro” in the construction and production of ‘Effigies’. Songs concerning ghosts, life, death, the universe and just about everything else are all stirred into a sprawling tasty stew of swirling keyboards, acoustic guitar, spacey electronics,inventive bass playing and restrained percussion. Sonically this is a delight, and, spacious and light, this creation is probably more progressive than psychedelic. Careful production and engineering make this whole concept intriguing and hypnotic.
“Mustn’t put my life in a glass case” is a lesson to be learned on ‘Catacombs of Camden Town’, another thought provoking ditty that follows the superb ‘Like a Setting Sun’. Symphonic and pastoral in equal measure, enhanced by soaring flute and gorgeous strings, ‘Setting Sun’ is a masterpiece that soars through the cosmos carrying the listener away in bliss.
‘Effigies’ contains a dozen slices of beauty and charm that will transport you to the Wild Woods by way of forgotten dark lanes and bright horizons with your journey ending on an optimistic note with Hall crooning “Something tells me we’ll see better days” on ‘Let’s Go Walking’ leading into ‘Theme from The Haunted Pavilion’. Somewhere in an old Primitive Methodist Chapel in the Valleys the Ghost of Futures Past plays this hymn on an old harmonium for a world hoping for a new age of peace, love and understanding. There’s nothing funny about that!
Don’t pass this one by.