Brighton’s folktronic duo return with career high
It’s been three years since Andrew Phillips and Marcus O’Dair AKA Grasscut last released an album and five since their debut. Grasscut have previously made music that runs the gauntlet of folk, poetry, indie, electronica and deep topography. Debut album 1 inch: ½ mile was a walker’s guide to Sussex and the lost village of Balsdean. Start at point A and in forty three minutes walking time later you’ve reached point B. If you walked in time with the music what you saw related to what you heard. It was a genius idea and one they expanded on their second album Unearth. Instead of another walking tour, Unearth’s ten tracks were based on different location in Britain. As Unearth wasn’t about a journey, the album was more song driven. This expanded sound was a welcome change from the soundscape of 1 inch: ½ mile.
Now they have returned with their third full length album Everyone Was a Bird, on their new home Lo Records. As with their previous album location is prevalent. Opening track Islander is written about Philips’ experiences in Jersey. There is a sense of isolation in the lyrics and music, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Opening line “For the Island, coastline stretches in a thin smile, and the water is cold so green against the granite”. This conjures up a romantic setting, where the Sun turns the sea an emerald green and the coast line is always pleased to see you. The Sussex Downs make their appearance too. Snowdown opens with haunting melancholy piano and etheral strings. It slowly builds as the lyrics “Snow has come again, snow has come again, see it on the power lines, see it fall again” are half whispered. Phillips’ ability to evoke the feeling of watching snow fall in a few words and musical instruments is testament to his ability as a song writer. The Field starts with despondent strings, a finger plucked guitar adds tension and hope, not unlike a Ramin Djawadi score. The chorus sums this feeling up with the line “The one who walks beside you he never yields, follow the tracks and verges all along the fallow fields”. Stand out track Fallswater shows off Grasscut’s ability to mix samples, loops and live instrumentation to create something not only memorable but beautiful. The interplay between the strings and Phillips’ vocals is stunning, and the way the rest of the instruments drift around these two elements and build to a maelstrom at its end is a high water mark.
What Grasscut has effectively done on Everyone Was a Bird, is built on their reputation for writing about situations and places, rather than standard pop songs. However through clever arrangements and astute lyrics they’ve managed to create an album that shouldn’t exclude the mainstream. The songs are simple, well written and expertly played, and with each listen you hear something new and exciting. So next time you’re thinking about some deep topography, this should be part of you panoramic soundscape.