Review: Agitated Radio Pilot - World Winding Down (2007)


artist: Agit­ated Radio Pilot
release: World Wind­ing Down
format: 2xCD
year of release: 2007
label: Dead­Slack­String
dur­a­tion: 1:36:27

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com

Released in late 2007, World Wind­ing Down is Agit­ated Radio Pilot’s first album on (non-recordable) CD, and a double one at that! It also might turn out to be David Colo­han’s mas­ter­piece, because I would surely be intim­id­ated if the pro­ject ever man­ages to cre­ate some­thing even bet­ter. Little known though it is, I believe music like this is so much bet­ter than most of what gets released nowadays in related areas like folk and singer/songwriter. On this album, Agit­ated Radio Pilot takes ele­ments from those genres and really pushes them bey­ond into bril­liant new ter­rit­or­ies.

In a way, World Wind­ing Down is a logical follow-up to 2006’s Your Turn To Go it Alone; the main emphasis is again on mel­an­cholic songs based on gui­tar and vocals. How­ever, the role of instru­ment­als has become big­ger, mak­ing this album the, for me, per­fect syn­thesis of great songs and beau­ti­ful acous­tic sound­scapes and inter­ludes. An impress­ive host of guest artists provides instru­mental and vocal sup­port to all of this; it would be a bit much to list all them - they fill up an entire page on the book­let - but some of the more import­ant are Richard Moult (Far Black Fur­long) on piano, Maja Elli­ott on key­boards and vocals, and Alison O’Donnell (Mel­low Candle) on vocals. Another import­ant ele­ment are the many field record­ings (mainly by Gavin Prior and Anders Gjerde) and bird songs that are subtly woven into both the songs and the instru­ment­als.

Now, for a brief impres­sion of the struc­ture of the album. Not only is this a double album, there is also a very strong sym­metry between Numin­ous Blues and Lumin­ous Blues. Both have twelve tracks, to start with, and are about 45 to 50 minutes long. But the nature of the cor­res­pond­ing tracks on each half is also quite sim­ilar. The first track on both sides is an instru­mental intro. The one half has a warm dron­ing sound­scape, while the other has beau­ti­ful short piano com­pos­i­tion by Richard Moult with guest vocals by Larissa Pych­lau (Cele) and added effects. The second and third tracks are all excel­lent examples of Colohan’s typ­ical type of song­writ­ing. Espe­cially “All That Fall” and “Around Clos­ing Time” dis­play his undeni­able tal­ent for both song and lyric writ­ing. The fourth tracks take this even fur­ther though; “Car­oline Sings” and “Take Heed of Your Hurt” are both stun­ningly beau­ti­ful songs, each with back­ing vocals by O’Donnell and key­boards by Elli­ott. Tracks five are both inter­ludes, and the sixes and sev­ens con­tain (what else) cent­ral tracks. The title track and “Another Day” (a Roy Harper cover) are both great, but the sev­ens must be some of my abso­lute favour­ites. On this pair, Richard Moult and David Colo­han form the per­fect duo, bring­ing two extraordin­ar­ily beau­ti­ful piano songs. I hope to hear these two together more often in the future! The sym­metry is a bit less from this point on, but men­tion goes any­way to “Earth­fasts”, another one of my favour­ite tracks. It’s the longest one, and a great exer­cise in freefolk exper­i­ment­a­tion. It starts off with some great bluesy gui­tar and strings work by Richard Skelton, and then moves into great mod­ern folk piece, where most of the female guest vocal­ists join in as a choir, also fea­tur­ing Shar­ron Kraus this time. The two by two times final tracks are again sim­ilar. The elev­ens are final pieces of reg­u­lar song, while the two clos­ing tracks take a laid-back ambi­ent approach, end­ing both sides of the album on a moody, mel­an­cholic note.

Though the album is not without a few flaws (mostly to do with per­form­ance of some of the guest vocal­ists and some of the noisy gui­tar solos), if there’s any album that has enough merit to cover up tiny blem­ishes ten times over, it’s this one. The way already excel­lent songs are com­bined with the musical detail and depth of sound that we hear on all of these songs here is the mark of a true clas­sic. In this way, World Wind­ing Down tran­scends genre lim­it­a­tions and unites the best ele­ments from dif­fer­ent areas of music. Of course it still is, mainly, a ‘folk’ album, but you’ll soon dis­cover that is also much more. Just as the basic melod­ies of the folk song become some­thing more through the com­bin­a­tion with sound­scapes and exper­i­ment­a­tion, so do the lyr­ics, and a song which in other con­texts would be ‘just’ about love and loss, becomes even more pro­found.

If it’s not clear by now that I’m enthu­si­astic about this album, you haven’t been read­ing very well. This is eas­ily my favour­ite album of 2007, and one of those rare albums that makes me doubt whether I should break my rule of not giv­ing higher grades than 9 when an album is just released. Enough talk - go out and give this one a listen, and spread the word. If Colo­han doesn’t get any recog­ni­tion for this, the world is a poor place…

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

I. Numin­ous Blues:
1. A Dark­ness Made of Beat­ing Wings (4:16)
2. All That Fall (3:39)
3. Every­body Lives (Just This Once) (3:24)
4. Car­oline Sings (5:33)
5. For Medb (2:32)
6. World Wind­ing Down (5:43)
7. The Gath­er­ing Dark (2:28)
8. You Were Always in My Arms Forever (6:57)
9. The Life You’ll Leave Behind (4:05)
10. Mt Argus to Mt Jerome (1:57)
11. People Start Over (3:05)
12. Leave the City on Foot (7:01)

II. Lumin­ous Blues:
1. On Cape Clear (2:07)
2. Around Clos­ing Time (4:00)
3. An Ear to the River (4:14)
4. Take Heed of Your Hurt (3:06)
5. The Lamp­lit Wood (1:55)
6. Another Day (4:24)
7. Along the Trails of Mid­night Deer (2:40)
8. Botanic Avenue (4:04)
9. The Awaken­ing Clay (2:47)
10. Earth­fasts (10:31)
11. Shorelines Clad in Snow (3:57)
12. Everything Ends (2:02)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *