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Review: 'Oddfellow’s Casino'
'Oh, Sealand'   

-  Label: 'At the Helm Records'
-  Genre: 'Indie' -  Release Date: '14th July 2017'

Our Rating:
There’s something about reading that a work of art is ‘about’ England I find disconcerting. It’s not even the potential connotations of patriotism, so much as the narrowness of focus. ‘Oh Sealand’ is described as ‘an unsettling, anthemic album full of love and frustration... peppered with literary references, old roads, lost films, fishermen and drowned villages.’ And while there is, perhaps almost inevitably, a sense of nostalgia which runs through the album, it’s by no means the sonic equivalent of a sepia-tinted Hovis advert. In fact, there’s a lot going on, and the album’s 12 tracks are more about exploring time, place and experience than evoking a mythological history populated by flat cap-wearing working class folk, where horses tow carts along cobbled streets.

Sealand is a real place: a micronation consisting of a disused WWII sea fort just off the coast of Suffolk, it has a history that’s stranger than any fiction. And it’s the quirkier, stranger corners of England which seem to hold interest for David Bramwell – as one would expect from a man whose band’s name is derived from a 100-year-old moustache in a box.

A large portion of the album is, indeed, mellow and soft: ‘Sealand’ is a gentle, slightly psych-hued slice of wistful folk, its nostalgic flavours augmented with subtle tracings of violin and trumpet, ‘Josephine’ is a sparse acoustic reflection, and the slow piano ponderance of ‘Blood Moon’ is soporifically sedate. Many of the songs ooze images, and from among the swirling organs and soft-focus production emerges a collage of scenery.

But the album’s range is one of its great strengths – another being its intelligent songwriting. The structures are unconventional, unpredictable. ‘Down in the Water’ brings together expansive psych-hued shoegaze, propelled by a motoric rhythm, with 70s rock reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac. It shouldn’t work, especially with the trumpet, but actually, it’s ace. ‘Danu’ the old Celtic name for the River Don) is a spoken-word piece which combines geography with mythology against a haunting ambient backdrop, while ‘The Ghosts of Watling Street’ throws some heavy Cure influence, as well as featuring the voice of Alan Moore. Elsewhere, guitars surge and drive and there are moments of real energy that carry no notions of dewy-eyed reminiscences about fields and rolling hills.

Far from being some fey indie effort, ‘Oh, Sealand’ is a wide-ranging and dynamic collection of songs, and not only are there some great tunes, but there are some unusual song structures which make for a set that’s far from predictable.

  author: Christopher Nosnibor

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Oddfellow’s Casino - Oh, Sealand