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'The Weight Of The Sun'   

-  Label: 'Fire Records'
-  Genre: 'Folk' -  Release Date: '8th May 2020'

Our Rating:
All great stories gain in strength with each retelling. In the same way, the most memorable records are often not the ones that make an immediate impact.

The third album from Modern Studies is a case in point. 'The Weight Of The Sun' a slow burner with carefully considered arrangements and poetic lyrics that are as elusive as they are beguiling. The album title derives from a lyric to the richly atmospheric Signs of Use.

Impatient listeners looking for catchy hooks and hummable tunes won't find much to satisfy. This is a record made to be savoured like a fine wine.

The roots and branches of the band's sound are diverse and include kosmiche folk, chamber pop and ambient mood music. Rob St John names it "pastoral post rock" and on their Twitter account they identify with "Brico-la-di-da-ge Pop". Neither or these adopted genre labels is ever likely to enter the mainstream but I guess this is partly the point.

One might initially easily be fooled into thinking this is safe, easy listening music but there's is more here than first meets the ear. Take your time and the rewards will come with each hearing. It is best heard as whole or perhaps divided into two servings, ideally comprising the six tracks on either side of the vinyl version.

Diverse instrumentation such as synths, cello, xaphoon, bongos, theremin and flugelhorn ensures a multi-layered and immersive sonic experience can be had by all.

Pete Harvey's groovy bass lines on Brother were apparently partly inspired by Talking Heads' 'Stop Making Sense' and this track illustrates how well the band work together as a collective unit.

They specialise in a gentle experimentation which won't annoy the neighbours or alienate dinner guests. Field recordings and Teenage Fanclub feed into the mix and any music that lists Rebecca Solnit and gardening tools among the influences is alright by me.

The wordplay and contrasting vocal styles - Emily Scott's dulcet tone vs Rob St John's baritone - compliment each other perfectly. Their dynamic harmonies are exemplified in the single Run For Cover. The voice of drummer Joe Smillie adds a further dimension, as on She for instance.

Equally, the complicated time signatures of Corridors sit easily with the waves of sound that inform The Blue of Distance, a track that I can imagine being a standout if and when this album is played live.

'Rainbow Stack', a painting by Vivien McDermid, graces the cover - abstract impressionistic art for abstract, impressionistic music.

By turns soothing and absorbing, Modern Studies go from strength to strength with each album adding something new to their rich and variegated palette. This is their finest work to date.

Modern Studies' website

  author: Martin Raybould

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MODERN STUDIES - The Weight Of The Sun