‘How did it all become so complicated lately?’
If you’ve not asked yourself that question recently I envy you.
Estella has already highlighted Down the Line, a reimagining of a
Dolly Mixture tune. Again, ravishing just about describes the elegiac, shiver inducing majesty of this deceptively unassuming piece of music. It has something of the cor anglais assisted mood of Julian Cope’s early solo albums, which makes total sense as Rachel’s late husband Steve Lovell produced those Cope albums and, with Rachel, co-produced Picture in Mind (plus, amongst many others, the Lucy Show’s post punk, proto-dream pop classic, Undone). The mood is one of yearning for that mythical and metaphorical place just over the horizon where things could be better, but the ‘maybe one day’ is said more in hope than any certainty and the ‘now or never train’ has left and may never pass through town again.
Down the Line is a beautiful song, but not noticeably more so than it’s album bed-fellows, I wonder whether the decision to re-work it was unhappiness with the original recording or simply that the lyrical theme tied in perfectly with Picture in Mind’s wistful pre-occupations? Perhaps it’s another case of a song from the distant past gathering extra meaning as the years go by and experiences change us.
The sadness of Steve’s passing before the album’s originally intended release adds an all too real and unwanted layer of poignancy.
Away from the ‘singles’ what really makes this record special is it’s ability to surprise. I mean I’m not knocking the artists whose modus operandi is to essentially write the same, albeit excellent, song ten times over, but the next level skill is to move outside your template and give the listener something like, Dreaming where a drum machine heralds music that could be Stereolab if they’d been reincarnated as a 60s girl group.
Or maybe, The Long Way Round, with its Scritti-like synth bass and beats, melodies twinkling like stars in a clear night sky. There are actually moments where Picture in Mind brings to mind slight hints of the strange fragile beauty of Young Marble Giants if they had sought to reassure rather than unsettle.
Certainly, after Wandlebury’s lushly cinematic instrumental paean to a Cambridgeshire park, Easter Song offers an anxious long distance lover the peace of mind they need.
Picture in Mind doesn’t end so much as melt beautifully into the distance via the song of warmth and hope that is Look for the Gold, synths, strings and heavenly voices fading into the air. The hope may be fragile but it’s always there somewhere.
As I write, leaves are falling and the remaining sunlight has that autumnal glint you either love or that sends you into a seasonal funk. But if I said Picture in Mind was made for such a time of year I would be placing my own spin on the contents as in reality it was meant for release in May, then again it could all be the colour of the cover influencing my subconscious once more.
Ultimately of course, it doesn’t matter, music this lovely is a gift to be accepted gratefully at any time of year, or in fact, in any era.
Picture In Mind releases on October the 29th!