A meaty, satisfying listen suggesting greater things to come.
James Skinner 2012-05-21
The self-described ‘mothership’ of Brighton’s Willkommen Collective, Sons of Noel and Adrian is a sprawling group of musicians headed by Jacob Richardson. Though ostensibly a folk LP, Knots touches on a range of genres, acknowledging the influence of Chicago’s avant-garde rock and jazz scene and guitarists such as former Slint-man David Pajo in particular.
A weighty listen, it is an aptly-titled one too: finger-picked classical guitars form the common backdrop to its songs; thick, knotty tapestries of sound that surge and recede with uncommon poise.
In fact the whole thing is unapologetically grand, featuring scores of strings, percussionists and woodwind trills to often exhilarating effect. In that respect, opening song The Yard offers a decent blueprint for the eight that follow, working its way from a sweet, picked intro towards crashing great verses and multiple segments that hang together seamlessly. Its nylon strings snap and crackle with purpose, while the momentum provided by the surrounding instrumentation rarely lets up.
Richardson’s warbling baritone dominates these compositions, a likely divisive vocal that nevertheless suits the group's sound well. Knots’ strengths, though, also play into the one criticism that could be made of it: a heavy, stifling atmosphere that persists throughout – both when the band goes for broke (such as on the caterwauling discord of Big Bad Bold) and during its quieter moments (like the sparse Leaving Mary’s Hand).
It is clearly intentional on the band’s part, and when they key into their formula with the power and finesse of songs like Jellyfish Bloom the results are thrilling. "Shallow to the deep, shallow to the deep / Jellyfish don’t sink, jellyfish bloom," wails Richardson, all visceral urgency, in a song that must own the stage.
But over nine (long) tracks the effect can be wearying, so much so that hearing Catherine Cardin’s vocals finally rise to the surface on album closer Heroine is akin to gasping for breath after prolonged submersion; ascending the clouds out of a storm-tossed city. As a pay-off to these taut, lingering tunes it is undeniably powerful, but it also suggests that a couple more similar instances would open the record up and grant it welcome balance.
By and large, though, Knots is a meaty, satisfying listen, suggesting renewed confidence and greater things to come from Richardson and his cohort.