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The Clientele Bonfires on the Heath Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

One of Britain’s most unheralded but genuine musical treasures.

Chris White 2009

With the charts now almost exclusively dominated by talent show winners, anodyne RnB and a seemingly inexhaustible conveyor belt of interchangeable and irritating girl singers, it’s probably inevitable that a group like London’s The Clientele are destined to remain undeservedly obscure. Yet those prepared to seek them out will discover some of the most heartbreakingly lovely, perfectly formed music to be recorded anywhere over the past decade.

The select few already in on the secret will know what to expect from fourth album proper Bonfires on the Heath, but for the uninitiated, imagine if you will a soundtrack for being sat alone in a room at night savouring a glass of fine wine, with the soft light of the moon glowing over the empty street outside, feeling mellow but not melancholy, nostalgic but not neurotic. Think of Belle and Sebastian without the bouts of twee smugness, the sublimely orchestrated pastoral Englishness of Nick Drake and the dreamlike haziness of Felt and Mazzy Star, with a dash of Love-style mariachi horns thrown in for good measure, and you will have some idea of the ingredients that make The Clientele so special.

Bonfires... retains all the essential elements of their previous work, although they seem to be slowly introducing more up-tempo tracks to vary their mood a little, notably jaunty opener I Wonder Who We Are and the driving Sketch, which is as close as Alasdair MacLean and his band mates get to rocking out. But it’s tracks three to five which really showcase The Clientele at their mesmerising best. Harvest Time has the kind of soaring harmonies that made Fleet Foxes the darlings of the music press, Never Anyone But You melds jangling guitars, organ and sweeping strings so beautifully it almost hurts, and Jennifer and Jane’s hushed vocals, hypnotic riff and swooning brass slowly cocoon the listener in an irresistibly gorgeous blanket of warmth.

At moments like these, The Clientele transport the listener into their own lovingly constructed private world with an effortless grace few artists can match. By buying this album, you will be doing your bit to help maintain one of Britain’s most unheralded but genuine musical treasures.

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