I’m struggling to start this review, I’ve written a bunch of opening sentences, but nothing really allows me to get into it the way I would like so I’m going to go for the blunt approach; Will Lawton and Weasel Howlett are a piano and drums duo from Malmesbury and they’ve released an album called Fossils of the Mind and it’s bloody good!
The album fearlessly dips its foot pedals into folk, jazz, drum and bass and a smattering of indie, all served up with intelligent piano playing, intricate drum patterns and a husky voice that suits the words perfectly.
Don’t be daunted by the limited instruments on display here, it’s all a ruse, there are no empty spaces or lack of imagination. The album is in no rush, the songs are good enough to keep you interested and it knows that although it takes its time it will get under your skin eventually. You’re immediately challenged by the theory of comedian and radio presenter Robin Ince that when humans die we not only leave behind our physical remains but also our ponderings in the form of diaries, notes, stories and written words that could be described as the fossils of the mind that gives the album its name.
It’s an interesting concept and the music is beautifully arranged around it, actually the music is beautiful throughout, it’s a very neat, tight and full album taking influences from World Music, which is unsurprising given that the album was recorded at Real World Studios near Bath which is something of a mecca for world music given its connections to Peter Gabriel and the Womad festival.
Percussion and the intricate little extra details play a huge part in this albums success, the blackbird’s song on ‘Dharma’, the curious pitch playing slightly under the radar on ‘Panacea’ and the subtle voices on ‘Golden Ratio’ successfully take the listener to another level.
At times the duo reminds me of Manchester jazz trio Go-Go Penguin, the music is just as dramatic, calm, powerful, quiet and all manner of things in between. The music switches from the drum and strings driven ‘Release’ to the folk flavoured ‘Peace’ without missing a beat and the final song ‘Sleep’ feels like a welcome return home after a walk along a desolate beach. Maybe that is the character of the album, it feels like a journey where you can be alone with your thoughts, where you can make sense of nature, society, who you are and what you leave behind when you go, pretty big things to have in your head but this is a pretty good soundtrack to have while you’re doing it.
The album is available online from Supermarine Music or, locally, from Sound Knowledge in Marlborough.