The startling lead single ‘Three Sins’ takes the perspective of a firebug, a sexually abusive Catholic priest and a suicide bomber, culminating in a cathartic chant- along. Guitarist Karl Smith’s voice swings from creaky plaintiveness to a haunted howl, while bassist Pete Cohen contributes a robust undercurrent of upright bass (both plucked and bowed) and baritone harmonies.
After the sinewy latticework of rhythms and melodies on opener ‘Colouring Iris’ and the stormy horn flourishes on ‘Letting Go’, the clouds part later in the album with leavening marimba on ‘On the Stage’ and singing saw on ‘Saturday’s Ash’. Between the arrangements and the songwriting, Sodastream have never been better.
One of the appeals of good folk music, for me, is that because it derives from tradition it has a certain familiarity that makes it sound comfortable and recognizable from a first listen. Overdone, this can be trite and tedious but listen to “Three Sins” and you will almost immediately find yourself humming the arresting melody line.
By song four on the album, “Letting Go”, one immediately realizes there's more here than just an acoustic duo doubling up on expected instruments and instrumentation. The song opens with a brass chorus that serves as a supportive background for the melody. The song “Moving” adds a string section that alternates, to my surprise effectively, with harmonica. Is that a marimba I hear on “On the Stage” and a theremin opening “Saturday's Ash”? Sounds great, whatever they are. Backing vocals throughout the album are just that. They are certainly audible, but intentionally subdued. Karl Smith's lead is thin and limited, but endearing
“Tyre Iron” introduces something new to me: acoustic cello pyschedelia. It takes a full two and a half minutes before the acoustic guitar and cello cease trading licks and the song settles into a very pleasing melodic, driving groove. Good stuff.