If there’s still such a thing as the difficult third album, then no one’s told The Galleons. They’ve just launched a tidy musical vessel from the south coast of England (shire), and it sounds robust enough to me to chart the stormiest waters.
We’ve been flying the flag for The Galleons at 1320Radio ever since the release of their nicely balanced, eponymous first album and the surprisingly muscular follow-up Cloud Physics. This latest release, The Hidden Colour, suggests that there is nothing frustratingly cryptic about a solid set of songs stamped with a firmly established identity.
However, I would say that several listens are necessary in order to appreciate the full package, for it’s a suite of songs designed to carry a dense and weighty cargo of pent-up ambition.
Previous Galleons albums have been postcards from the coast and they’ve been full of marvellous vignettes and observational snapshots. This time around, the conversational / observational tone of their characteristic vocal sound is applied as a watercolour wash on a much larger canvas.
Ben Brockett and Beth Chesser still croon and swoon at one another, but you get the impression that the musical backdrop they’ve chosen this time is a sweeping landscape now, rather than shifting scenery in intimate settings.
The overall impression is one of continuum rather than differentiation with ideas recurring as musical motifs. Viktorija Mutore’s contribution on piano is an essential thread that catches the light beautifully with fine musical intuition. Another Galleons hallmark is a dense rhythmic infrastructure that provides their songs with a strong gravitational centre. Ben Brockett’s melodies can be delicately wrought, but the rise and fall of their considered arrangements offers safe passage through some heavy instrumentation.
This is most evident on the title track, The Hidden Colour, which also features some uncompromising guitar against thunderous drums and dense bass. Nevertheless, the voices push through spacious clearings in a forest of sound with great clarity and warmth.
It’s worth returning to the point made earlier that The Galleons have created an identity that is independent of the music they’ve drawn upon. They’ve created contemporary songs that are uniquely theirs and instantly recognizable. They don’t sound much like anyone or anything else, and no one else sounds at all like them.
There are clues to the inspiration behind songs like Tattered Wings and The Light Thief, but contemporary folk references are brief and they have rarely succumbed to indie rock clichés. This aversion to archetype is manifest most starkly on the restless arrangement of the polyrhythmic shapeshifting Falling Skies and the somnabulent Sleepwalker.
Standout tracks are The Hidden Colour and the emphatically radio-friendly Morning Star on an album that manages to cram an enormous amount of musical information into a very enjoyable thirty-four minutes of exceptional music.
Michael S. Clark