There’s something wonderfully uncomplicated about this gorgeous EP by Burnt Island. It’s not simplistic or basic or anything like that, it just has a confidently slow pace and an effortless manner – they just make it all seem so easy.
I think what they’ve mastered, which makes this so good, is the art of the Tiny Surprise. Eels are very good at this as well – there’s hardly been a Big Surprise in Eels’ music in about the last ten years, but E has consistently maintained his knack for a subtle shift in melody or rhythm which, although slight, is just enough to give his songs something enigmatic and satisfying, no matter how familiar his arrangements have become over the years.
Within a song or two you can pretty much tell how the rest of Music and Maths is going to unfold, in a general sense – it’s all gentle, lovely, largely acoustic indie-folk, if you’re looking for a vague pigeonhole. What the band do brilliantly, though, is take what is a very familiar template and fill it full of little shifts and eddies and distractions, so each song is full of little moments which make you sit up and take notice.
Not infrequently these moments come from the fiddle, which is simply but beautifully played, without any flourishes and showing off. In fact this applies pretty much to every aspect of this music. The singing is not overly beautiful nor attention-seeking, electing instead to simply deliver the song, deliver it well, and do no more than that. Nothing is over-embellished or florid; there’s not a hint of rock ‘n’ roll attitude about this, nor a trace of musickyness, it’s just there in front of you, plain as you like.
Tracks like Hiding Out show that the band can bring up a fuller sound when they want to – in this case sounding just a little like The Veils, actually – but this is something they rarely ever choose to do, and I like that. It just serves to give this EP a restrained and comforting feel; the impression that everything is just as it should be. I’ve listened to this band’s material before, and I am pretty sure I sent them a ‘thanks but no thanks’ email. Listening to this (which may or may not be the same stuff, I can’t find the email) I find myself wondering what on earth I was thinking.
Photo Credit: TwistyFoldy