This, boys and girls, is every bit as awesome as I expected. Get in! Whenever you start listening to an album of which have serious expectations there is always the likelihood that it will disappoint. This one, I was careful not to over-anticipate for just that reason.
Also, The Scottish Enlightenment’s music isn’t the kind of music to bowl you over, particularly, it just washes over you in an unhurried, unassuming kind of way, and it’s usually only afterwards that you realise how much you’ve enjoyed it.
There is a kind of bigness to though. It’s nothing new, and nothing pointedly clever, it’s just good, but the slow burn of their guitars does bring a grandeur with it of a sort, but it’s the sort which seems inward-facing, rather than exhorting others to admire its greatness. One guitar tends to pick out notes here and there, keeping the melody nice and clear, while another slowly builds an impression of the mood of the song. The two will take turns being centre-stage over the course of most tracks, but the interplay is really nicely done.
Previous EPs Pascal and Little Sleep contribute their title tracks to the playlist here, but no more than that, although it still feels like a strongly familiar collection of songs. They are the kind of band who sound almost instantly like you’ve been listening to them for ages, and despite this album not exactly being all sweetness and light, there is still a strong feeling of comfort about it.
The slow-building nature of the songs does make this a relatively long twelve tracks however, although this isn’t by definition a bad thing of course. I don’t really like The Soft Place at all though, and sandwiched between two other slower songs it does seem to bog the record down a little in the last third, which is a shame. Mind you any album going over ten songs/forty minutes (whichever comes first) does run the risk of song eight attention drift, and to have slow material around the song I happen to find the least compelling does give St. Thomas a bit of a soft ending from my perspective, but the excellence which goes before it makes this a pretty insignificant gripe.
Considering I pretty much thought they were dead and buried after nearly two years of silence, this band have produced an awful lot of very, very good material in the last year, and I only hope the reputation and success they achieve is commensurate with the quality of the music.
Photo Credit: Christopher Pilkington