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I quite liked The Drystones previous album, We Happy Few, although I wished for more songs and I was not as prepared as some critics to go overboard about them. I was disappointed when I saw them live although, by their own admission, they weren’t at their best but I was determined to approach Apparitions with an open mind.
Four of the tracks have traditional elements but, for the most part, the album is self-penned and again I would have liked more songs particularly along the lines of ‘Jack Crook’, which you might take for traditional if you weren’t told otherwise. There is a good deal of experimentation going on here from Alex Garden’s sawing fiddle that opens ‘Oscar’s Ghost’ to the mocked up radio announcements and field recordings and the way that the tracks sometimes meld into one another. Alex and Ford Collier are both multi-instrumentalists and seem to have assembled a whole studio full of conventional and unconventional instruments. With both of the playing synths it can be hard to tell what’s natural and what is synthetic at times.
Speaking of which, ‘The Story’ is a fine song about fake news and manipulation in the media – another reason why I wish they would write more songs. There are lighter moments such as ‘Nonesuch’, the Playford dance tune reimagined as a dance track in the 21st century meaning of the word. The last five tracks, beginning with the delightful ‘Daydream’ topped out with Ford’s whistle, are all instrumental and the boys really give themselves a workout. It all gets a bit heady as The Drystones rattle through eleven mostly self-composed tunes – something to break it up would have been nice.