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Songs of Green Pheasant - Aerial Days

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Artist: Songs of Green Pheasant

Album: Aerial Days

Label: FatCat

Review date: Feb. 13, 2007

Songs of Green Pheasant is the project of Duncan Sumpner, whose previous release was a self-titled debut album released by Fat Cat in 2005. That album, which Sumpner recorded at home, earned a considerable number of comparisons to Devendra Banhart (primarily because it was a home recording), Animal Collective, Vetiver and other folk revival groups. His second album, Aerial Days, is not really a considered follow-up to Songs of Green Pheasant, because the material on it was not written or recorded as part of a single album. Instead, Aerial Days collects seven songs that Sumpner wrote and recorded as inspiration struck; as the title suggests, its major theme is the seemingly insubstantial concerns that occupy one’s days. And so rather than having a coherent overall plan, the album contains a mixture of vocal and instrumental tracks that were written in response to various events in Sumpner’s life, reflecting a number of different styles and featuring contributions from various friends.

Aerial Days is not arranged in any kind of chronological fashion, but a few common elements are present. First, while each of the songs was recorded at home, Sumpner uses a few more production techniques. On the previous album, his primary trick was multi-tracking his vocals – something he does again on each of the vocal tracks on Aerial Days – but he also experiments more with the mix. The opening song, “Pink by White,” has a hazy quality reminiscent of dream pop bands like Galaxie 500, and “Wolves Amongst Snowmen,” with its thin vocals and distorted guitar line, comes across as a light take on the work of bands like Slowdive. Second, Sumpner arranges his songs with a wider array of instrumentation; “Stars Form Birds” sounds like it has a piano, keyboards and a drum machine, and the instrumental “Brody Jacket” closes with a long trumpet solo. The lyrics, while not containing a lot of common themes, do more or less reflect the album’s preoccupation with the desire to make something significant out of the passage of time, perhaps most particularly on the mournful “Wintered.”

Parts of Aerial Days seem really promising, such as the excellent “Pink by White,” and suggest that Sumpner’s musical interests may have diverged from the folk revivalists with whom he was categorized. Others, like “Wolves Amongst Snowmen” or in particular the inventive cover of “Dear Prudence,” demonstrate an admirable off-the-cuff creativity. Some of the songs rely a little heavily on atmospherics, a problem that causes much of the album to drift by without making much of an impact at all. But Aerial Days succeeds in doing what it was most likely designed to do: it raises expectations for the next complete Songs of Green Pheasant album.

By Tom Zimpleman

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