4SQUARE – Fuel (Transition Records TRANSCD12)

FuelIt’s always tempting when hearing a band for the first time to try to put them into a stylistic box but you’ll try that with 4Square at your peril. Fuel is actually their fourth album but their first as fully-fledged professionals and, although they may be well-known in the Manchester area and at festivals, sad to say their fame has not made a great impression this far south. That said, I did enjoy their second album, ChronicLes.

Their sound is built around three instruments. Firstly, there is the piano of principal writer Jim Molyneux; secondly there is the fiddle of Nicola Lyons and finally the mandolin of Michael Giverin. The fourth member of the band, Dan Day, plays ukulele but he is mainly engaged with a variety of percussion. Most of their material is original although there is an excellent cover of James Taylor’s ‘Enough To Be On Your Way’

4Square manage to combine a lightness of touch with a full sound and playing that can turn on a sixpence. There’s no instrument swapping pyrotechnics and most of the bottom end comes from Molyneux’s left hand – guest bass player Nick Ereaut appears on one track – but with multiple lead instruments and four voices there is no shortage of variety. Several of the songs have tunes attached so the tracks tend to flow into one another. ‘The Digging Song’ is based on a well-known urban myth/shaggy dog story and, in contrast, ‘Brave’ is a story from the Great War, not of great heroism but of determination and survival. Day’s ‘Message From Cloud Nine’ is deliberately ambiguous so I’ll leave you to decide what it’s really about.

Fuel is another good album from 4Square and it should springboard them to the next level of their career.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Ignition’, the opening track of Fuel: