WATER PAGEANT – Outlines (Glide GLD001)

OutlinesNick Tingay and Lizzy McBain are, it says here, an Oxford-based boy/girl electro-dream folk project, Tingay’s songs “often drawing on ideas from Enlightenment-era science as well as meteorological and agricultural themes.” At which point, you may well be about to skip the rest of the review and crank up something by Bellowhead or Martin Carthy. Well, hang on a minute. For a start, Tingay has a decidedly beguiling voice, somewhere between Donovan and Robin Pecknold, Iindeed airy, glockenspiel-shimmering opening number ‘Veils’ has a decided touch of the Fleet Foxes about it, though the atmospheric near six-minute ‘Wave Is Due’ sails closer to Jeff Buckley territory.

As you might suspect, with its soft vocals and dreamy acoustic instrumentation nothing here ventures above a delicate sonic fragility, a suitably liquid feel, yet never one that feels watery or inspid. As well as writing the material, singing and playing most of the instruments (McBain handles keyboard and harmonies), Tingay also produced and arranged. He’s clearly a man who likes you to slowly discover the layers rather than hitting you with everything at one, and many of the numbers here repay repeat listening as they gradually reveal subtle colours with a trumpet here or a cello there.

To get an idea of what I mean, listen to the undercurrent of the tinkling ‘Furniture In The Road’ or the gently jogging lullaby that is ‘Seamstress’. Built around cello and a repeated fingerpicked guitar figure, there’s also spooked clockwork musical box feel to the waltz-time ‘Pollen’, perhaps the number that shades closest to elements of traditional folk while, sporting the hiss of a tambourine, ‘Overlaps’ suggests a bucolic Peter Gabriel hanging out at Bon Iver’s cabin.

Apparently ‘Catchpenny Tides’, with its warm Northern brass trumpet glow, was inspired by both a Seamus Heaney poem and a retro amusement arcade on Southwold pier, that air of nostalgia also informing the fairground feel of ‘Creatures of Your Thoughts’ (on which Nick sings the first verse on French). It’s been accused of being somewhat samey with a habit of drifting off into uninteresting fluffy musical clouds, but if that’s what you thing, you’re clearly not listening properly. On the rippling brushed snare shuffle of ‘Fieldwork’ that brings the album to an end, Tingay sings “we formed our own language that only we could speak.” I suggest you get a dictionary and share.

Mike Davies

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Artists’ website: http://waterpageant.co.uk/

‘Overlaps’ – the official video: