NICK PYNN – Visions/Revisions And Impressions (Brand Oscar Records) 

Visions/Revisions And ImpressionsThe “Octopus of Sound” is a pretty fine handle to have as your by-line, the description(?!) bestowed upon him by comedian (and music lover), Stewart Lee. Rather than suggesting Pynn has a slimy feel about him, more it is to denote the veritable orchestra of instruments he has at his personal command, adept on all. If you don’t know his name, the chances are you have heard or seen him play, he having been called upon by artists as diverse as Arthur Brown, the late Steve Harley and Pere Ubu’s David Thomas, to help project their varied muses. When not enrolled into the music of others, he can be found, solo, looping together the sounds of all manner of instrumentation, which can often enter into the bizarre, to include wine glasses and saw, as well as numerous self-made instruments. On that count you might consider him a cross between Thomas Truax and even David Ford. He describes his style as avant-folk. 

Here, in an album originally deemed to be two separate EPs, he sticks to more conventional fare: guitars, banjo, violin, dulcimer, tiple and mandocello, with theremin added, for good measure. Accompaniment, when needed, comes from Martyn Barker’s drums, and Kate Daisy Grant on cello. Visions/Revisions is a mix of new and old ideas, with Impressions inspired by specific 19th century paintings.  

‘Bulgaricana’ opens proceedings, the title giving a fair old idea of his mindset and perspective. 5 string banjo is the lead off instrument, with a time signature that is instantly more Balkan than Irish. Barker’s drums kick it forward as the bowed instruments blend in seamlessly. A great start, the hooks are in. Glissando chords play in the background: in the absence of mentioned keyboards, could this be the theremin? If so, it works well as a contrasting tone. Building layer upon layer, it ends with some lap steel that swirls over the massed orchestration. ‘Hope’ then enters in a more pastoral note of, yes, optimism. Guitar is exquisitely picked, bass adding a crochet with the cello. Superior soundtrack music, this could accompany a morning after return to the scene. Actually quite Oldfield-y, if that is still a thing.  

A more poisonous tentacle is now offered, in the shape of ‘Rue Moribund,’ a jittery skitter, with an angular melody that is cross cut by pizzicato cello. Grant then goes all discordant, and, were this still accompanying a film, something dodgy may have been imbibed. It doesn’t last for long, with the surprise of vocals then entering the fray, for ‘Alexandra’s Easter’. The voice, Pynn’s, is one of English psychedelia, a Syd Barrett, a Kevin Ayers or a Robyn Hitchcock, if without as much school choir polish. What sounds like lute dances forth as the theremin turns it all into dream sequence. Still singing, ‘Emporium of Light’ continues in a similar vein. Lower notes on a piano are used effectively; on balance, may I say I prefer the instrumentals? 

‘Ship Creek Rag’ is exactly that, an engaging ragtime guitar construction, with plenty of room for Grant to weave in some cello. The shortest piece, I could have done with more of it, ahead the final ‘Vision’ (or is it ‘Revision’), ‘The End Of The Year 2016’, which is another song, This one feels, slightly, as if it has been designed more to close the set than to offer much new. However, I did like the line about “From the graveyard of ambition, resolutions take position”, which all sounds very Roger Waters, thus imbuing the track with some, further to the vocal, additional Floydian essence.  

I guess the ‘Impressions’ part of the recording might have made more sense with access to the CD, replete, as it is, with a 12 page booklet, which pictures each the paintings concerned. My bad, as my copy is likely at home, whilst I am not. Be that as it may, the good people at Bandcamp have each picture on the requisite Bandcamp page, and most the paintings are well known, get it, Impressionist daubs, so I am not entirely at sea. ‘Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte’ is a famous piece of art by Seurat. (How did I not know it by name?) A graceful construction of guitar, bass and dulcimer, it glides through with every suggestion of the vista displayed, all very post-prandial and satiated. It’s good. As is ‘The Butterfly Hunt’ which carries a sense of restlessness in association with the chase. Grant’s cello adds harsh counterpoint. 

‘The Flood At Port-Marly’ is depicted through fingerpicked guitar, repeating, as cello slinks in like the tide. Grant’s importance to this/these projects cannot be understated, she providing always admirable flesh to the skeleton Pynn provides. This is shown all the more in the brief ‘Toward Evening’, little more than some well-chosen scrapes of cello, embossed with violin and viola. 

For ‘The Regatta At Argenteuil’, it is back to picked guitar, overlaid with mandocello, possibly tiple. A sturdy tune, it certainly gives the feel of wind filled sails. A rare track, without Grant, opens up the idea of how Pynn might layer this up, live, with loops and pedals. Finally, and this time without any sense of filler, comes ‘The Boulevard Montmartre at Night’, which is a graceful string quartet, with added background noise, which, rather than detracting, adds to the colour, giving life to this other very well known painting. Percussion makes a brief return, this blending in both fittingly and unobtrusively. It just all ends too soon. 

Pynn says this is two shorter projects bookended together, and he isn’t wrong. There is a feel of disconnect between them, even if I get the logistic of pairing them. ‘Impressions’ is the heavier weight of the two and, ‘Bulgaricana’ and ‘Ship Creek Rag’ apart, the set that is likely to grab most attention.  

Seuras Og 

Artist’s website: 

A selection of Impressions – official video: