Reviewed by Grey Malkin (The Hare & The Moon)
Matricarians (Alan Davison’s (Kitchen Cynics) more experimental and left field alter ego) have recently unveiled ‘After The Dancing’, an extensive, sometimes abstract but always heartfelt and genuinely moving recording. Arriving as a part of a trio of new Davison releases (alongside a new Kitchen Cynics and a more drone based outing as the Kitchen Cynics Drone Trio) ‘After The Dancing’ effortlessly creates a timeless and sepia hued trip through a not so distant past and is a constant source of surprise and wonder.
The title track opens the album, backwards tapes and haunted piano picking out a nostalgia tinged, hallucinatory waltz that recalls the work of Max Richter and, at times, British Sea Power’s epic ‘From The Sea To The Land Beyond’. 'Cheer Cheer Up' adds Davison's familiar Aberdonian burr to splendid effect over cascades of piano notes that unsettlingly ebb and flow in and out of tune whilst clarinet adds hazy warmth to the proceedings which are both achingly beautiful and drenched in a comforting melancholy. 'Yonder Star' opens with vintage synths oscillating behind woodwind to eerie effect; part Oliver Postgate, part Stockhausen. Chimes enter and a miniature symphony of wyrd and wonderful noises commences, an alternative theme to ‘The Clangers’ with a hint of The Wicker Man. 'Wall Flower' is a carefully layered and constructed piece composed from treated piano and organ which grows into something both sombre and majestic. ‘Improv - Snow Melts The Ericht's scratchy electric guitars and rushing wind suggests something wintery, cold and barren whilst 'Things The Waves Would Bring' sinister undercurrent ushers in a creeping unease not unlike some of John Foxx's more rustic and dystopian work. Davison's vocals reverberate amongst tales of mermaids and flotsam, fairy tale-like and lysergic. It’s hugely effective and quite unlike anything else you will ever hear. 'Happy Slippers' backwards effects and distortion combine in a curiously beautiful manner while 'Waterfall Piano's underwater sonics suggest a submerged chamber orchestra. 'Miss Polly Had A Dolly' sees analogue whirrs and clatter merge into the most exquisite acoustic nursery rhyme, xylophone adding an otherworldly air to one of the album’s standout tracks (and there are many). ‘Dance Crows Dance' unearthly swarm of voices and birdsong is a queasy and pleasingly disturbing jaunt through the cornfield, which is then followed by 'Waltz Of The Drunken Time Traveller', its tolling bells and synth squelches creating a playful, deranged nursery atmosphere that is only emphasised when the Edwardian style grand piano enters. There is coherence at work here; something nostalgic, skewed, twisted, only slightly haphazard and utterly charming that runs like a thread throughout the album itself. 'Down In Yon Meadow's toy piano and Casio tones paints an image of a nightmarish Ivor Cutler, the babble of analogue noise chattering underneath Davison's soft Scottish accent and descending harpsichord. 'Scottish In Seven Seconds' is a filmic, widescreen thing of beauty; xylophone cascades like a waterfall over piano notes drenched in reverb and delay. The sound of engine acceleration begins 'The Poisoned Balalaika', a sci-fi lullaby that takes an eastern tinge as said stringed instrument enters amongst deep space whistles and echoes. 'Piggy on the Hillside' is a chanted, drone led Syd Barret-esque wonder, whilst 'Edinburgh Train Conversation's snippets of dialogue and industrial hum intertwine with the sound of music boxes in a layered and ever building piece of subtle tension. 'Hiding in the Hedge' is an almost jaunty yet spectral romp, ghostly Victoriana echoing through empty corridors and hallways. There is something a tad 'through the looking glass' about this album, nothing is quite what it seems and everything is deliciously off beam. Finally, the album closes with a live version of 'Flies', a hushed and melancholic number which surges into a cacophony of fuzz guitar and whistling feedback that is truly exhilarating.
Davison’s genius for left of centre crafted folk and perfect pop is undoubted. What is now no longer in question is also his ability to spin a deft experimental and psychedelic web that is at once filled with beauty, longing, nostalgia and unease. This is one to listen to after the dancing, after the sun goes down and after the lights are out. Let the Matricarians fill the air with their songs of yesterday and strangeness.
You can order "After the Dancing" on CD-R by messaging Alan through the Matricarians Facebook page. And check out a sample track below: