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Folk/Americana - Released February 14, 2005 | 4AD


Folk/Americana - Released May 17, 2004 | 4AD


Folk/Americana - Released December 8, 2003 | 4AD

Fans of Slowdive and Mojave 3 have been pining for a Rachel Goswell album for years. Although 4AD billed Waves Are Universal as sounding like something you wouldn't expect from her, it actually sounds almost exactly like you thought it would, provided you've heard a Mojave 3 song at some point during the previous eight years. The British folk elements that have been slowly coming to the fore in the Mojave 3 records are more of a factor here. Otherwise, it's a fusion of British folk and alt-country -- which, to be more forward, means it could pass for a Mojave 3 record made while primary songwriter Neil Halstead was too busy hanging ten. This, for the most part, is a good thing, but the record is rather safe, lacking an adventurousness that is only touched upon and possibly kept under wraps for the sake of not seeming like too much of a departure. Field recordings that are incorporated into the songs are very discreet, and a couple other tunes wouldn't be out of place in commercials plugging some mature teenage drama on the WB. Regardless, Waves Are Universal proves that Goswell can carry a whole record on her own without any trouble. A second solo album -- with more risks taken -- is a necessary thing. © Andy Kellman /TiVo

Folk/Americana - Released March 17, 2003 | 4AD


Folk/Americana - Released June 17, 2002 | 4AD

This five-song EP is a lovely complement to Halstead's grand debut solo album. On the surface, only two songs are new, but even the three that are familiar titles are reasonably different experiences. The title track appears in two new guises: It's just as summer-breeze-tempting done "Surf Style" as the LP version, and a rethink remix finds it presented in a third light -- not as light and airy, and infused with a light backbeat groove, scratchy guitar, and female backing vocals, which twice give way to a completely different spaghetti western bridge. The alternate version of "See You on Rooftops" might be better than the sweet LP one, as it relies even more on the circular-pattern picking on the acoustic, and a slightly more relaxed tempo/feel that makes it really sigh and hum. "Sailing Man" and especially "Between the Bars" satisfy and are easily of the LP's standard. The former is full of spatial quiet and the latter folky prize, recorded live at an acoustic gig in Liverpool, shows that there's plenty more in Halstead's pen. Indeed, "Between the Bars" is one of those tracks that hints of cowboy solitude, evoking dusty roads on the old West's deserts/plains: Time passing as the horse walks slowly, the water is scarce, and the throat and heart are equally dry. But the lyrics are not of that travelogue, they're instead full of regret and hankering for that someone who made a singular impression you can't shake. "Still remembered how you danced/Laughing hard between the bars/You always were pretty good at getting high for someone so small/Swear I won't let go this time." It makes you want to go back and find that person; it makes you want to find this EP. © Jack Rabid /TiVo

Folk/Americana - Released January 28, 2002 | 4AD


Folk/Americana - Released November 19, 2001 | 4AD


Folk/Americana - Released August 27, 2001 | 4AD

Hooking up with 4AD wasn't the only new move Berry made with Love. She also recruited a wide number of musicians to help her flesh out her songs. Christopher Berry again played guitar on most of the tracks; avant-garde saxophonist Lol Coxhill popped up here and there; cellists Martin McCarrick and Audrey Riley similarly stepped in; and Levitation members Terry Bickers and Laurence O'Keefe guested on guitar and bass, respectively. Meanwhile, Berry didn't return to the straightforward pop/rock of Firefly, instead letting the ghostly arrangements of Below the Waves be her guide. Peter Walsh worked behind the boards as engineer, though it sounds like Berry clearly had final say regarding the album's production. A singular example of Berry's talent is her radical reworking of Bob Mould's Hüsker Dü nugget "Up in the Air," which is transformed here into a serene, beautiful reflection on regret; Coxhill's soft sax contributions quietly add to the haunting beauty of the performance. Everything else is written by Berry and performed with the soothing beauty with which she made her name. The one exception is "Cradle," co-written with O'Keefe and featuring only him on heavily produced fretless bass; her overdubbed vocals and the low rings of his bass notes make for a truly affecting song. At points, Berry incorporates a low-key groove into the proceedings, courtesy of percussionist Hossam Ramzy. His work on "Washington Square" and the quietly addictive "Silver Buttons" nicely balances the evanescence of the other tracks. It all concludes with the gorgeous lament "Lily," on which Coxhill's soprano sax and O'Keefe's bass provide elegant support. © Ned Raggett /TiVo

Folk/Americana - Released March 19, 2001 | 4AD


Folk/Americana - Released October 26, 1998 | 4AD

By listening to interpretations of the Appalachian folk songs that Pa Hersh played for her six year-old daughter prior to nighty night, the explanation as to how Kristin Hersh became such an exceptional songwriter becomes increasingly clear. Her dark humor -- alternating between frightening and hilarious with a creepy level of dexterity -- is showcased on Murder, Misery and then Goodnight. "What'll We Do With the Baby-O" sounds inoffensive enough just going by the title, and the music is deceptively bouncy and playful. But wow -- give a listen to the lyrics! "Every time the baby cries, stick my finger in the baby's eyes/ Every time he starts to grin, give the baby a bottle of gin." Liquor is a common theme, given especially blurry focus on the first-person tale "Three Nights Drunk." But really, the subjects are more well-rounded than the title indicates. It's not as if every song here is capable of spooking youngsters. Or you, for that matter. Most could totally miss the words, given Hersh's calming voice. Each of these songs are traditional, with arrangements coming from the artist. Her acoustic work is spectacular as ever, and she's accompanied by her son Ryder on backing vocals and piano. So she's truly passing the songs to the next generation. It's doubtless that young Ryder will be able to pass these songs down to his kids, but whether or not you would want to depends on how playfully twisted you are as a parent. Few could do these songs as well as Hersh. Though not as essential as her "regular" records, it deserves official release; 4AD released it as part of their limited mail-order series in 1998. It might not exactly be Soothing Sounds for Baby, but Murder is still a sinister, lulling pre-slumber treat. © Andy Kellman /TiVo

Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 1998 | 4AD

Again working with producer Hugh Jones -- and, as always, accompanied by her brother Christopher on various instruments, along with past veteran guests Jon Brookes and Laurence O'Keefe -- Berry creates another beautiful, subtle collection of songs on Miracle. The slow build of "The Mountain" makes for a fine start. Beginning with the quietest of pluckings, the song gradually adds Berry's sweetly cool voice and Anne Wood's scraping, swirling violin to the mix. It retreats just a bit at the end, imbuing Berry's tale of childhood remembrance with a new, fragile appeal. Her blend of folksy, rustic touches and more modern approaches comes very much to the fore on Miracle, though the former element feels the stronger here. "Holy Grail" has a slow, measured percussion beat that almost sounds like something off the Velvet Underground's third album, but it's Anne Wood's stringwork that proves the song's standout. Other numbers where Wood gets to demonstrate her considerable chops are "Queen" (which ends with a fine duet between Berry and her brother on mandolin) and a cover of the Youngbloods' "Darkness, Darkness." Of course, Miracle is still very much Berry's album, and the concluding track, "Northern Country," leaves no doubt of that. While Wood's violin work is equally inspired here, it's Berry's wonderful vocal delivery that truly stands out. If there's a prime moment on the record, it's the marvelous title track. Featuring terrific backup vocals and Jones' great turn on Hammond organ, Berry's inspiring, anthemic song is a surge of hope and power. © Ned Raggett /TiVo

Folk/Americana - Released July 19, 1993 | 4AD

"The Moon and the Sun" is the definitive Heidi Berry performance -- bolstered by the exquisite fingerpicking of sibling Christopher, swelling violin, and a lilting, waltz-like rhythm, Berry delivers perhaps her most nuanced and graceful vocal, all resulting in the most lively song in her catalog. This handsomely packaged 4AD single contains three additional tracks, highlighted by the self-explanatory "Zither Song," probably the most effective deployment of the little-used string instrument since Anton Karas' theme for The Third Man. The lovely if slight "Unholy Light" and a heartfelt reading of Tim Hardin's "You Upset the Grace of Living When You Lie" round out the set. © Jason Ankeny /TiVo

Folk/Americana - Released July 5, 1993 | 4AD

The front cover of Heidi Berry's third album is generically 4AD, with its florid typography and super-saturated close-up photo, artistically blurred, of a closed venus flytrap. So it would have been easy to assume it was just another slab of post-Cocteau Twins dream pop, all reverb, synth washes, and swirly vocals singing impenetrable lyrics. If that's what the listener is looking for, Heidi Berry won't entirely disappoint, but it isn't just a way to pass the time until the next This Mortal Coil album. Heidi Berry is rooted in a musical style that could not have been more unfashionable in 1993, a type of highly orchestrated folk-rock pitched somewhere between Nick Drake and Sandy Denny's solo records on the one hand and southern California singer/songwriter soft rock on the other. Berry even covers "Heart Like a Wheel," the Kate McGarrigle tune that gave Linda Ronstadt's breakthrough album its name. Hugh Jones' traditional 4AD production techniques are conspicuously absent: Heidi Berry has a notably live and largely acoustic sound, free of the label's usual phalanx of effects pedals and keyboards, although the carefully layered arrangements, featuring strings, acoustic guitars, piano, occasional steel guitar accents, and various forms of hand percussion, remain as lush and textured as ever. Atypically for a Jones production, Berry's vocals are forthrightly front and center, mixed well above the low-key instrumentation; her startling vocal resemblance to Sandy Denny has never been more pronounced than on tracks like the graceful opener "Mercury." A handful of semi-famous names from the era appear in the credits alongside Berry and her longtime mentor Pete Astor (formerly of early Creation signings the Loft and the Weather Prophets), including Kitchens of Distinction guitarist Julian Swales and members of the House of Love and the Charlatans, but Berry's heart is in the art-folk scene of the late '60s and early '70s, closer in spirit to Judy Collins' Wildflowers and Nick Drake's Bryter Layter than, say, Lush or My Bloody Valentine. As a result, Heidi Berry has a timelessness many other albums from this time and place lack. © Stewart Mason /TiVo


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