Toby Wainwright Johns - Pressed Flowers
Owain Paciuszko 30/11/2008
Wainwright Johns is a folk/jazz artist who crafts at times delicate and at times jarring music, that is always challenging and interesting. On occasion the juxtaposition between the harsher elements and the softer is an unhappy alliance, it doesn't help that this EP's opening track 'Voices' is a strong example of this. The guitar playing is beautiful but at total odds with Johns' vocals which is bellowing and insistent; the occasional percussive elements seem influenced by Tom Waits' industrial clatter of 'Real Gone'. It's something of an auspicious opening to the record, but once the title track begins with a sweet violin there is a wash of relief and the elements begin to gel.
Coming together elegantly for the closing refrain of 'Pressed flowers we made...' the second track juggles its instrumention with Johns' voice well, and this balance continues across the following four tracks. The inclusion of female vocals from Lyanna Austin (on 'Out of Body Experience') and Nathalie Chalkley (eerily keening on 'Nightingale') provides inspired soft touches, and is further evidence of Johns' skill as a composer. The arrangments here are excellent and would welcome an instrumental album of their own.
The Tom Waits' influence is pushed to the fore on 'Monkey Puzzle' as Johns' ups the gravel in his voice and growls intermittently through this jazzy number. Charly Richardson's saxophone gives a huge ammount of life to the close of this energetic number; probably the closest this record has to a 'conventionally structured' song. The final track, 'Trumpets (In the Distance They Are Laughing)' has a gypsy punk sound and Johns begins to sound strangely like Eugene Hutz!?
This is an interesting record that is occasionally a bit of a rickety ride, but always manages to produce another pleasing little phrase or sound from its broad bag of tricks.