Outside The Museum - With Clouds

Owain Paciuszko 12/12/2010

Rating: 4/5

Guitars playfully dance around one another with a cheery lightness of touch on opening track March Light on this mini-album from musician Benjamin Catt, they lull into sleepy choruses with sombre vocals before returning to those whimsical spritely passages; there's a flavour of Fredrick Stanley Star in its nimble ability to make something simplistic and life-affirming with such stripped down folksy ease.

The Longest Day meanwhile is a tentative little ballad which turns its pensive strums into a sad little anthem, rising defiantly like a flower pushing through concrete. There's a Nick Drake-like melancholy to The Tallest Pine which uses Catt's slightly rough-edged voice as a nice counter point to the warm guitar lines.

Just as you snuggle into the cosy patterns of these folk-tunes along comes Silence Sings beginning with a slightly tribal loop like a distant ritual and ominous, eerie keys repeating, it has a flavour of the strange soundtrack by Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman to the film Ravenous, and it's somewhat dissapointing that it just fades away into nothingness, as it's an intriguing little shift in style that could've evolved wonderfully.

Things sound even lighter, perhaps as a result of the contrast, on Storytelling, which layers Catt's vocals into an endearing little choir intoning; 'And like the birds, we all sing along.' Song For Skull is a Bill Callahan-like little tune that uses repeated imagery and structure in a similar way, whilst Song For Silence uses a careful, slightly disjointed rhythm which gives the whole track a nostalgic, traditional feel. Hollow Echo as a rich sound that fills out the 4-track recording with the kind of optimistic and atmospheric style of Akron/Family.

The record closes with Song For Storms, that begins with atonal noise and occasional light voiced coos, continuing the mysterious atmosphere established by Silence Sings, but armed with a running time over twice as long as anything else on the record there's hope that Catt will bring something more to the mix. Whilst an interesting and intriguing soundscape it doesn't really go anywhere in the end, seeming more suited to soundtracking misty, spooky woodland than it does as a piece of music alone.

This is a neat little record, most of the song's are simple and charming and Catt's vocals blend well with his perky guitar playing; there are hints at experimentation here and the idea that he could begin to blend these styles together is exciting. Despite being a little disjointed at times this is an absolutely lovely piece of work.