Haunted Stereo - Cross The Sea

Owain Paciuszko 01/12/2009

Rating: 4/5

Following on from the title track's release as part of Tracks For Amnesty in August, this 8 song strong EP gets to show Southampton's six piece folk-pop multi-instrumentalists in more vivid colours.

Leading with the titular song, an (aptly) haunting song with a Yann Tiersen-esque sense of arrangment, pianos galloping in amongst shimmering guitars and twinkling glockenspiels. The vocals of Lewis, Andy and Anja are balanced beautifully, crafting some extremely haunting and evocative. It moves with barely a breath drawn into To Be Good and there's a subtle but effective gear change into something a little more tinged with Elliot Smith-like bitterness.

Meanwhile There's No-one Colder Than a Good Drunk, Benjamin goes on a rambling folk journey with three vocalists juggling responsiblity over a song that almost goes folk-post-punk, Ben Toon's drums driving it forward admirably through its increasingly energetic segments. When it comes to a rowsing climax, propelled by Ben Jennings spine-tingling violin, it does so with all the grin mustering bravado of The Magic Numbers high fiving Arcade Fire. The track then segues into the scowling intro of Shore Of Sorts, which then morphs into a laidback stroll telling a hazy, that conjures images typical of a coastal collective; 'Some children must be burying me/starting with my feet.'

Elsewhere there's a nice energy to Santy Anno, it has a traditional sounding quality to it and the easy, antiquated charms of the work of an artist as highly regard as James Yorkston. Right at the end Dave Jones' bass is pushed high in the mix and things become particularly exhiliarting for an all too brief finale (that's hopefully pushed and pushed when played live!). Wow Wow Wow feels like Jon Brion doing a woozy shanty for a runaway and Anja's clarinet lends a nice, peculiar and comfortingly familiar sound to this easy-going, vagabondish track.

The record closes with Ivory a piano led and tender refrain, building with the delicate care and hair-raising trepidation of festival folk favourites such as The Leisure Society; indeed Haunted Stereo fully deserve prominent, sunny afternoon slots at many a festival this coming year. The song draws to a quirkily romantic finale with a lolloping tuba, rising vibes and then all comes to a sudden halt.

Whilst undoubtedly impressive throughout it's run-time this EP doesn't leave you with the feeling of having discovered something ready to explode, Haunted Stereo are a band that will grow on you, they are - hopefully - a band that will last; continuing to craft music as beautiful, bittersweet and wondrous as this. Yet, at the same time, this feels vey much like a band still feeling their way, figuring one another out, and, given time, they'll produce something that'll earn them 'overnight success'.