Ursine Vulpine - EP

Owain Paciuszko 02/12/2009

Rating: 4/5

Interweaving guitar lines mingle menacingly on opening track The Man From the Sleepy Village, the song gradually, carefully builds at first like a particularly eerie Michael Nyman soundtrack before erupting into a maniacal Ennio Morricone-like finale. Ursine Vulpine, who is just one chap called Freddie Lloyd, arranges this track with spectacular skill, echoing the bitter likes of Tom McRae in his knack for an evocative sense of composition that transcends the perceived constraints of being a 'singer-songwriter'.

The opening track, which featured Lloyd's sneered vocal, merges craftily into Arcanine, which has a gradual and spine-tingling explosion of folkish elements, not least of all, woodwind and feverishly played guitars. It feels, remarkably, like a freeform improvisation by a collective such as Clinic or Akron/Family, but, again, it's just one chap.

Ninetales features Lloyd's vocals again over a slow looping melody of multiple guitars, instrumentally it reminds of John Murphy's impressive score for 28 Days Later, most notably the track In The House, In A Heartbeat. Vocally and lyrically things aren't as rich and poetic as on the opener, one could imagine the track standing up equally as well without this, allowing the listener to add their own images wherever the verse sits.

Phoenix Down opens with acoustic guitars performing the riff I usually associate with the 'big boss' arrival scene in movies (I'll try and explain, it goes; 'Dum, d-d-d-dum, d-d-d-dum, d-d-d-du-d-du-d-du...' or something). It continues to build for three minutes before pulling everything back, introducing a new melody on the flute and building things up again. It is, at times somewhat a little too simplistic in its structure, and really hits its stride around the six and a half minute mark (just before it suddenly ends), but it sustains itself well and could well transform into a phenomenal prog wig-out a la Explosions in the Sky if left to simmer for longer.

After a silence - which seems to have the occasional subdued muffled ruffling sound, intrigued me for a while - there's a distant sounding piano refrain that is a suitably subtle and antiquated way to play out this impressive record.