H.Hawkline - A Cup Of Salt

Owain Paciuszko 29/11/2010

Rating: 5/5

Starting off with the suitably bizarre sound of An Old Lady Sings, which is, literally, just that, a shrill creaky voice recorded over a telephone line accompanied by the occasional male vocal. It's cut off quickly with the sound of a cassette being changed over, and the psychedelic fuzz rock groove of Pentecostal takes control; a repetitive guitar line played over a jaunty bassline and indecipherable samples, it's got a distinct flavour of vintage Super Furry Animals B-sides, like Guacamole played a stoner-rock speed.

Clown Catches Fly on the other hand is a delightfully sunny guitar driven melody, played with a certain toe-tapping wistfulness that when married to its title conjures up bizarre Chaplain-esque like silent movie footage that seems wholly inappropriate yet oddly fitting. It's a showcase for Hawkline's ability with a guitar, fingers fluttering over and around the strings, exuding personality in every pluck. The track is eventually consumed by a rickety sound sample before turning to the Bill Callahan-like guitar line of From Her Eyes, surrounded by sinister plinky plonky piano and synths, then a buoyant Eagles Journey of the Sorcerer-like banjo that fills the track with optimism. The track slowly and subtly transforms from here into a hypnotic melody, ultimately accompanied by vocals chanting 'Oh, avoid the sunshine', that sounds like The 13th Floor Elevators providing music for a Medieval court.

With layers and layers of dreamy vocals on top of organ lines there's something distinctly I Just Wasn't Made For These Times-era Brian Wilson about the small but perfectly formed Cut My Fingers which draws Side A to a close.

Side B opens with the spritely Carreg (Lleuad I) which introduces a truly fantastic, head-nodding drum beat up against its spacey vocals and nimbly played guitar, it confirms H.Hawkline as being another potential Welsh master of trippy, enjoyable post-rock alongside contemporaries such as Jakokoyak and Jen Jeniro. The laidback Raw Horse wraps an intricate and exploratory guitar around a plodding bassline and shuffling percussion to great effect, before turning into a crackpot carnival for a few surreal moments.

Another tape is turned over and a dog barks leading into Slow Geese which sounds like a lost 1970's soundtrack to a commercial about jogging in the desert, or something?! Meanwhile Gellyt (Lleuad II) employs similar tricks to its sister track, but with no lessening of impact as the wig-out drums make a welcome return alongside a guitar and organ-line that fall somewhere between sci-fi and snake charming. As the synths growing bassier the track takes flight, a squelchy delight that's hard not to move your body to, the kind of The Beta Band-like middle-ground between off-beat, quirky weirdness and dancefloor that you could listen and jive to for an entire night/morning, drenched in your own sweat and not caring how you look.

The tenderness of the eventual title track is all the more palpable coming after its predecessor, but nonetheless surreal welding musical saw alongside a slow piano melody with a subtle bassline like a John Cage composition, before a wealth of melancholic choir-like vocals launch the track, like a defiant little spaceship, into a surreal, handmade galaxy of twinkling lights. It's as if Philip Glass were scoring the last ever episode of Button Moon and its strangely beautiful, tragic and uplifting all at once.

This is a diverse and magical record from a musician who has squirreled his talents away, to some extent, working with many other artists (such as Sweet Baboo, Richard James and Cate Le Bon) and here, with a little help from some friends, Hawkline - aka Huw Evans - has created a truly stunning record.