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Naevus - Relatively Close To The Sea

On their sixth album Naevus remain angular and decidely abstract, largely as a result of singer Lloyd James' twisted ambiguous lyrics, but with little remaining echo of the Death In June and Swans comparisons that marked earlier albums such as Soil and Behaviour. Relatively Close To The Sea sees the staple Naevus line-up of Lloyd James and Joanne Owen, being bolstered by regulars Greg Ferrari and John Murphy along with Joanna Quail (SonVer), Matt Howden (Sieben) and Arthur Shaw (Cutty Sark). The result is an album that marries the familiar with the unfamiliar as Naevus continue to expand their horizons.

Lloyd James' disembodied delivery is intrinsic to the Naevus sound: a distinctive laconic voice, delivered in a well-defined sing-speak style, where he enunciates every word clearly, ensuring not even a syllable is missed by the listener. The acoustic strum and slide guitar that swells into an ensemble piece on the title track and the folk-pop of 'Traffic Island', swathed in cello (courtesy of SonVer's Joanna Quail) flowing through passages of ringing keyboards and sprightly folk whistle might signal that it's business as usual for Naevus, but by the third track, they start going of at tangents culminating in an 18 minute version of their previous single, 'Go Grow'.

'Meat On Meat' features a driving rock sound, stripped of rock's excess, it is a streamlined beast augmented by harmonica as Lloyd's breathy rasp elucidates on the digestive process and bodily functions. It's great stuff. So too is 'Dented Mess', a curious track that smacks of a Magazine influence, with its surging post-punk guitars and urgent spoken-word delivery.

'The German' is a black humoured murder ballad with Lloyd's deadpan delivery imparting this bleak tale of a German forever tainted by his country's history and the misguided retribution of the barroom regulars. The music is a sumptuous waltz paced ballad based around accordion and Matt Howden's sweaping violin score surrounding the acoustic guitars in marked contrast to the inherent violencee contained in the lyrics. Much starker is 'The Troubadour', a sombre rendition of a track written by the late Dominic O'Connor, who was a member of Winter alongside Lloyd and Joanne. Its sparse instrumentation amply illustrating the theme of pain and illness.

The biggest surprise here is the expanded version of 'Go Grow'. From sparse acoustic chords, rolling drums and reverberating keyboard drone it swells into a conventional verse and chorus structure, with economical guitar strum and comforting voice. It collapses into a repeated solitary piano note and reverberating keyboard drone before swelling again and again. The guitars remain mid-paced and functional as deep bowed cellos add a layer, and accordion drone adds another as it takes on a functional post-rock or acoustic Velvets type freak-out returning again to the verse and chorus structure and Lloyd's oblique incident based lyrics. 'Go Grow' is evidence of a band at the top of their game, able and willing to break out of their comfort zone.

Compared to previous Naevus releases Relatively Close To The Sea comes across as quite baffling on first impressions. But stick with it, and it reveals itself to be filled with little gems, and despite being wilfuly eclectic, it achieves a strange kind of consistency. Don't miss it. For more information go to