Two long-time collaborators reunite to satiate our appetite for unsophisticated depth once more, managing to draw out heart-warming consequences in the 35 minutes of The Earth In Play. In spite of the fact that marine recordings were utilized and that images of water adorn the sleeve, the CD is not drenched in liquid sonorities, actually perceptible only in the first of the two nameless tracks, a five-minute prologue of sorts with Tate complementing the aquatic echoes with the strained oscillation of the processed sounds of an accordion – or squeezebox, as he calls it. Perhaps a souvenir left by his erstwhile neighbour, the late Kathleen Vance, heard playing that instrument on a couple of earlier releases by Yorkshire’s purest artist.
Holloway’s classic bottomless sound is at the forefront in the longest track, obviously the album’s nucleus. It’s a simple yet profound piece, initially orbiting around subterranean whispers (presumably obtained by slowing down the pitches emitted by a wooden flute) that go away and reappear, either reciprocated or balanced by a meagre piano, additional – and slightly dissonant – droning constituents (Tate is also credited with guitar) and infrequent percussive touches: a single hit, a reverberating clang, small gestures that nevertheless weigh a lot in the music’s economy. The effect, as I listen in a torrid July afternoon characterized by the boundless mantra of cicadas and the occasional faraway tolling of the local bell tower, is just wonderful. The positive thoughts and the best intentions we used to have – forgotten for years now – return for a short while, giving the mere illusion of new existential openings as a present.