JOSHUA STAMPER – The Skin, The Sea, The Sound

Good Behavior

Ah, the joy of a fruitful retrieval just by scrolling old emails in the “promos” folder, rather than crushing a big toe on a heavy box of dusty CDs while wandering aimlessly in the archive. This – a cute, tightly arranged, slightly melancholic record dated April 2014 – represents the archetypal Sunday afternoon album. For inexplicable reasons, this temporal fragment has always been a frame for pensiveness, turning yours truly into an accumulator of nostalgic reminiscences – occasionally triggered by some distant call from the outside, more often by the non-acceptance of certain issues – before a new week’s outset. In today’s mood, playing this set thrice helped fighting a few hovering ghosts.

The Skin, The Sea, The Sound is a cycle of songs sung by the project’s boss with a calm – am I allowed to write “resigned”? – tone depicting an odd hybrid of Pink Floyd’s late Rick Wright, a demoralized Richard Sinclair and, in the occasional trip to the higher register, even a lesser version of Robert Wyatt. Yet this voice – escorted by a female counterpart in a couple of tracks – is absolutely perfect for this particular setting. Stamper’s neat acoustic syntax totally justifies his curriculum vitae: mostly delicious, not at all superficial, enriched by small measures of unorthodoxy. You can really put a little piece of everything in the general appraisal – XTC, groups such as L’Ensemble Rayé and Die Knödel (remember them?), Michael Garrick, Kevin Ayers, Albert Marcoeur – and add the required minimum of post-Canterbury references (indeed, the beginning of “Peel Past The Starry Scrim” vividly recalls Henry Cow’s “Nine Funerals Of The Citizen King”). However, we’re not in front of a mere receptacle of similarities. The music follows an individual course, gaining substance from natural juxtapositions and intertwining reverberations that certainly aren’t the consequence of a five-minute effort. In a nutshell, we appreciated the near-entirety.

The lesson being: never refuse the company offered by releases that aren’t vituperative to the ears, whatever the genre (or lack thereof). In its strange mixture of gentleness, somewhat sad irony and orchestral expertise, this collection is probably destined to be revisited time and again in the upcoming weeks. Use it in the right moment, and you’re not going to repent.

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