Review Summary: An excellent sophomore effort from a band bound for great things.
One of the aspects that I find most intriguing about the Coen Brothers’ approach to film making is their intricate use of story boarding prior to shooting. Every scene, not just the complex ones, are first drawn up so that the execution is flawless. It has a huge impact on the aesthetic proficiency of the directors– why the forest in Miller’s Crossing
feels like another hitman, or the expanse of Cormac McCarthy’s diction is captured in the dusty sprawl of No Country for Old Men
. The technique allows the brothers to craft visually intricate films. Beneath This Burning Shoreline
, the second album from Manchester natives Cherry Ghost, seems to drip with the same attention to detail. Of course Simon Aldred and co. don’t craft story boards, they compose music; and now that I’ve straddled the thin red line of hyperbole, let me just say the cinematic analogy isn’t unwarranted. Cherry Ghost gather the grandeur of the cinematic experience and translate it through the slow burning gothic of the American South.
But forlorn would be I to have you grabbing images of Explosions in the Sky, Max Richter, Sigur Ros, or other such “cinematic” artists. The influences for Cherry Ghost hold much closer to the likes of Johnny Cash, Murder By Death, Tindersticks and Willie Nelson. But like the, rather gorgeous, album art, you can almost see the grains of the music, the space in the arrangements– the lilting strings over the Radar Love
-esque percussion of opener “We Sleep On Stones” or the two “Conquered” interludes. There’s a uniformity in sound, even when detours are taken, like the dream-pop meets blues of the lovely “Kissing Strangers”, that is attributed to the excellent production work by the band and Dan Austin. It helps ground the symphonic pop so that the wonderful string and synth arrangements never feel bombastic. The resulting atmosphere is what harbors the “cinematic” aspect of the Beneath This Burning Shoreline
If there were to be a potential weak point in the proceedings, it would be going back to the notion of the gothic approach to the album; the allusions to the South. As Cherry Ghost are British, this aesthetic approach always runs the risk of coming off as fake or forced. But even at their most heavy handed in “My God Betrays”, Aldred uses his memorable lyrical talents to pull off lines like “In a certain light / your face could launch a bareknuckle fight”. When the music sometimes approaches the cliche, it is done with such a flair and knack for arrangement- the horns at the end of the brooding “The Night They Buried Sadie Clay”- that the listener forgets about the obvious Morricone homages. Even the blatantly obvious run for a single “Black Fang”, with its arena sized grandeur, manages to fit well inside the context of the album, buoyed by the fact that it’s an incredible song and it happens to lay right near the end. Intelligent moves such as these force the listener to leave the name-checking of influences that naturally evolve during the early moments of Beneath This Burning Shoreline
, precisely there; the early moments. What remains is an enthralling sophomore effort from a band that seem ready to reach the next level.