Plinth (UK)
Music For Smalls Lighthouse


5.0
classic

Review

by Jonny Hunter CONTRIBUTOR (103 Reviews)
March 22nd, 2014 | 18 replies | 2,053 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: You're alone in an isolated lighthouse and a dead man's hand beckons from outside.

In 1800, a crew of two set out on a twenty mile boat trip to man Smalls Lighthouse off the coast of Wales. They were known to quarrel, so when one later died in a freak accident the other knew that to throw the body in the sea was to raise suspicion and sign away his life to prison. He built a coffin instead, and for want of smell and space lashed it to the outside of the building where the wind soon tore it open. The dead man's arm fell out to become trapped outside the lighthouse's window and, whenever the wind caught it, the hand would seem to beckon to the lone survivor. One man, stranded in the middle of the sea, had to spend months with a corpse welcoming him to death. It doesn't go too far to say he wasn't entirely the same by the time he returned to land.

I would have thought any soundtrack to this story would be quite dramatic, but Michael Tanner thinks otherwise. The most tranquil moment on a very peaceful album comes right at the end: with the trapped hand and one living inhabitant. It is as if he is looking to highlight the sheer weight of temptation faced by the lonely sailor, who was constantly reminded of the endless respite madness or even death would give him from his haunted life. "Sirens" is as lovely as they come but made sinister once the listener puts themselves in the lighthouse keeper's boots, and when the delicate sighs and piano loops whittle away at our hardy exteriors it's impossible not to think of what we would do in that situation. Life would seem like meaningless, reflective toil in wait for the serenity of death. Why not slip into fantasy?

It is a good thing Music for Smalls Lighthouse saw a reissue near the end of last year; passing by older treasures is all too easy when so many artists put food on the table with limited releases. One can't help but draw links with the likes of Night Shift's Trespassers Guide to Nowhere: both were destined to only be enjoyed by a privileged few, and both deserved a much broader audience. Now this album is available to everyone, we're given the comforting thought of many others as equally wrapped up in the narrative as us. It isn't as rare an experience as it may once have been; for better I'd hope, it can only be nice to find something as warm as companionship in music so intrinsically introverted. As we connect with the plight of the lighthouse keeper we also connect with others doing the same. I think it's quite beautiful.

In the end, field recordings are the real driving force behind Music for Smalls Lighthouse. Crashing waves, wind and creaking timber feature more often than not in their role of setting the scene, but more unique, often devilishly quiet sounds tell the story. Bells tolling and a hammer striking wood say far more than words or pictures ever could, tangling the story's devastating hooks deep into our individual reactions to this scenario. Tanner's piano and guitar accompany these events like a stream of consciousness: tumbling over the same memories and showing signs of almost slipping completely towards the end of "Solicitude." We drift between these parts effortlessly for all their deceptive calm.

And there's the thing: for all the narrative despair, Music for Smalls Lighthouse leaves the listener almost refreshed. Any focus on death, sanity or loneliness -whatever you want to dwell on- is done in a manner so reflective it is difficult not to greet the lot with a kind of warm acceptance. What pain we might feel is immediately swallowed by the steady swells of the ocean, so we remain as individuals unaware of the true extent of our feelings. Utterly overwhelmed. The only clear, identifiable response is endless empathy for the man who had to go through this alone, and who wouldn't have known whether he'd make it out with mind intact.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
March 22nd 2014



2714 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

100 reviews..... Thanks for putting up with me guys, it's been fun.

Get involved: http://iamplinth.bandcamp.com/album/music-for-smalls-lighthouse

There are a ton of name your price albums on his bandcamp page, so I'd definitely recommend checking them out.

SnakeDelilah
March 22nd 2014



6361 Comments


Cento!

Digging: The Front Bottoms - The Front Bottoms

Pheromone
March 22nd 2014



3460 Comments


I love that artwork and the review as well, I'll be sure to check this out!

Digging: Early Day Miners - Placer Found

zakalwe
March 22nd 2014



7305 Comments


It would be classic if the disembodied arm were giving the other fella the finger.

Digging: J Mascis - Tied to a Star

Acanthus
March 22nd 2014



9537 Comments


Really interesting idea for an album, good review as well sir.

Digging: The Cure - The Head on the Door

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
March 22nd 2014



2714 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks guys.

Imagine if the hand was... Plinth would have to go all metal

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
March 23rd 2014



4507 Comments


Sounds fascinating, great review Johnny ;)

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
March 23rd 2014



20263 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Checked this out not so long ago, great album.

Will read the review later.

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
March 23rd 2014



2714 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Mr T., if you put a h in my name again we're going to have difficulties! D:

menawati
Contributing Reviewer
March 23rd 2014



15878 Comments


grats on the ton

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JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
March 23rd 2014



20263 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Prefer the other artwork to this cover.

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
March 23rd 2014



2714 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Which one? I think there are about 4: this one, the minimal one and two photographs.

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
March 23rd 2014



20263 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This one: http://www.secondlanguagemusic.com/SL05.html

Same as the one used on RYM.

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
March 23rd 2014



2714 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

mmm, shit's pretty

zakalwe
March 23rd 2014



7305 Comments


That photo is more impressive but the artwork for the cover is more fitting for an old tale being told.

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
March 23rd 2014



20263 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I find the photo more fitting for the music.

CaptainDooRight
March 23rd 2014



28688 Comments


this looks great

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TWIGtheWONDERKID
March 24th 2014



713 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Didn’t think much of this on the first listen, but it really opened up to me on the second—very nice . . . Found this video of the CD packaging on YouTube. They really went all out:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uGMK_PvU2o


Digging: Fennesz - Becs



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