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Sanguine Hum - Now We Have Light CD (album) cover


Sanguine Hum



3.80 | 96 ratings

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4 stars Only days before ordering this album, I was thinking about the four humours that were named after bodily fluids. What were they now? Sanguine from blood. Phlegmatic from phlegm. And what else? Hydrophilic from water and pissed off from urine? No, that's not right. But as I thought, I recalled that there was a band called Sanguine Hum whose album review I had read a while back on PA. A few days later, I sat before the computer with Amazon UK open, seeing what Brexit had done for UK CD prices, and as I selected albums to possibly order, "Customers who bought this also bought" came up with Sanguine Hum. There was a new release, but the Cat Factory cover appealed to me more and the album got ordered.

"Now We Have Light. Part One of the Buttered Cat Conspiracy. (This text reserves the right to randomly mix past, present and future tenses!)" This album is a concept narrative, and the booklet that comes with the CD does not include lyrics to the songs but instead explains what is happening as each track plays out. This is a future, post- apocalyptic world where a circle of billionaires has created a circle around the wealthy and use windmills to blow away smog. People have what are known as Drastic Attics where stuff is stored because a decree states that nothing can ever be thrown away. The explanation in the booklet has a typical English bent toward humour and the story is told with understatement, irony, and of course a degree of sarcasm. Our protagonist, Don, discovers the perpetual energy theory is proven when a cat with butter on its back is tested to see which side will land on the floor and instead ends up suspended in the air and rotating. Don has by chance also discovered a blue print for such a device. What luck!

Well, the story goes on and the plot thickens as Don's blueprint is stolen and the government orders all felines to be rounded up. But let's look at the music.

What we have here is a very English approach to modern progressive rock, maybe. Much of the music is driven by keyboards: synthesizers and organ mostly. Guitar plays an important part, featured in acoustic, clean electric, and a little bit edgy distorted guitar as well. Bass and drums play their parts gracefully sidestepping mainstream demands for banality. It's really difficult for me to pin down an suitable comparison. I am reminded of Pure Reason Revolution but also Radio Head in a spot or two, here and there some Happy the Man lite, and well, who else? The band has a sense for laid back jazz in a more upbeat musical atmosphere than Gazpacho would deliver. And surely there are moments that revive some classic mid to late seventies prog/pop. The vocals are light and marked with very clear English enunciation. There are songs and there are instrumentals and the two approaches are coordinated and sequenced so that one never outstays the other significantly.

Though the first two tracks, "Desolation Song" and "Drastic Attic" give a good feel for the whole album, the more angular and rapidly descending electric guitar arpeggios of "Theft" or the grooving bass of "Cat Factory" or the mechanical "Cog" instrumental in the six-part "Spanning the Eternal Abyss" will stand apart without coming across as outside of the scope of the album's sound and atmosphere. The acoustic guitar instrumental "On Another Beach" (part four of "Spanning the Eternal Abyss") is also lovely.

Sanguine Hum seem to like to introduce a musical theme and then build on it, then drop it momentarily as they introduce a related but different theme, and then reprise the original and add more colour to it. Comparing this album to another planet, I'd say it has a variety of landscapes that includes mountains without many crags, plains with rolling hills, patches of rock gardens, wildflowers, and groves of trees, and a climate that is at times foggy or weird but mostly fairly pleasant and easy to enjoy.

Though few tracks as yet stand out for me, the overall impression I have is that this is a double album that can be easily enjoyed but is also easy to hear while thoughts are set free to wander outside of the music. Well composed and executed. Some ear-catching moments. Intentionally avoids being too punchy or complex.

Our story, by the way, ends up leaving us with a promised sequel. To be continued in "Now We Have Power".

FragileKings | 4/5 |


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