Anthony Reynolds – Underwater Wildlife (Rocket Girl)
A collection of assorted recordings drawn from various EPs and albums, but also advertising, film soundtrack and other private commissions, making it most unusual already.
Add to that a great ear for melody and Reynolds’ aching baritone and it all becomes rather special.
Cardiff native Reynolds used to front a band called Jack (then later Jacques also) in the 1990s who were signed to Beggars Banquet imprint Too Pure. They played a brand of literary, baroque pop which may have been lost beneath the hysteria around Pulp and The Divine Comedy, or was possibly just not understood. I must admit I missed them at the time but a good friend of mine, Songs to Learn and Sing, still talks about Pioneer Soundtracks as one of his favourite albums of all time.
A quick flick around that website reveals seminal influences in the shape of Japan, David Bowie and Scott Walker, among others. Those aren’t bad reference points for getting a handle on this compilation, which is generally sublime orchestral, or orchestrated, pop with depth and texture. More recently, fans of The Dears, for example, will find plenty to love here too.
Some highlights are ‘The laws of the game’, which reminds me a bit of labelmate Jon DeRosa, a deep-hearted mediation on love wrapped around with mourning cello and keening steel guitar.
The epic ‘Loneliness is the engine of the world’, which is more like a noirish novel crammed into 3 minutes with a sweeping prog pop soundtrack.
The wonderful duet (with Argentinian singer Eugenia Jolly) ‘Kingdom of me’, another sprawling narrative taking in spoken word interludes and a gorgeous minor-key chorus.
Or the absolutely heartwrenching ‘I wonder about you’, a simple piano piece with a plaintiff vocal undercut by out-of-context strings and found sounds.
The whole thing is a rollercoaster of emotion but kept in perfect shape by beguiling arrangements of woodwind or strings around a core of piano or guitar.
It’s great stuff and is well worth your time (and money).