A Grave With No Name - Wooden Mask

by Mark Steele Rating:7 Release Date:2016-08-12

It can be taken for granted at times that some recording artists will change their sound  to keep up with current trends. For Mt.Jade's contemplative songsmith, Alexander Shields, and his project - A Grave With No Name, that appears not to be the case.

Wooden Mask is the fifth album, which like it's predecessors, seems to constantly wander contented in a dusky meadow of melancholic consciousness. The intro to the 13-track album 'Sword' features, what may have become  among other items, Alexander's signature minimilist tones, chimes, and string avant-garde random tones. The floating overdriven rang out guitar chords, graceful acoustic guitar lines, chilled brush led drums, wrapped around intimate sunny mantras. It seems that the same melodic feel lurks around like a disembodied spirit amongst much of the songs including 'Mask', with a possible gong thrown in.
The woody dull beat coupled with some fuzzy mush bass on 'Mist' creates a slightly menacing chill.This clears to a slow stoned fog, though it does sound like the last song. A random multi-instrumental tinkling on 'Shrine', leads into one of the albums highlights, a drowsy blues  soaked 'Wedding Dress'. It has Alexander coming across John Lennon-ish , jamming with Pink Floyd, the vocal harmonies and violin embed a real trippiness, and this is not lost on the Nick Drake-esque folk soundscape 'Piroutte'.

Again a strong John Lennon flavour, seems infused in part on this album. including the warm jangle-folk on 'House'. Following a waltzy eeriness on 'Pelt', here the chimes appear again, then the jazzy sylvan to edgy chill-out on the 'Nest', the lyrics imply a preparation for a family reunion,"In the new year I'll visit my family/to listen to their words and their songs/we'll breathe in the same air as each other/spend every evening in communion".The deep looping guitars on 'Black Sage, Pt2', has a tear inducing effect, though those tears are quickly wiped away on the apptly named discordant driving 'Storm'. The last song 'I Set Fire To My Boat' seems to follow the first few songs in vibe. It is interesting to compare Alexander's vocal style here, to Michael Lovett of Synth-Pop outfit NZCA Lines, in some of the phrasing. The album ends on the indian style acoustic instrumental 'Tape'.

A Grave With No Name continues to churn out pondering poems of life on Wooden Mask. The album certainly does tug at a few emotional chords, however some of us may argue that we have already heard these sounds on previous albums.  It could prove fruitful, if an experimental venturing into new ground occured, in turn opening up further chapters of this particular musical story.

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