Quilt - Held In Splendor

by Steve Reynolds Rating:8 Release Date:2014-02-17

There is an instant musical flashback to what Quilt do. On opener and recent single ‘Arctic Shark’, they are deep-seated in the 60s, their sound instantly reminiscent of The Byrds jingle-jangle and the loveable simplicity of Magical Mystery-era Beatles.

Vocals sooth effortlessly over a heart-warming sitar and sedate backing harmonies, those harmonies primarily belonging to Shane Butler and Anna Fox Rochinski. The arrangement is threadbare but their ability to create likeable songs shines through on such gems as ‘Saturday Bride’.

Quilt have a casual approach to their music, and are indebted to the torch-bearers which defined an era post-Woodstock: see Crosby, Stills and Nash. Shane Butler’s captivating falsetto sits easily with the sepia banjo which tags onto the tail end of ‘Eye of the Pearl’:  “I used to think that you were a stranger/ but now I don’t know what for/ You keep changing all of my meanings/ You’re bringing me back and forth… I hold the pearl now”.

‘Mary Mountain’ twists and turns off at a tangent and almost rocks out, but I can smell a Fender out on most albums and I doubt very much it was used on this eccentric slab of drug-induced psychedelia, such is the wobbly woozy guitar. Apparently, they hauled a few mates in for their basement-recorded album and the eclectic use of instruments recalls what made Sufjan Stevens' Illinoise so instantly charming and engrossing.

Anna dominates ‘Tie Up the Tides’, and her kooky, euphonic delivery is most certainly one of the highlights of this sophomore release. ‘The Hollow’ is a beautifully stripped-back slice of country twang and, at two minutes, leaves you hanging for a wee bit more.

There's ample serene and well-crafted beauty on Held in Splendor, from the pulsating ‘Just Dust’ to the weave and raucous behaviour displayed on ‘Tired Buttered’.  Quilt take a positive outlook to their material, and their brazen ambition and ability to deliver warmth and charming hooks continues on the forthright ‘Secondary Swan’, with its swirling organ and chiming guitar refrain.

All in all Held in Splendor is a great album, full of uplifting melodies and cleverly thought-out songs, summed up beautifully by closer ‘I Sleep in Nature’, with its sweeping key changes and Galaxie 500-style minimalism.

 This is a band destined to be much more widely admired by this time next year, mark my bloody words.

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