November 14, 2005

Songs of Green Pheasant "Songs of Green Pheasant"

Ever since Devendra Banhart appeared, it seems as if labels are jumping on the whole ‘freak-folk’ thing. Some of the acts that have appeared have been extremely worthwhile, some of them…well, it’s good to remember that bands disappear when the trend ends. Songs of Green Pheasant is certainly proof that some artists can benefit from discovery. Songs of Green Pheasant is actually one man, Duncan Sumpner, recording alone in his kitchen. According to the story, the record was recorded in 2002, and Fat Cat received it as a demo, but spent several years trying to track Sumpner down. That he apparently didn’t really feel like releasing his compositions may or may not be accurate, but it certainly makes for a good story, and it makes Fat Cat’s discovery of him even more interesting

It’s kind of a good thing they convinced him otherwise, because Songs of Green Pheasant is an interesting, excellent record. Its lo-fi nature bathes the songs in a beautiful haze; as heard on the touching, distant “Soldiers Kill Their Sisters” and the gorgeous “The Wraiths of Loving,” one realizes that these songs wouldn’t sound as beautiful as they do any other way. The best numbers, like “Nightfall (For Boris P.)” and “Until…,” capture the listener’s attention in a most mysterious way. The gorgeous self-harmonizing, the simple drum beat, the mellow vibe, the simple guitar picking, the haunting atmosphere…all of these things are factors that make his music so appealing, even though the songs are ultimately quite simple. Mystery can make a record even more majestic, and it’s certainly true here; a lot of the record’s appeal is built on the fact thatSongs of Green Pheasant doesn’t really sound like anyone; comparisons can be made to all sorts of artists, but ultimately, they fail to fully capture the essence and the beauty of the record.

It’s hard to pinpoint what makes Sumpner’s music so wonderfully delightful, and one shouldn’t try. All the record needs to be magical is a listener who appreciates the simple beauty of songwriting. Since years have passed, does this mean Sumpner has made more music? Will it sound as good as this? Has his muse led him in different directions? It’s hard to say. Frankly, though, who cares? Songs of Green Pheasant captures one beautiful moment in time, one that’s not going to easily be replicated. That we’re able to experience it makes the listening even more special.

--Joseph Kyle

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