Thirteen Lost & Found is the second album by ex El Hombre Trajeado guitarist RM Hubbert (also known as ‘Hubby’). It’s produced by Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos and features collaborations with a baker’s dozen of friends and assorted Scottish musical royalty, including Arab Strap’s Aidan Moffat and The Delgados’ Emma Pollock; Kapranos himself guests on a couple of tracks. It certainly gives the impression that Hubby and his Chemikal Underground stable-mates are the beating heart of a vibrant Glasgow music scene.
Lots of collaborators means lots of different flavours, but the glue holding it all together is Hubby’s powerful guitar playing and songwriting. Some of the tracks are very arranged and considered, others suggest more spontaneous and jam sessiony origins. The stand-out track for me is ‘Sunbeam Melts The Hour’, with Marion Kenny on guzheng (Chinese zither) and vocals by Hanna Tuulikki from Two Wings. Beginning with the doleful and mysterious sound of the guzheng, it blossoms into a soaring vocal melody; Tuulikki harmonises with herself beautifully, and Hubby’s cascading rhythm playing is a real treat.
It’s worth noting that RM Hubbert is the kind of guitarist who’s pretty serious about pumping nylon and refuses to have the instrument relegated to jingly-jangly strum-along purgatory. He appears to take his cues from the flamenco tradition and Brazilian nylon-string players such as Baden Powell De Aquino. Featuring interesting and sometimes minimalist arrangements, his playing is peppered with the dramatic slides and arpeggios found in flamenco, as well as other flamenco techniques such as the ‘rasgueado’ (a kind of percussive rolling strumming pattern) and ‘tremolo’ (when one note is repeated very rapidly). We also hear ‘golpes’, or rhythmic finger taps on the body of the guitar, a technique which wasn’t invented by he-of-the-ginger-dreadlocks Newton Faulkner but is in fact an intrinsic part of the flamenco guitar style.
When these flamenco and South American stylings are combined with unexpected instruments such as the banjo, vibraphone and fiddle it produces some surprising results. On ‘Half Light’ the combination of guitar and fiddle is magical, and Emma Pollock provides a particularly haunting and unusual vocal arrangement. As on ‘Half Light’, many of the tracks have a lovely spontaneity and warmth – it just sounds as though Hubby’s having fun with friends.
Perhaps that’s why Hubbert claims that Thirteen Lost & Found is “a little bit cheerier” than his first album, First & Last. However, the pervasive mood is still dreamy and a little melancholy, with a a touch of Brazilian saudade thrown in for good measure. It’s an album of pretty and sincere musicianship from start to finish, and I’d venture that there are at least a couple of moments that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Well worth 40 minutes of your life.
Review by David Price
Sunbeam Melts the Hour (with Marion Kenny & Hanna Tuulikki)
Bands In Transit Glasgow Special
Solo show supporting Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat:
Friday 30th March The Grand Social, Dublin
Saturday 31st March Queens Social, Sheffield
Sunday 1st April Glee Club, Nottingham
Monday 2nd April The Sage, Gateshead
Tuesday 3rd April Brudenell, Leeds
Wednesday 4th April The Duchess, York
In France with Papier Tigre:
April 6th – L’Excuse, Caen (with Papier Tigre)
April 7th – Point Ephèmere, Paris (with Papier Tigre)
April 8th – Accueil Froid, Amiens (with Papier Tigre)
More UK Dates
May 2nd – Gallery Cafe Chapel, London
May 3rd – Portland Arms, Cambridge
May 4th – Chameleon, Nottingham (with Papier Tigre & Canteloupe)
May 5th – Night & Day, Manchester (with Papier Tigre & Canteloupe)
May 8th – Mello Mello, Liverpool (with Papier Tigre)
May 12th – Holy Smokes Festival, Derby
Thirteen Lost & Found is released on Chemikal Underground Records (30 Jan 2012)
Photo Credit: Luke Joyce Photograph