Ten Songs is undoubtedly a psychedelic album. But as far as psychedelia goes, it’s more Edward Lear than Timothy Leary. It is decidedly English and ostensibly gentle, dabbling in the music box Victoriana of Syd Barrett, the Beatles’ Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite and Lewis Carroll’s stories. Images of maypoles, mysterious boxes and trips to the seaside abound. But it is more than just a loving, Dukes Of Stratosphear-style homage to a lost period of British music. Textured cocoons of synth, outré time signatures and layered guitars abound, providing a knowing post-rock framework to the otherwise wide-eyed, delicately-wrought tunes.
David A. Jaycock’s fifth full-length release, Ten Songs is a tighter, more focused affair than some of his earlier work. It has less of a patchwork effect than 2007’s The Coleopterous Cuckoos Collude, for example, and relies less on multi-genre pilfering and more on musical cohesiveness. Opener Dancing On Graves employs off-kilter chord changes while Ghosts And Gold operates on similar terrain to Kevin Ayers’ Lady Rachel, both lyrically and in the dreamy, detached production.
Space-age synths and fairground tinkles envelope Decanting Sand, taking over from the John Fahey-inspired acoustic guitar that is the bedrock of the album. Cardboard Boxes is the apotheosis of a lyrical obsession with things that are hidden or concealed. At other points, Jaycock’s songwriting is more oblique. Dozen Mizzen’s power comes from its recollection of childhood through an inventory of distinct objects and places – deadly nightshade, toys in pockets, air raid shelters. The result is oddly dark. Brighton In Sunshine has a similarly uncanny effect.
There is also a distinctly folky edge. As a member of the Big Eyes Family Players Jaycock has previously worked with James Yorkston, and the influence shows on songs like Tangles (which employs the banjo of Andy Preston) and Wolverine Returns. Yorkston has described Ten Songs as the best album of the year so far, and it would foolish not to listen to him. Jaycock has crafted an album that is eerie, eclectic and often beautiful. It deserves to bring him wider acclaim.
Review by: Thomas Blake