Lux Harmonium – Luke Jones to his friends – makes beguiling folk songs that at times sound like the scores of cult 1970s films: think The Wicker Man if it were set in Devon. One half of a limited edition seven-inch on Static Caravan (the Wigan label that has had Tunng, Darren Hayman and Serafina Steer on its roster), Peggy Come Home drifts pleasantly along on a natty little acoustic guitar refrain, with lyrics that have enough ambiguity and old-world weirdness to keep things interesting. Soap And Silk continues in a similar vein, although the story it tells has a much more contemporary feel. The vocal-led sound is something of a departure for Jones, whose previous work has tended towards deceptively simple acoustic guitar instrumentals.
This direction is continued in the album, XVI.I, which is released in conjunction with the 7″ single (artwork main image). Shady Lane’s lovely, loose electric guitar sound and female backing vocals give it a 1970s folk-rock feel, with a warmth in the arrangement and production that recalls label-mates The Big Eyes Family Players. Vexated is jauntier; a pristine folk-pop gem.
Throughout the record, subtle harmonium drones appear and disappear, a counterpoint to Jones’s crisp vocals. The electronic instrumentation is unobtrusive. As with older material, the star of the show is the fingerpicked guitar. Jones has been compared to Bert Jansch. This is quite a claim, but is by no means a misplaced one.
There is a dreamlike feel to the whole record. Rather like the recent David A. Jaycock album (another Static Caravan release) the slightly off-kilter fairground simplicity of the melodies and the opacity of the lyrics are influenced by a very English, Victoriana-inflected form of psychedelia. The Mill Pond, for example, is almost like a pre-Raphaelite painting set to music, or a scene from an Arthur Machen story. Stars is sprawling but intimate, incorporating a complex three and a half minute guitar intro.
Static Caravan’s back catalogue is increasingly excellent, and these new recordings by Lux Harmonium are a welcome addition. At times sincere, at times slightly sinister, they recall the golden age of British psych-folk without ever losing their modern focus and precision.
Review by: Thomas Blake
Video: Peggy Come Home
Made by Paul Newton, Andy Haley, Luke Jones and Hannah Megee. Starring Jasmine and Dartmoor National Park! Track from VAN249 7″ Peggy Come Home/Soap and Silk
Album artwork by Hannah Megee