There is something enigmatic about Cove Hithe. They hail from the gently wild Suffolk coast, and take their name from the hamlet of Covehithe, a tiny settlement mentioned in WG Sebald’s wonderful, elliptical book The Rings of Saturn. It is a condemned place, doomed to succumb to coastal erosion within a hundred years. A place on the edge of being, about to capitulate to the slow inexorable violence of nature. And somehow Cove Hithe’s music, consciously or otherwise, manages to reflect this, whilst still managing to keep one foot firmly in the present day.
Your Ground is My Earth is described by the band as an MP or medium player – not quite an album but too long for an EP. Instrumental opener Slow Life plays with the themes of travel – or possibly escape – with samples of engine sounds and moving trains deployed against a deliberate, unchanging three note sequence that hints at dream pop. When The Rain Dries Up has minimal musical backing, relying instead on doubled-up, echoey vocals for its atmospheric, slow-burning country, augmented once again by field recordings. Comma Coma is a brisk, handclap-led song with an interesting arrangement of clever backing vocals.
The splashing of water permeates I Was Wrong, a gentle, personal acoustic folk song characterised by judicious use of percussion and melancholic strings, while the brief Spoke avoids being a mere interlude, its church bell intro drawing an eerie, almost gothic picture of rural Suffolk. How Wild the Wind Blows is a cover of a song by Molly Drake (Nick’s mum). Whereas the original comes across like the missing link between Erik Satie and Vashti Bunyan, Cove Hithe’s version is at once darker and more breathless, whilst retaining the song’s elemental, almost Buddhist philosophical vision.
The sound of the sea is almost ever-present on this record, and nowhere is it more evident than Unsea, an ambiguous, emotional paean to place and belonging. Its tidal rise and fall template and building martial drum beat almost take it, for a short period, into post-rock territory (albeit a very muted, acoustic variety of post rock). Somewhere I Don’t Belong is the most straight-up narrative folk song here. Its typically atmospheric vocals – the subtle female harmonies coming to the fore – are accompanied by Paul Simon-like acoustic guitar. Lyrically and thematically though it chimes with the rest of the record, conveying a sense of place – and in this case a wish for a place – with quiet, uncertain longing. And like the rest of the record it occupies a beguiling hinterland: the unclaimed areas between sea and land, modernity and ancientness, waking and dreaming.
Review by: Thomas Blake