The Taxidermist is the fourth full-length album from Thirty Pounds of Bone, the nom de plume of Shetland born multi-instrumentalist Johny Lamb. It marks a departure from its predecessor in being an entirely one-man show with Lamb playing everything, recorded live (with no overdubs or edits) in a cellar in West Cornwall. It’s a carefully layered take on the dark folk for which he’s known, but also ventures into shoegaze distortion with big guitars set against more acoustic moments, the textures burnished with analogue synths and colliery band brass. While the title might not suggest it (apparently he opted for it after recognising parallels between taxidermy and recording), it’s actually a wistfully romantic set, a sensibility clearly evidenced on things like the slow waltzing As You Held Me (“nobody loves you as much as I said I did”) with its wheezing organ, banjo and brushed snare, the brass and guitars swelling Ribbon and the melancholic regret of album closer, I’ll Go Too, which builds from simple acoustic guitar to a cacophonous storm of brass and synths distortion.
It’s not all about matters of the heart, the multi-tracked vocals and electronics of When I’m Gone wrap themselves around a dreamy meditation on mortality, the fuzz washed All Your Sons soars on anthemic clouds as he sings of regret and resentment, The Expelled deals with revenge to droning synths and grunge guitar distortion, Pasganger, or The Wagon is an alt-folk/rock tale of robbery drenched in sonic maelstroms and lines about being ‘fucked over’.
While these dense soundscapes do carry a euphoric feel, I confess I’m most taken with the simpler numbers, the Two Birds in the Brine with its spare folksy mandolin and drone, the stark banjo Appalachian colours of Your Walk and the marvelous slow pulsing album opener, The Glass Of An Iris with its banjo, guitar and warm, melancholic brass and evocative lines like “pushing the clay into your eyelid” and “I spent time on your skin” which clearly seem to directly relate to the album title. There are those who might say Lamb is too rarefied to find an audience beyond a niche market. This album says stuff that.
Review by: Mike Davies
Out Now via Armellodie Records
Available via Bandcamp