It’s hard not to have a soft spot for any record series whose releases tout themselves as ‘low fidelity recordings’. But beneath the self-styled shabbiness, there’s a lot of care taken over the entries of the Song, by Toad Split 12″ series: note, for starters, that its first instalment was still awaiting release even as recordings for this one began back in March 2015.
Mind that the ‘low fidelity’ tag could well apply to Side B-opener The Place You Hid – albeit in a different sense than advertised. The track comes courtesy of Aberdonian Alan Davidson, aka Kitchen Cynics: a prolific artist with well over 100 albums to his credit, including those of the year-long A Tune-a-Day project (which did exactly what it said on the tin). Despite perhaps being the least essential artist of the lot, the casually epic ending to Venus on a Buckie proves that, if nothing else, Davidson decidedly remains Master of the Fuzzy Fadeout.
It’s difficult to listen to Willard Grant Conspiracy’s tracks separate from the knowledge that they constitute some of the late Robert Fisher’s final recordings. The softly-spoken desperation of Love You Apart seems tangentially connected with the bitterness of The Place You Hid, both reflecting the grimmer aspects of affection. But it’s instrumental track Light a Candle which is far and away the real testament to Fisher’s legacy: a gorgeous duet for fiddle and cello which comes out sounding (to paraphrase Amadeus) like a mix between a rusty squeezebox and the voice of God.
Micah P Hinson’s ragged-edged, gravel-voiced variety of Americana belies his then-34 years, even as he provides fresh-sounding takes of Phil Ochs’ oft-covered Changes and evergreen hymn (Leaning on the) Everlasting Arms. Spaceman, the sole Hinson original, is a gorgeously tender variation on Starman, gracefully upping Bowie’s ante on one man’s potential affections for an interstellar traveller.
For me, though, the real revelation of this release is Tissø Lake, a group I’d previously seen live but subsequently felt little inclination towards. Clock that up to having not realised the delicate quality in their sound, so brilliantly preserved in a carefully-crafted studio recording. It’s a sound best experienced without distraction, and in one’s own time – which, thanks to the kind folk of Song, by Toad, you can do right now, via our exclusive preview of When Work Is Done.
And don’t let the publicity fool you – this is high-fidelity stuff by anyone’s standards.
Song, by Toad Split 12″ Vol 6 is out on Friday 24th March.