Thanks to its house of twig-thin strings and stick-dry melodies, Seabuckthorn‘s A House With Too Much Fire has been set alight, sizzling in the grip of a volcanic, smoke-drenched fever.
In the past, Andy Cartwright’s music birthed sepia visions of an old America and her boundless prairies, but the music’s underlying upset was due to a gradual relinquishing of innocence. In 2018, the land’s nothing more than skeletal remains. The world hardened the land, and the land – along with the music – changed.
And so have the times. In recent years, the nation has gone south, but his smoke-shrouded guitar music has drifted east, passing like a silver cloud across the Atlantic, spanning a thousand miles and more, this time nestling itself within the ribcage of the Southern Alps and its leviathan, dinosaur-old mountains.
His guitar techniques have also evolved to incorporate bowing, fingerpicking, and slides, while other instruments (banjo, clarinet, synthesizer) help to pad out the ominous, dusty-folk music. The pluming smoke could represent the gradual-but-noticeable decline of a mighty nation and its threadbare flag of fading blues, or it may only be an underlying symptom of a larger epidemic, a forest fire which began in America before spreading to the plains of Europe.
A House With Too Much Fire is enveloped in its surroundings, but it also embraces the environment’s past, making it a throwback of sorts, but the grayscale is still ripe. The surprisingly meditative, tribal rhythm of “Inner” sits in the back seat while the guitar freely improvises, its melodies coiling like a hypnotized cobra around a series of swaying, chant-like thumps. The regular, repetitive rhythm lies in sharp contrast to the roaming guitar, feeling more like a morning raga.
“Disentangled” continues in the same vein as its reverb-threaded guitar lies on top of a dirt-dry soundscape. While this happens, the smoke rises, billowing out in a smoke-signal as far as the eye can see; the sound of burning in an isolated place, and an ending as things are thrown into the fire, never to return. The snapping, crackling twigs are engaged in a gentle, suicidal destruction as the house burns down, enveloped in a smoke indistinguishable from that of heavy London cloud.
It huffs, it puffs, and it blows the house in. It’s instinctual to fight or flee a raging fire, but you can’t if you’re already suffocating, collapsing. In a similar way, Seabuckthorn’s music is on the edge, in the second-long gap between safety and imminent, life-endangering threat.
One final note is played before it all blackens. A single spark is all it takes. (James Catchpole)