Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Creatures In the Garden of Lady Walton - The Clogs

The Creatures In the Garden Of Lady Walton

The Clogs
Brassland Records.

SCQ Rating: 83%

The Clogs aren’t an official group that, say, tours extensively and lives out of a beat-up van so much as a loose collective of powerhouse indie figures who assemble when schedules permit. To that point, their relatively unknown moniker is best dropped in favour of the people who make a record like The Creatures In the Garden Of Lady Walton‘s allure tangible: My Brightest Diamond songstress Shara Worden, Aaron Dessner and Matt Berninger of The National, Sufjan Stevens. Other bright eyes shimmer in this soft-leaf garden composed by songwriter Padma Newsome but such high-profile contributors should intrigue a healthy cross-section of indie-kids to this distinctive narrative of earthly hymns.

At least I hope they do. The implications of its title are not to be underestimated, as each arrangement creates a painterly setting for The Clogs’ considerable vocal talent to manifest. Into what? That’s unclear and mercifully so; stitched into the foliage of an impenetrable green, Berninger and Stevens embody breathless ideals which quiver like dew over nature’s eternal law (Berninger as time and Stevens as a choral of ghosts in the afterlife, if I had to stab coarsely in the dark). Only Worden identifies herself as the flesh and feathered songbird in ‘The Owl Of Love’, and that’s where The Creatures In the Garden of Lady Walton truly gets eccentric.

Worden’s range and timbre, while stunningly suited to these reflective scores, carries an opera-reminiscent quality/stigma that will distance some casual listeners. Any opportunities for mainstream appreciation lost due to Worden’s polarizing timbre are superficial compared to the ingenuity and authenticity she offers to …The Garden Of Lady Walton. ‘On the Edge’ is braver and purer because of her, whereas surrounding instrumental ‘I Used To Do’ or Newsome’s softer-sung ‘Red Seas’ lust sweetly in her absence. Through the graceful weaving of apexes and solemn valleys, The Creatures In the Garden Of Lady Walton deserves its classical allusions, as well as the devoted fans who’ll wander to this record with an open mind. It may end up a niche record but time should honour it as far more than a footnote for some of indie-rock’s leading artists.

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