Richard Moult – Yclypt / Various Artists – End Of A Season

Although the release rate of Second Language’s subscription-led enterprise has slowed a little in pace during 2012 – perhaps partly to give larger-scale releases like Piano Magic’s Life Hasn’t Finished With Me Yet a little more room to reach out beyond core label aficionados there is certainly no drop in the care and attention that goes into each new musical product.  Certainly, these two simultaneously distributed CDs come with the recognisable stamp of 2L craftsmanship, inside and outside the usual bespoke packaging.

Richard Moult – Yclypt (Second Language, CD-only)

Richard Moult – Yclypt

First up is a new album from composer, painter and poet Richard Moult, the first ‘standalone’ artist to cut a second full-length for Second Language.  Following on from last year’s ultra-limited Celestial King For A Year, the decidedly uncompromising – from the title inwards – Yclypt represents the weightiest expression to date of 2L’s nurturing role for post-classical artists.  Written in The Cotswolds and recorded in a church in East Sussex, Yclypt finds Moult digging deep for inspiration in the desolate beauty of rural British landscapes. Performed by a five-piece string ensemble with Moult’s subtly added electronic elements, Yclypt will undoubtedly stretch the ears of even those in thrall to the most non-rock ends of the Constellation roster or the Dead Can Dance canon.  Accurate musical reference points are hard to nail down for those of us shamefully unfamiliar with the classical world.  However, in this case, ignorance is indeed bliss, as it avoids endlessly searching for distracting comparisons in something than can just exist in its own context, which Yclypt undoubtedly does.  Collectively the six tracks that make up the drone-heavy soundscapes of the long-player are remarkably immersive; part warming, part chilling, part claustrophobic and part open-ended.  Yclypt is a difficult and sometimes intimidating record for sure but the single-mindedness of Moult’s vision is hard not to admire if the listening mood is right.

Various Artists – End Of A Season: A Second Language Label Sampler (Second Language, CD-only)

Various Artists – End Of A Season: A Second Language Label Sampler

Supplied as a free bonus disc to Second Language subscribers with the above Richard Moult album and available separately at a budget price, End Of A Season is ostensibly billed as a sampler of the label’s most recently active artists.  Yet being a 2L compilation it’s far from being a lazy cherry-picking ‘best of’ selection.  Although it features extracts from some still fresh 2L releases, a fair proportion of the material on End Of A Season is previously unreleased and much will remain exclusive.  Moreover, it’s hard not to view this predominantly instrumental gathering as a thematic tribute to the end of summer and the passages of autumn, as well as a distillation of the label’s fixation for both plaintive pastoralism and painterly electronica.

From the opening doleful baroque scene-setter delivered by The Cloisters, through the chiming elegance of Memory Drawings, via the poetic folk balm of Mark Fry & The A Lords and to a Nick Drake-indebted piece from the still anonymity-guarding Tyneham House, the first half of End Of A Season broadly but covertly celebrates the rich distinctive seams of leafy ruralism that Second Language has championed since its beginnings.  The latter-half of the set is more divergent from this path and holds more exclusive nuggets.  Hence, Piano Magic’s wordless “St-Martin-in-the-Fields” bucks the band’s own downcast reputation by being a gorgeous uplifting pan-European folk-rock reverie; Klima’s “Kourouma” taps into the ambience of an empty Victorian music hall deserted by all but a solitary bittersweet-minded piano player; Glen Johnson and The Home Current’s This Mortal Coil-indebted atmospheric electronic pieces feed sympathetically into each other; and Áine O’Dwyer reaches into the most ghostly realms of ‘80s 4AD.  All in all, End Of A Season defiantly yet invitingly represents a large strand of the Second Language brand in possibly the label’s most seamless compilation so far.