Owen Tromans – For Haden EP

Owen Tromans - For Haden EP

Owen Tromans – For Haden EP

If 2011’s excellent Eternal Western Youth Dream anthology set on Critical Heights proved anything about the first decade of Owen Tromans’ post-San Lorenzo solo journey, then it was that his lust for everything from skeletal singer-songwriter folk to uninhibited noise-rock has been consistently shot through with an infectious sincere zeal, even if his sometimes bigger and more conceptual ideas haven’t always been fully realised.  However, at the start of his second solo decade it seems that Tromans is finding refreshed ways to accommodate his grander artistic ambitions within his eclectic and evolving sonic palette, with greater finesse and a deeper collaborative ethos gluing it all together.

This refinement process appears to have come from both the focus on short-form releases and from allowing some carefully selected associates to open up and enhance the Tromans muse to even more endearing effect.  Hence, in recent times Joe Bennett of The Dreaming Spires helped to deliver a soaring half of a must-have split single with Wooden Wand and occasional Critical Heights labelmates Savaging Spires managed to surround his most bucolic side in warming acid-folk framings with the Candles cassette EP.  Here now with the newly-cut For Haden EP, multi-instrumentalist Bennett reappears – along with guest drummers Ben Perry and Jamie Dawson – to assist Tromans in showcasing a condensed yet expansive suite of nostalgic ruminative songs.

The opulent opening “Greg” inaugurates the EP’s thematic evocations of Tromans’ formative years in The Black Country delightfully.  Featuring a lyrical homage to the now reclusive Greg Ackell of early-’90s noise-pop outfit Drop Nineteens – “Greg” is an acoustic Mark Kozelek-like romanticisation of lost youth beautifully adorned with a spine-tingling string arrangement.  For the more sinister and thematically detouring murder ballad “Bella In The Witch Elm,” Tromans recalls the eerie tale of an unsolved 1941 killing in the Worcestershire countryside, through the earthy conduits of rippling piano lines, spooked strings, meditative finger-picking and multi-layered vocals.  Turning to more urban realms, the languid “Trinity Records” stretches out a swelling gospel-slanted eulogy to the three deceased independent record shops of Tromans’ teenage years – some of which this writer also frequented in his early quests for music outside the mainstream.

Having subtly unfurled a more sprawling sound for “Trinity Records,” the aesthetics shift further into more plugged-in and wider vistas with the closing twosome of the eight-minute title-track and the more compact “Count The Lights.”  For the former cut, Tromans pays direct tribute to the area he grew up in whilst coiling and uncoiling electric six-string-led passages that recall Red House Painters’ more stretched-out 4AD-era wares updated with Arbouretum’s yearning gravitas.  Slightly more gripping is the ensuing “Count The Lights,” which closes proceedings with Crazy Horse-meets-Sonic Youth riffing and chugging, without jarring with the rest of the EP’s slow-build flow.

It’s certainly encouraging that this long into a low-key musical existence Tromans still has the tenacity to keep moving into different avenues whilst staying true to his core belief systems.  Whilst many others might have wound things up due to the domestic and economic pressures derived from working so long via largely DIY operations, it seems that Owen Tromans thrives on the creative freedom such set-ups bring.  Ultimately then, For Haden feels like the continuation of a new engrossing chapter that deserves to be read more widely.

Sacred Geometry