Robin Saville – Public Flowers

Robin Saville - Public Flowers

Robin Saville – Public Flowers

Since forming ISAN with Antony Ryan in 1996, Robin Saville has forged a esoteric path in European electronica that has embraced technology – both retro and modern – to deliver an extensive body of work that is notable for its intimacy, intelligence, invention and playfulness.  With 2008’s debut solo album Peasgood Nonsuch – on the loveable Static Caravan label – Saville began to extend his sonic reach further, with a collection that added more prominent acoustic components, gauzy Cocteau Twins-like layering and more overtly melodic directions to an already rich personal palette.  Now, some six or so years on, Saville returns for the second time under his own name, with a long-player for the almost made-to-measure Second Language label.

Clearly from the outset the long-haul to a solo sequel has been worth it.  Expanding on the bucolic landscaping of Peasgood Nonsuch, with greater electro-acoustic crossbreeding yet no jarring genre-switching, Public Flowers feels like one of the most rounded and cohesive releases of Saville’s career to date.  Whereas ISAN wares have often best been consumed in short concentrated bursts of high-quality singles, EPs and compilation appearances, Saville has found a consistent flow here that makes for a varied but complete piece of work.

The opening “Bryophite Society Annual Picnic” is worth the admission price alone.  Pensively unfurling warm Brokeback bass-lines, faintly chattering programmed drums, glistening synths, chiming elemental percussion and outdoor found sounds, it pretty much distils Saville’s creative essence into one elegiac eight-minute micro-epic.  In its wake, the brief ghost-in-the-machine interlude of “A Brief Message From Our Ancestors” plays a heartfelt homage to Cluster’s more serene moments before the wonderfully watery burbling and shimmering of “In Konik Mokkin” unpeels as the most ISAN-shaped moment within the whole LP.  For “The Long Walk From Sallowes Church” Saville stretches out another lengthy statement, filled with real-life twittering, minimalistic Steve Reich styled repetitions and early-Ellis Island Sound electro exotica.

Across the second half of the album, Saville’s artistic self-expansion is even more marked and equally as enthralling.  Two ghostly piano instrumentals – the creakily lo-fi “Hilary And Dave’s Piano #1” and the more otherworldly “Hilary And Dave’s Piano #2” – deliberately showcase the less-technological side of Saville’s solo persona.  In-between the two piano-led pieces, “Nutmeg Saba Cinnamon” unexpectedly samples and reframes the flute-infused “Girl With Orange Umbrella” (originally by now labelmates littlebow) with waves of manipulated digital and analogue percussion.   Towards the end of the album, the tongue-twistingly titled “All Who Are Not On The Rock Are In The Sea” finds lapping coastal field recordings being folded into gentile gamelan beds of percussion, fleeting motorik pulses and Eno-indebted ambient textures.  At the record’s end comes the gorgeous “A Fail All Girl,” on a soothing wash of synths, arcane accordion, balmy wordless vocals and more interlaced percussion, leaving the ears calmed with a satisfying sense of closure.

Whilst the largely welcome bonus disc of remixes – horticulturally-entitled Hybrids – may more closely connect to the ISAN canon, ultimately Public Flowers functions most delightfully as a standalone affair that captures Robin Saville’s cumulatively seeded talents in full bloom.

Second Language


  1. Robin’s work is a pure delight. I’ll be measuring the rest of 2014’s releases against this.