Steve Warner – self-titled (reissue)

Steve Warner - self-titled (reissue)

Steve Warner – self-titled (reissue)

Having pretty much cornered the archivist gold-panning market in the closing months of 2015, Earth Recordings opens this year with another carefully-repackaged gleaming nugget. Digging around in the same Australian cultural heritage backwaters as the better-known Howard Eynon (whose equally rare lone 1974 LP was reissued on Earth in late-2014), this sole album from Steve Warner has ‘lost gem’ cut into its every vinyl groove. Originally brought from the cradle of the studio in 1976 to an eventual release in 1979 via Australia’s obscure Candle label, this eponymous LP is a tribute to capturing home-spun intimacy and understated yet determined craftsmanship in a low-budget recording scenario.

With Warner meticulously self-layering-up guitars, bass, flute, synths, piano and pared-back percussion alongside his warm delicate tones – with the able production assistance of Howard Eynon cohort Nick Armstrong at Tasmania’s Spectangle Studios – the album veers between romantic balminess, numinous atmospherics and gentile humour over a sagely sequenced baker’s dozen set of songs and instrumentals.

Across the opening triumvirate of tracks Warner openly acknowledges his initially most obvious influences: with the gorgeous piano-dappled and synth-warmed “Summer” nodding to Richard Wright’s most blissful leading moments with pre-Dark Side Of The Moon Pink Floyd; the mercurial campfire acid-hippiedom of “Hey, Hosanna” cross-referencing the underrated invention of Unicorn-era Tyrannosaurus Rex; and “Lightning Over The Meadow” unfurling like one of Howard Eynon’s least zany Donovan-in-the-outback reveries. After this lambent opening trilogy, the long-player takes a substantial but subtle left-turn into a sequence of instrumentals that round out the first vinyl side. Hence, we’re treated to the electro-acoustic barroom-blues of “A Boogie”; the synth-soaked baroque of “Rainfall”; and the jaunty ragtime of “Charlton” with its wry woodpecker-percussion and florid acoustic six-string shuffling.

Steve Warner - self-tilted (vinyl edition unpacked)

Steve Warner – self-titled (vinyl edition unpacked)

On the second side, proceedings recommence with the more pensive yet still inviting dark radiance of the lovelorn piano-and-synth framed ballad “We’ll Go On”; the lush folk shimmy of “Poems In Your Eyes” (which again borrows from prime-time Tyrannosaurus Rex); and the Wee Tam And The Big Huge-meets-The Madcap Laughs lysergic pastoralism of the serene “Fireflies”. After this three-song segue, another trio of wordless essays draws the collection towards its finale; in the shape of the neo-classical piano piece “Momento”, the John Fahey-flecked rustic meditation of “Untitled” and the brisk piano strutting “Crisp Morning”. The album closes with the perhaps its most unquestionably lovely song, the dreamy “Cement River” – a naked yet oblique paean to Warner’s then-and-possibly-still-other-half.

Although to some this one-off Steve Warner long-player might feel like an indulgent period relic, to those converted by repeated listening – like this writer – the record feel like a redemptive hermetically-sealed pocket of loveliness that was just waiting to be newly uncovered by those who needed it to hug their ears closely.

Earth Recordings