Candles – self-titled

Candles – self-titled

Having first appeared under the duo umbrella of Candles on a cassette/download EP in 2012, through the fleetingly fecund Critical Heights label, it’s taken some painstaking piecemeal work for Owen Tromans (ex-San Lorenzo and long-running solo troubadour) and James Nicholls (one-half of elusive psych-folk outfit Savaging Spires) to chisel this full-length release into shape and deliver it to the record-buying realms.  In fact, the twosome have also gone to the trouble of inaugurating the low-key Weird Walk imprint (with accomplished sleeve-designer Alex Hornsby) to give their debut long-player a more aesthetically-fitting home.

The belatedly-birthed eponymous 100-only vinyl LP captures both Tromans and Nicholls pushing each other out of their comfort zones, with some riveting results.

With Tromans providing the voice-and-acoustic-guitar-led core compositions and Nicholls taking hands-on control of production and integral studio manipulations, this eight-track self-titled set finds the former entering looser and less narrative-driven lyrical terrain and the latter allowing more melodic grounding into his usually more open-ended arrangements with Savaging Spires.  Sonically mirroring the imagery of the uprooted tree on its sleeve the concise collection conjures and sustains an inverted atmospheric mood, without becoming overbearing its length or verbosity.

There are certainly positive comparisons to be made across the album with other free-ranging British bucolic travellers; like Unicorn-era Tyrannosaurus Rex (on the ragged yet intricate “Two Roses”); solo-years Syd Barrett (for the fragmented spookiness of “Tidal Talker” and “Empty House Wandering”); The Incredible String Band (with the wiry buzzy “Variations”); and early-James Yorkston (within the standout radiance of the “Mountains Call”).  But there are also inhalations from the Americana-meets-avant-folk world inhabited by Six Organs Of Admittance (“Mexico City”) and Wooden Wand (“Sleepstone”) as well as nods to the frayed dark fragility of Australia’s Lower Plenty (“Stone/Water”).

Whilst such choice cross-referencing might suggest that Candles is a pure fanboy cherry-picking exercise, the twosome cook-up something together here that dexterously transcends the mutual and separate influences mixed into the melting pot.  Certainly, the greater warmth and roominess that Tromans brings to his vocals and the oblique spaciousness established by Nicholls has an alchemic combination than the authors can call their own.  A charming, understated and inventive diversion all told.

Weird Walk