Various Artists – Avocet Revisited EP

Various Artists – Avocet Revisited EP

Given the ceaseless archival patronage that London’s Earth Recordings has given to the back catalogue of the late Bert Jansch, it was perhaps only a matter of time before the label branched-out into a compiling a tribute collection of some stripe.  It might have seemed logical – although more logistically complex – to round-up a gargantuan covers compendium on par with the imprint’s acclaimed 2015 Shirley Inspired set. Yet, this four-track EP follows a far more lateral approach through tasking its contributors to compose original material directly influenced by the spirit of arguably Jansch’s most adventurous cult creation, 1978’s vocal-free ornithologically-themed Avocet album.

Whilst this niche venture is perhaps at risk of appealing to neither Jansch purists nor fans of the gathered artists it does function satisfyingly enough as a pocket of bucolic birdwatching balminess in its own right.  With each cut supposedly in honour of feathered friends not covered under the original Avocet tracklist, the conceptual remit yields some subtle pleasures.

The opening and sole vocal-led offering “Fulmar”, from Edwyn Collins and Carwyn Ellis, is certainly the biggest and most accessible draw, with the former’s warming Scottish brogue eulogising the essence of Jansch’s most solitary staring-at-the-sky moments and the latter adding bare yet congenial accompaniment.  The ensuing wordless “Curlew” from Modern Studies – one of Fire Records’ newest signings – is contrastingly less memorable but its combination of bird-song field recordings, deep probing strings and nimble guitar-picking nods nicely to Jansch’s more avant-garde leanings within Avocet.

Perhaps stronger though is “Goosander” from veteran Celtic-folk journeyman Alasdair Roberts.  Carrying-over some of the invention of his still fairly fresh collaborative and twitcher-friendly Plaint Of Lapwing LP with James Green, Roberts ploughs an instrumental furrow full of woody bluesy-to-madrigal-like guitars and curling churchy organs that recall the most atmospheric avenues of The Incredible String Band.  Bringing up the rear is the rousingly gorgeous “Golden Plover” from increasingly reliable psych-pastoralists Trembling Bells.  Propelled primarily by stirring Dave Swarbick-like fiddle lines and interspersed with distant ensemble ululations, trilling keyboards and Richard Thompson-aping fretwork, this fine finale piece could be a studio warm-up outtake from Fairport Convention’s lionised Liege & Lief or fêted Full House.

All in all, whilst it won’t command the acclaim and attention of the aforementioned Shirley Inspired triple-LP, Avocet Revisited is a genuinely affectionate and affecting homage to the still much-missed Bert Jansch.

Earth Recordings