By Wooden Peak
Anyone who's ever heard 'Dear Prudence' (and that's pretty much everyone, right?) knows the ethereal warmth that arpeggiation can lend to a tune. It's not the only trick used to conjure variety out of this album's central acoustic guitar lines, but it's a memorable one. However, inbetween lush exemplars, such as 'Skin & Bones' and album highlight 'Shark Song,' there is also some rather lightweight strumming. Generally workmanlike offerings such as 'Montagsmarchen' and the occasionally jazzy 'Von Drau?n' are, whilst technically proficient, the sort you might hear in the back room of a folkie boozer without making you think you'd unearthed the next Nick Drake or John Martyn.
What makes most of the tunes stand out, however, is the imagination of the arrangements. The keys, for instance, sound like they'd really rather have been a brass section. (If it weren't for the lack of any mention amongst the credits, I could easily have believed there to be the odd trumpet in the mix.) In addition we have swirling organs and a wide variety of percussive techniques. There are far more than mere drums used here for keeping time. And if you can decipher what on earth is scraping and bubbling its way through 'Great Farm' then you've done better than me. It's got more than a hint of Feedle's bedroom electronica about it, and is rather more unexpected in this setting.
The last five tracks all weigh in at 6+ minutes, and it is on offerings of this length that Wooden Peak's inventiveness takes them beyond the usual limitations of arranging for the acoustic guitar. Those brass-sounding keys drive the tunes towards crescendo, and even the world-weary vocal drawl (which elsewhere sounds as if recorded on an answering machine) drags itself to better things, even extending to harmonies on 'Mud Princess.' Occasionally brilliant album-closer 'Glockenneuigkeit' summarizes both the good and the bad as Donovan morphs into Hatfield and the North and back again. This album is unlikely to be a winner with either the purist or the unabashed seeker of the perverse, but it cannot criticised for a paucity of ideas.