Leeds Music Scene

The First Xi by The Trophy Cabinet

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Reviewed on 1st June 2001.

 
 

The First Xi

By The Trophy Cabinet

The Colour Blind James Experience, Robyn Hitchcock, Lloyd Cole, New Order, Edwyn Collins, Blue Nile, Yo La Tengo, Sin Ropas, Cosmic Rough Riders, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci. The Trophy Cabinet.

I first heard this on a TDK Type 1 budget cassette tape with a hand smudged index card and no fi sound quality and I knew it was the best collection of unsigned band stuff I had ever heard. It is just wonderful. A mysterious trail involving fallen telephone lines and silent email led me to North Rigton and a one-off CD materialised. It's still lo fi, but it's wonderful.

There's a mature consistency - real songs with dark threads of melancholy accented with keyboard orchestration and very tasty guitar, bass and percussion. Each of the eleven tracks is a perfect world where every little noise is welcome and nothing is overworked. Beautiful tunes are used to fill in spaces between great tunes. Riffs that would change another band's whole musical world are scattered as if the band have a whole shed full out in the yard. Hey, take them! There's plenty more!

James Fewtrell is the responsible adult. The recordings are the well developed and finely executed sketches for a band that is rehearsing and plotting at this very moment. I've ordered my tickets.

What do the songs sound like? There's a confiding voice that does light and dark with assurance. There are rich acoustic guitars. There's an artfully naive synth that plays great lines in voices that ring in your hidden places with notes that stir it up like Dvorak. There are racks of electric guitar sounds that chug, jangle and pull your hair out. Some slide guitar from another planet. The drumming/percussion is as dry and mesmeric as you like (some of it is programmed, some sounds real it's hard to tell how much). The bass does pulsating physical work like it was playing itself at night all alone with the tapes running. I can hear something Spanish. There's a choir of friends out in the garden somewhere drinking beer and smiling at women. They do flamenco in between takes and I bet they eat ciabatta with olives. They hate Big Brother. They're embarrassed by its stupidity. They stand around an acoustic bass wondering which colour scarves to wear. They don't care if the tempo slides around. That's what tempi are for, and they know what the plural is.

I keep playing it. The sequence is one of those perfect mood pools that takes you right along to the end, getting more and more wrapped up and more and more rapt. The central song "It's a business", at track six is heartbreaking, fragile and delicious. Its simple structure gradually gets swamped with a haunting string tune that reduces the opposition to grateful thanks.

This is my CD for the summer. If this is Leeds Music Scene, then we've all died and gone to heaven. The Trophy Cabinet's First XI is a classic of very cult proportions. Bloody hell! There's a female voice there too. Or is it a disguised falsetto? There's a gondola floating by with a librarian playing a mandolin. There's an oboe. There's all the magic that one talented musician can make with the dark arts of time, patience and a love of intelligently quirky popular music.

It's a work of genius. Send him suitcases of money now and put his music on the NHS. The eleven tracks flow past like a perfect day. If you don't love this instantly you are an ironing board. Or maybe just very young. The Trophy Cabinet. James Fewtrell. Don't forget.

 

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