By Ella Guru
Key words. Exquisite. Pastoral. Oceanic. Delicate. Tender. Mellifluous. Treasured. Arboreal. Confiding. Subtle. Beautiful. Whimsical. Happy.
Liverpool's Ella Guru are a very good time music group with a history of at least eight simultaneous members. John Yates and Kate Walsh share vocals. Scott Marmion plays a sympathetically thrilling pedal steel guitar. Everyone else, including a couple of bass players, add to the riches. On this CD they are miniaturist, gentle, and quiet. Especially in "on the boat" and "on a beach". But they can get bouncier, as in "struggling horse in hollywood" which hops along like um cha um cha um cha um cha ... and launches into an extensive playground tune that sticks like a price label in Crash.
Instrumentation is subtle and adventurous. Soulful harmonica blends magically with pedal steel, single guitar notes touch into the melody, a rich phrase of low register clarinet comes and goes. Semi-acoustic guitar is a feature. Three distinct songs stand up with their own strengths and moods. They have that intelligent ambiguity that leaves space for the listener's own experience to fill in the detail. They tuck the lyrics carefully down into the full musical expression so they don't poke your ear or disturb your natural love of the language. "use up my time, my time here is wasted/ steal all my thoughts of what I have tasted" is gentle, persuasive stuff. It's a listener's record for sure. "Alt.country" you might mutter, thinking along Mark Linkous lines, especially as the whispered vocal burrs in to start "on the boat". But Kate's second vocal line is much more than a country backing singer. She sings with warmth, integrity and musical maturity. I get a strong feeling of a group of equals making adult music together, not at all the tortured genius making his own records with hired hands to supply the notes.
So this months very special CD, on Banana Recordings, in it's wholemeal card sleeve with tiny print is "3 songs from Liverpool". It has already been played continuously for several hours in our house.