This is a review of "Know and Love" recorded by Last Night's TV. The review was written by Sam Saunders in 2001.
A well presented 3-track CD with evocative picture sleeve (good photo by Susan Porteous) from Spencer Bayles (vocals and guitars and songs), Owen Marriott (percussion and recording) and Sarah Jones (violin).
This is as minimalist as it gets. A quiet wistful mood moves imperceptibly through the 13 and a half minutes of running time. Voices are not raised. Chords are not struck. Notes are not torn. Melodies keep close to the keynote and decoration is a violin playing long bowed notes in step with softly spoken acoustic guitar chords. Percussion is a light tapping on various hand held instruments. Words present no discernible images and no unexpected twists. Very abstract. An additional guitar line or a vocal harmony provide the lightest of crescendos. Quiet is definitely the new loud. No risks; except the risk of not being heard at all.
It is very compelling. The tunes could be carried off and used again. There is no accidental yodelling around the chords here. These are real songs. The voice is personal and confiding. The stroked guitar style has the same caressing effect. The percussion is humbly at work in the service of the mood of the song and nothing else. The violin doesn't intrude. It just comes in when the meagre accompaniment is not providing enough daylight to hear by. It goes off on no expeditions of its own.
Know and Love is first. Some quiet chords veering off towards the minor. A bit of hand drumming, seven plain notes in eight seconds on a second guitar. Then "Experience doesn't make you good." ... "Let us find each other." ... "Say things to make it better". It shouldn't add up to anything. There's next to nothing there. But it works a treat.
"Waiting for her call" has the same ingredients, cooked at the same temperature. But the percussion is a gentle rattle, and the second guitar has a deeper resonance. Like a different kind of white, the difference is subtle but clear. Same mood, same ambience. "Is there a reason why I should be waiting?" The song could be stolen by any genre. There are bags of space for expression and embellishment. The beauty of this stuff is in letting your own music drift into the mix.
"Fall from the Sky" does Last Night's TV's version of dramatic by having a low sustained violin note come in very early. But don't go expecting an explosion. These people could become friends. They would wipe their feet on the way in and not disturb the cat, never mind the neighbours. But they are very determined, very coherent and they make no concessions. Soft and gentle to the ear but there's no syrup and no wimpishness. They use dynamic tension and harmony and rhythm and texture and the whole deal. But they do it with extreme restraint. I'm impatient for them to get more ambitious. I want to hear more tones and timbres from those softly played instruments. I want the rather slow and unsteady violin to rip it up a bit. I want to hear the deepest noises that a guitar can make. I want the voice to do something guttural. But that's just me missing the point. It's a very fine CD. Buy it and play it around the house. People will chill out before they know what's happening.