Theres a certain imagery associated with the any writings about the Old Gods. Folklore often combines with human appetites in vast, textured stories that take you down imagery laden paths – and often, the road less travelled is most rewarding. This is the horizon we find ourselves upon beginning the latest from musical maverick Comrade Hat. A multi instrumentalist whose background lies as much in jazz as it does acoustic folk, his second album Old Gods, Vol. 1 is an experimental leap into the fringes of jazzy electronica, dreamy folk and alternative pop. And in these snow globe tracks, Comrade adds a light carpet of humanity into his sonic landscapes. With equally smooth vocals and compositions Old Gods, Vol.1 has the structure, depth and urgency to take you wherever you want to go.
And much like the stories of old, songwriter Neil Burns won’t relegate himself to one central theme. Instead he acts as a yggdrasill between tracks, a conduit from which an emotive, shifting landscape moves through, from pen to instrument. A talented lyricist, Burns flexs his chops on the likes of the subtle, summery ‘Whatever You Do’ and the shimmering prog-pop of ‘Historicity’. A world builder in his imagery, the tracks on Old Gods seem almost procedurally generated – flowing easily into each other despite sharp zags in composition in a way thats reminiscent of electronic producer Daithí. Whether or not hes an inspiration, the others are clear. Single ‘Deep Sleep’ could be a cut from Jackals-era ‘Villagers’ with its expansive lo-fi folk arrangements, whereas the underlying off-kilter time signature that raises its head throughout the album drips of 80’s deconstructed pop acts Talk Talk.
And although he’s the main act, Burns’ is unafraid to let his contributors shine. Glowing backing vocals provide life and energy throughout the record and stop it from sinking into a dreamy meander. We’re often kept guessing, as established folkish truths are pulled asunder at the last second – opening track ‘Mourning Is Broken’ flits between an Elliot Smith style finger picking to an americana soundscape and ends on a chamber-psych wall of sound without breaking stride. It’s in these unpredictable moments that Burn’s shines, like a psychedelic ring master in a circus of oddities. And while theres some hedonistic indulgence – Summer Of Glove sits at over 7 minutes – theres never a moment where you’re not being wooed or drawn in some way through Comrade’s vibrant miasma. An excellent return to long form.