The Black Feathers – Angel Dust & Cyanide
While the CD cover art resembles the possibility of music that’s similar to Dead Can Dance or latter-day Swans – the songs are actually of a lighter fare, designed to coax one’s ears rather than pull one in. This UK duo definitely has the Americana tonality in their lovely, well-suited voices.
But the tunes aren’t as dark as their song titles may suggest. The Wales-based duo of Ray Hughes & Sian Chandler has a convincing repertoire. On first listen & being older than most reviewers I hear not so much any UK-folk influences but at times a more UK-prominent vocalist on the cover of Portishead’s “Glory Box.” It finds Ms. Chandler wailing potently as Julie Driscoll Tippetts of Brian Auger’s Trinity had & was more rooted in UK-blues-jazz tradition (“Streetnoise” 1969). “Hurricane,” continues in this manner with Mr. Hughes singing in an Auger-restrained style that blends beautifully with Chandler’s voice.
The 41-minute, 11-cut Angel Dust & Cyanide (Dropped July 8– Independent) was produced by Owain Fleetwood Jenkins & the Black Feathers. There are indie rock sensibilities in the performances, but the showcase is never heavy-handed or bombastic. “Strangers In the Dark,” is weaved carefully by acoustic guitars – its vocalizing is pristine. The singing is not powerhouse-based but effectively emotional & expressive.
The upbeat “Golden Hour,” provides a sample of a more energetic style. Optimistic & well-arranged. Chandler’s voice shines. Amazing that no matter how well the musicians play it’s the vocalizing that is overwhelming, tasteful & intriguing.
Lovely piano & guitar on the title track & the interlocking vocals of Ray & Sian remind me of Lyme & Cybelle’s ingenious 1966 single “Follow Me.” Lyme is a young Warren Zevon.
The most intense numbers are “Barcelona,” which is beautiful & its coda “Nos Da.” Chilling. It’s as if Sarah McLachlan was singing a Strawbs song. It’s that good. The CD is well-conceived & while it won’t knock your socks off on any level there are plenty of fluid, ambitious & melodic songs in this set. Very satisfying. Nice, stitched lyric insert included.
Players: Sian (vocals), Ray (vocals/guitar/Hammond/piano/synth), Jack Beddis (drums/percussion), Hugh Richardson (bass/piano/string arrangements), Dan Moore (Hammond/piano/synths), Will McFarlane (guitars), Jay Stapley (electric guitar), Nigel Gardner (electric guitar), Phillip Henry (dobro), Chris Lynch, Gwenllian MacDonald, Christiana Mavron (violins), Lucy Morgan (viola), Rhian Porter (cello) & Sam Jersche (additional strings & programing).
Photo courtesy of their website gallery. CD @ https://theblackfeathers.com/