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Soft Hearted Scientists - 2013 - "False Lights"

(56:02, Soft Hearted Scientists)


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TRACK LIST:

1.  Tintern Abbey Ghost Monk Intro 0:13
2.  Seeing 5:11
3.  Seeing Further 1:47
4.  False Lights 4:38
5.  Golgotha 4:50
6.  Song from the River 6:00
7.  Turn the Tables 4:54
8.  Seaside Sid and the Giant Squid 5:32
9.  Halloween People 2:53
10. Trees in the Wind 4:43
11. Monsters of the Id 4:12
12. Night of the Hunter 3:38
13. Panorama 7:01
14. Tintern Abbey Ghost Monk Outro 0:30

LINEUP:

Nathan Hall  vocals; guitars; keyboards
Dylan Line - vocals; guitars; keyboards; accordion
Paul Jones  vocals; guitars, banjo, mandolin; keyboards
Michael Bailey  bass, bazouki; backing vocals
Frank Naughton  drums 

Prolusion. The Welsh band SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS is an entity that has been around in one shape or another for around a decade by now, making their initial foray into the world of recording artists in 2004 with two EPs, expanding their catalog with a substantial amount of EPs, compilations and albums over the next few years. Among more than a dozen productions "False Lights" is their third ever full length original studio album, self-released by the band in the spring of 2013.

Analysis. Soft Hearted Scientists is a band that tends to be described in a psychedelic rock context. Which, I assume, is fair enough. They do have a certain psychedelic vibe to their material, but their expression isn't limited or exclusively aimed towards people with an affection for that kind of music. And I find it more than likely that they have harvested inspiration from quite a few sources that should be familiar to fans of progressive rock as well. The main basis for all their songs is a foundation relying on rhythms, acoustic guitar and lead vocals. When stripped down to the core these are the main ingredients, and I suspect the greater majority of their compositions could be performed in an able manner by a busker really. Still, it is the manner in which Soft Hearted Scientists builds upon their foundation that makes the end result much more enticing than merely a singer/songwriter affair with a few bells and whistles thrown in for good measure, even if some qualities will be maintained no matter what arrangement their material is given. The overall mood and atmosphere is always good natured and spirited. If the song is slow one, if a sequence sports a sparse and basic arrangement or when we're served a multiple layered affair brimming with life and intensity, the overall mood is just about always a positive one. Light toned harmonics, with plucked acoustic guitar, banjo or mandolin on top of acoustic rhythm guitars, liberally flavored with slide guitar details, odd but subtle keyboard textures emphasizing the psychedelic qualities of the aforementioned slide guitar details, delicate keyboard or organ textures added to the proceedings for the most richly arranged passages and fairly often with a liberal amount of sound effects too. There's a fair bit of Mellotron applied throughout as well, again adding a subtle but firm psychedelic presence to the proceedings. On a few occasions darker instrument textures are utilized, but the light toned and positive sounds of the instrument registers are the ones used by default. The contrasting element is catered for by the lead vocals, darker toned and finely controlled, calm and almost sombre in quality. Contrasting the instruments as well as the lyrics, the latter is of a whimsical nature even when dealing with darker subjects. The same calm assured delivery is used when singing about running viking ships through traffic jams as done when telling the tale about Sid who was eaten by the giant squid. There's a subtle presence of Canterbury in all of this, placed alongside possible influences by the gentler parts of early Pink Floyd and The Beatles, and possibly also Electric Light Orchestra. But more light and whimsical in spirit than either of these giants ever were, and also with a more Earthen, pastoral presence that reeks of the underplayed, old school English comedy tradition. There's really nothing more that needs added at this point I think, apart from the fact that "False Lights" comes across as a solid production with a uniform high quality throughout. Possibly with compositions like Seaside Sid and the Giant Squid, Halloween People and Night of the Hunter as ones slightly more intriguing than the rest, this very much depending on personal taste, I surmise.

Conclusion. Timeless music revolving around acoustic guitars and keyboards, light toned harmonic arrangements with a nice psychedelic flavoring is what Soft Hearted Scientists provides on "False Lights", complete with an underplayed tongue in cheek humor as a distinct presence throughout. Whimsical in mood and spirit, even when dealing with fairly dark subject matters, and with an overall sound that makes me suspect that fans of early Pink Floyd and The Beatles might make out a prime audience for the band. Especially for those amongst them who also tends to enjoy the bands exploring the so-called Canterbury tradition.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: November 8, 2013
The Rating Room


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