Matthew Sawyer and the Ghosts

How Snakes Eat

by David Maine

3 May 2011

 

Reverb-draped oddness

cover art

Matthew Sawyer and the Ghosts

How Snakes Eat

(Fire)
US: 15 May 2010
UK: 24 May 2010

Matthew Sawyer takes a lo-fi approach to epic sound-scapes. Draped in reverb and sporting a thick British accent, his voice squawks in a fashion distinctly unfit for the widescreen, surround-sound compositions he’s attempting, but the musical accompaniment offers something larger. Strings and synths, rumbling bass lines and occasional guitar lines floating above it all. It’s a big, echoey sound, a sound that suggests rolling prairies, or maybe oceans, or, possibly, deserts.

The songs themselves are a mixed bag. Your mileage may vary, depending on how much you enjoy lyrics like “My mind was like a jumble sale / Waiting to set sail / For the whale.” Sawyer’s voice is occasionally grating, at times transcendent, sometimes in the same song. Opener “Mynah Bird’s Call” rolls along above a jogging bass line that lends irresistible momentum, while “Revenge of the Extra from Zulu” is as twee as it sounds. Other tunes have a certain playful lilt—“She, the Ferrytree”, “Caroline”, “Talking About a Whale Song”—but elsewhere Sawyer falls into guitar-strummer mode, which falls flat.

It’s hard to find a standout track here, which might be a positive; listeners who like one tune will probably enjoy the album as a whole. On the other hand, relatively little stands out. Sawyer’s voice is out of the ordinary, to be sure; what’s less certain is whether this is necessarily a good thing.

How Snakes Eat

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