Clogs: The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton

The celebrated avant-pop project of National guitarist Bryce Dessner gets medieval on your ass with The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton.


The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton

Label: Brassland
US Release Date: 2010-03-02
UK Release Date: 2010-06-14

The idea of the Kronos Quartet being closet Tortoise fans and opting to make its next album a note-by-note cover of Millions Now Living Will Never Die is a mind blower, right? But until some freak coincidence occurs where my hypothesis may come to pass, we’ll have to settle for the music of Clogs.

It’s surprising to hear music like this coming from a member of a group like the National, who are more akin to the realms of paint-by-numbers indie rock than the nouveau chamber music of groups like Bell Orchestre and Rachel’s, whom Clogs are most associated with in addition to the music of the Books in terms of sound collaging. But members Padma Newsome and Bryce Dessner have been doing their string thing since before the National was even a thought, and push the realms of this new wave of classical music further than any of their contemporaries have yet to achieve.

For the fifth album from this indie-chamber supergroup, Newsome and Dessner introduce vocals into the fray for the very first time, as The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton features prominent cameos from the likes of Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond, Sufjan Stevens and Aaron Dessner and Matt Berninger of the National. However, unless you are a particular fan of Worden’s shrill alto, which is utilized on six of this album’s 10 tracks (including a duet with Stevens on the closing number “We Were Here”), or the medieval aspects of the fusion of classical and folk, chances are strong that you might not enjoy Lady Walton as much as you did Clogs’ previous LP, the stunning, experimental Lantern.

Yes, there are moments here, particularly the trio of instrumental tracks speckled throughout the album that will certainly provide an ample listening experience to fans of Clogs’ earlier work. But the trick here is whether or not you are a fan of My Brightest Diamond and harbor the stomach for Worden’s voice, which will cut through you like nails on a chalkboard if you are not particularly fond of her whole operatic thing she has going on. This is especially so on tracks like “On the Edge” and “The Owl of Love”, both of which will certainly give discerning listeners the slight feeling of being stranded at the Renaissance Fair whilst waiting in line for a pewter dragon medallion for your maiden.

This is not to say the music featured on The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton is without merit. It is excellently performed with the sense of vanguard imagination that all five Clogs albums have exhibited over the course of the '00s, particularly in the deep Canterbury folk influence that lies underneath the contour of this song cycle. But who can honestly they say they can stomach that particular style for more than one or two songs? I certainly can't.

Here is hoping that on the next album, Clogs will return to the 21st century where they belong by bringing back more of that sound collage aspect to the music, which made their stuff such a trip to hear in the first place.







A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.


Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.


HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.


Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.


Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.


'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.


'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.


Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.


DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.


JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.


​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.


Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times


Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.


How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.


Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.


Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.