Collection of home recordings and rare tracks is intermittently beautiful, but not a cohesive entry point for non-fans of Songs of Green Pheasant
Duncan Sumpner, a teacher by day, composer by night from Sheffield in England, is Songs of Green Pheasant. His self-titled debut of last year won some praise for occasional gorgeousness and an all-enveloping low-fi glaze. Sumpner's follow-up, an in-between release anticipating a full-length next year, is a collection of seven older tracks, home recordings and radio sessions from the period 2002-2005. The songs on Aerial Days are presented chronologically, so you know this is a fans-only release; little effort has been made to create a unified whole. However, the general tenor of the release is less Simon and Garfunkel and more Animal Collective, with a strong psychedelic shimmer. The upbeat, experimental moments are most successful, and find a new kind of static beauty in swirling guitars, multi-tracked vocals and gently-shaken tambourines. Beatles cover "Dear Prudence", recorded for a BBC Radio One tribute show, is all calm, washed-out beauty; the famous hook the only recognizable remnant from the original, as ach ramp of melody repeats, and new hazy guitars spell bewitching layers of sound. It's harder for the artist to make an impression when, as on "Remembering and Forgetting", he's tackling standard static singer-songwriter fare and doesn't have the electronics of Syd Matters or Sebastien Schuller to make things a little more interesting. You can't fault Songs of Green Pheasant for mood-creating; at the same time, you're not going to slip on Aerial Days unless you're in this particularly contemplative, serene mood.