Appendix Out, The Night Is Advancing (Drag City)

Posted April 21st, 2001 by admin · No Comments

Appendix Out
The Night Is Advancing
Drag City
By: Eric Greenwood

Appendix Out still wallows in the beauty of its own rustic musings on its third album, but this time there's a hint of aggression beneath the fragile discontent. Ali Roberts' voice is the centerpiece of this dark, sparsely arranged neo-folk. His Glaswegian drawl luring you into his tales of winter and woe. The delicately picked acoustic arpeggios serve as his primary backdrop. However, you'll hear experimentation with electronics, electric guitars, and myriad wind instruments creeping into the mix.

On "A Path To Our Beds" Roberts' plaintive cadence floats over a gorgeous, finger picked melody. The acoustic strumming sounds like leaves shuffling. The repetitive guitars layer one on top of the other with only slightly differing riffs, and it has a mesmerizing effect. "The Seven Widows (The Sprigs Of Night)" comes as close to rocking as Appendix Out would dare. The tension is thick with uncharacteristically audible drums actually attacking the beat, but the achingly beautiful riffs never acknowledge the aggression. The melody is sad and familiar. Roberts sounds devastated, cracking as he reaches for the notes to sing.

Despite the deliberate despondency of the music, Appendix Out sounds less insular and self-obsessed this time around. The lyrics avoid Roberts' past individualistic approach for something altogether more universal. The stories would seem vague on paper, but Roberts' desperate inflection puts it all into context. There's no misinterpreting that voice. "Golden Tablets Of The Sun" is almost a cheery bar song. Its typically pensive beginning morphs into a chorus of guitars chiming happily amongst flutes and jaunty percussion. The merriment is short-lived as the laborious, chant-like "Fortified Jackdaw Grove" lets the cold breeze back in.

The title-track is a short folk song with poetic lyrics: "the night is advancing/a wild cat protracting her claws…I stood in the mist with my hands covered over my eyes. "Cyclones Vernal Retreat" stays afloat with a beautifully woven guitar melody. Bagpipes creep in but surprisingly don't disrupt the communal chorus. "Hexen In The Anticyclone" just proves there's no tiring of a formula that works. Appendix Out has no shortage of heartbreaking chord progressions. The subtle climax of guitars and banjos as the bottom falls out of the song is, perhaps, the album's defining moment.

Appendix Out's dark folk is naked and emotional. It never feels affected or insincere. The Night Is Advancing is unquestionably its finest album on every level from songwriting to production. It is a quiet, inconspicuous album that haunts you at every turn- the perfect marriage of melody and despair.

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