Tuesday, 29 March 2016

7/4 Days with St Augustus

Throughout the long Easter weekend here in London, we had some wild, predictably unpredictable weather. Friday was amazing and sunny; Saturday cool with rolling, sharp stabs of rain deluge; Sunday threatened to storm but gave a fine afternoon, before the heavens broke in killer winds; and Monday was a shapeshifter, taking in all shades, albeit at mildly more accessible climes. Which means I spent a lot of it inside. And the vast majority of that time was spent listening to Seven Days, the debut album of St Augustus, the solo guise of Brisbane entity Cameron Smith (Ghost Notes, Tape/Off, Tiny Spiders, Spirit Bunny).

And it is a true triumph years in the making.

He breaks the mould with the loose and raucous 'Always Ends', taking a GVB via Nova Scotia (one of the best little Brisbane bands to come out of the place in the past decade IMHO) fuzzed-out blast. But it is the still, sparse moments that have always resonated. Trouble outlasts with the devil in the chest on 'Limit, Limitless', a brilliant song that haunts as it stills the breath, shadows of Jason Molina in its shake-you-to-the-core mourn; 'Run Away' a folk-drunk dream about finding the special moments among the mundane of daily life which is draining as it is still grasping for the last gasp for something great with a capital G.

I don't know if I am supposed to find 'Candy' funny - its quintessential Cam, the maudlin realisations of past activities now being beyond/beneath you, a curmudgeon kicking out against the former self, with broken, sloppy elements that are almost grandiose in their Big Song longings and shaggy singalongs. It's a theme that echoes through another rollicking pop song, 'Afterthoughts'. Then there are small moments littered throughout that continue to resonate and haunt - the cascading effect in 'Walk Right Through' a synthetic comedown (that - dare I say it - reminds me of my childhood love of Richard Marx's 'Hazard'); the echoed backing vocals on 'The Goldilocks Zone'; the flatness of the recording and the musical saw permeating the Nick Drake-esque 'Song For A Windy Day', about being too young to know how to connect with mortality so close to home; the glockenspiel-like chimes underneath the Sparhawk evoking miniature 'Descending'.

By the time the heart-rendingly magisterial closer 'I Didn't Come Calling' comes to rest, I am in tears. Literally, tears. It's hard to explain - Cam is a dear friend, and knowing how much he has touched my and many other people's lives, both through his work and his quiet friendship, I know hearing this evokes a lot of personal emotions. But also knowing that someone I know so well put together such a awesome (in its truest meaning) suite of songs, with every timbre, note and emotion front and centre - I feel blessed to be able to be a part of it, just as a listener. I'll see you on the other side of the night. Please go pick Seven Days up - and pay for it.

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