CD, Sonic360, 2006
With his debut full-length release, London-based Chris Haworth spews ideas left, right and centre to create an album that, at its best, is unlike anything else you’re likely to hear this year.
The first two songs alone hold more untamed inspiration than many albums. Opening track “Jambouree” starts with slight, digital watery sounds over which acoustic guitar glitches build up into a rhythm and a catchy, pastoral riff. Suddenly stuttery percussion takes over, building to a totally unexpected house piano breakdown. Deep synth washes and high pitch sounds whiz around as the piano sounds grows increasingly fuzzy and the song surges on. The storm passes and clear piano comes back, plinking to a soft close.
This is taken even further on the second track, “Song of Blak Deth”. A slow waltz-like plucking leads off with heavily phased string sounds over it like a lost radio transmission from the 40s echoing through time. The effect is spellbinding and mysterious before, from nowhere, lush electronic voices explode out with gently padded rhythms clipping along, subtly glitching like warm Aphex Twin. The rhythm winds down and real drums kick in, guitar and piano sadly intertwining before, with another shift, the tempo rockets up to jazzy hi-hat rhythms and bass noodling. The main strings kick in again over this, bringing the song sonically full circle.
After this track, you know it’s not worth trying to second-guess this man. Pushing beyond the basic boundaries of guitar-and-glitch folktronica, Haworth is almost unclassifiable. For all the open-minded but jaded listeners out there, these two tracks are like an oasis in a desert of predictable music. If only it could last…
After these nitro-powered, ADD-enhanced songs, Haworth settles into an atmospheric groove that he ploughs for the better part of the disc. Acoustic guitars, gentle glitches, wistful synths make up most of the songs. The odd sound still inspires – the “Psycho” like strings of “‘Neath the Chewy Bridge” that give way to extended harmonic bells; the pretty theremin outro to “Blood Lantern” – but without the killer structure of “Blak Deth”, the songs just fade from the listener as soon as they end.
Luckily the Littl Shyning Man has one card left to play. The final track, “Man What Grew Up from Acorn” is sublime, a musical sunrise born of the all the sounds mentioned above weaving into a tender pulse.
With dreadful artwork, it’s hard to imagine anyone just picking up this album and, with more tracks leaning towards the uninspiring, it’s also hard to whole-heartedly recommend it. That said, I know I’ll be enjoying this album for some time to come, letting the lesser songs sweep by me while the great ones thrill me again and again. If your ears are eager for something new and you can take the album’s weaknesses in stride, maybe you should join me.
— Christopher Fry