Robin Allender: Foxes in the Foyer
Padang Food Tigers / Lake Mary: Crabbing King Sappling / White River
These releases provide a good introduction to the type of music available from Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Scissor Tail Editions, a label curated by Dylan Golden Aycock that specializes in a wide assortment of music, including folk, experimental, drone, and “Cosmic Cowboy.” Available in a run of 250 hand-numbered, clear-vinyl copies (and as a download), the seven-track set by Bristol, UK-based guitarist Robin Allender is representative of the label's album-length output, whereas the split single from Padang Food Tigers and Lake Mary (available in 200 vinyl discs and as a download) offers a good sampling of the imprint's seven-inch releases.
As someone who joined Warp Records' Gravenhurst in 2007 and toured with the band in support of Animal Collective, Explosions in the Sky, and Grizzly Bear, Allender brings impressive experience to his thirty-one minute release. Of arguably greater import is the fact that in 2009 he joined the touring band of Yann Tiersen (known for albums such as Dust Lane and Skyline and the Amélie soundtrack) with whom he continues to play to this day. Allender also plays guitar with the kranky act Felix and in 2012 released Spirit's Sleep under his own name, an EP that apparently connects his soundworld to those of James Blackshaw and Mark Kozelek in addition to Tiersen.
Foxes in the Foyer is a solo recording in the truest sense with Allender featuring little more than his own guitar (acoustic and electric) and banjo playing. Allender's clearly no slouch in the finger-picking department, as shown by “Klondike,” which proves especially entrancing when it breezily segues into a lilting waltz episode, the acoustic guitar chiming in a stately manner so beloved by finger-picking aficionados. He switches to electric for “Bude,” a lovely reverie no less delicately played than “Klondike,” with Allender opting for picking once more as opposed to something out-of-character like power chords, and hauls out the banjo (a kalimba, too) for the high-spirited filigrees of “The King's Mind.” A warm, legato tone emerges in the electric playing of “Gravestones,” the material's sparkle this time enhanced by an additional layer of guitar patterning, while “M. Laurelle” and “An Uneven Lie” find Allender weaving his hushed voice into haunting folk laments as an enhancing textural element. If Foxes in the Foyer won't move mountains, it's nevertheless music of heart and humanity, as fresh (and refreshing) as a spring lake.
The seven-inch split by Padang Food Tigers (Spencer Grady and Stephen Lewis) and Lake Mary (Chaz Prymek) is over quickly at eight minutes but not so quickly that it fails to make an impression. Banjo's the common element in both tracks, with Padang Food Tigers using piano, banjo, and acoustic guitars to tell a timeless tale of loss and woe in “Crabbing King Sappling” in three minutes. In complementary manner to the A-side piece, Lake Mary applies a blissful textural approach to the delicate evocation “White River,” even if guitars and banjos do seem hellbent on stirring up some dust during the piece's strings-enhanced second half. charms in its own way, too. One comes away from the EP, as short as it is, reminded of the line authored by William Congreve all the way back in 1697, “Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast.”