Apricot Rail: Apricot Rail
Hidden Shoal

In the same way that any new release from kranky and n5MD guarantees a recording of high quality, anything coming from the Hidden Shoal camp is likewise to be music of a high calibre. And so it is that its latest roster addition, Apricot Rail, delivers an album of exceptionally full-bodied “instrumental rock” (vocals do appear but they're sparse in number). Composed of Jack Quirk (guitar, glockenspiel, trumpet), Daniel Burt (bass, saxophone), Matt Saville (drums, percussion), Mayuka Juber (clarinet, flute, melodica), and Ambrose Nock (guitar, glockenspiel, vibraphone, keyboard), the Australian quintet knows what it takes to make a strong impression—passionate playing, compositional smarts, arresting arrangements, and a knack for catchy melodies—all of which the band delivers on its self-titled, fifty-minute debut.

A delicious opener, “A Public Space” moves through multiple episodes in less than six minutes, starting from a restrained overture and slow and anthemic guitar section that move on to a languorous section before ending in a ferocious flameout. The group colourfully expands on the guitar-bass-drums core by working in clarinet, flute, glockenspiel, saxophone, and trumpet playing in well-chosen places. Hearing the woodwinds bleating over the guitar-fueled broil in “If You Can't Join Them, Beat Them” is just one of the album's many pleasures, as is the tastefully executed dual-guitar interplay that graces “Wadnama.” Guest member Allierose Clarke distinguishes “Trout Fishing In Australia” with her cello playing while Mayuka Juber does the same with her clarinet and flute playing elsewhere (note the lovely clarinet solo she contributes to the classic post-rock ebb and flow of “Wadnama,” and the stirring clarinet-guitar pas de deux that elevates “On The Trolley”). The tinkling, horn-laden rumble that surfaces in the second half of “Trout Fishing In Australia” suggests a strong Múm influence, while “Car Crash,” in its verses, nudges the group into L'altra territory on account of the male-and-female vocal pairing (morose lyrics “I hope you die in a car crash”) but then tears the track wide open with an explosive if brief coda. Throw in a gorgeous reverie ( “Pouring Milk Out the Window”) and a closer that, sprinkled with electronic bleeps and bloops, gallops and thrashes as it takes the album home (“Halfway House”) and you've got one solid collection. If multi-hued post-rock packed with chiming guitars and beautified with woodwinds and horns is your thing, Apricot Rail's debut collection is definitely worth a closer look.

September 2009