Crescent: Little Waves

Little Waves, the fifth album by Bristol-based outfit Crescent, follows its last release, By the Roads and the Fields, by four years, a span that would normally prompt expectations of significant transformation. But the band has been in operation for fourteen years, suggesting that the gap between discs isn't so unusual for a band that operates according to its own temporal rhythms and remains contentedly indifferent to light-speed changes happening elsewhere. Currently a six-piece, Crescent started out as a ragged, punk-inspired outfit and is now a still-ragged but also earthy, primarily acoustic collective whose sound is rooted in the dust and dirt of the real world and openly embraces human imperfection and environmental intrusion.

The album's unassuming character is established immediately in the opening title song which is dominated by delicate acoustic guitar lattices and a rather somnambulant vocal performance by primary band member Matt Jones. In “Come Into the Shade,” long-dead voices from old 78 rpm gramophone recordings are woven into an evocative, time-transporting collage. On “Hey, September,” Jones' voice is as faded as a 19th-century photo album, and sounds particularly worn out in “Our River.” An almost hymnal feel emerges in “Nearly Ready,” an effect intensified by softly humming background vocals; a shame, though, that the otherwise decent piece is weakened by amateurish trumpet playing near the song's end. The group's lo-fi, laid-back approach isn't unwelcome in these frenetic times, though Little Waves will largely satisfy only those listeners willing to attune themselves to the music's slowly measured pace.

November 2007