Minotaur Shock: Maritime

In the past, musical comparisons have been drawn between Minotaur Shock and Boards of Canada but in fact the two share little beyond an affinity for folk elements and pastoral ambiance. If anything, it makes more sense to speak of Minotaur Shock in the same breath as Four Tet and Caribou (though David Edwards downplays considerably Minotaur Shock's percussion dimension by comparison), given the degree to which all three demonstrate a seemingly effortless command of multiple genres (commonalities with Four Tet are heard, for example, in the drum attack of “Hilly” and in the propulsive “Vigo Bay,” especially when the song's flailing drums lead a romping charge of disco basslines and jubilant keys). In general, though, the Minotaur Shock sound holds up well enough on its own that it hardly requirs propping up with references to other artists.

A similar argument applies to stylistic labels. While there are electronic elements in Edwards' music, calling it folktronica or post-rock is not only misleading but limiting; call it instead sonically rich instrumental music that primarily emphasizes classic acoustic instruments (strings, marimbas, clarinets, drums, glockenspiels) and to a lesser degree electronic sounds (even Edwards' choice of electronics is old-fashioned at times, like the drum machine in “Mistaken Tourist” that suggests a discarded relic from the Another Green World sessions). In short, Maritime, the third Minotaur Shock outing following 2001's Chiff-Chaffs And Willow Warblers and 2004's Melodic collection Rinse, isn't filled with grooves or tracks but intricate, fully-realized compositions. “Muesli” announces immediately that Maritime will be a unique collection. Faintly suggestive of classical minimalism, a Glassian interweave of dancing clarinet lines, marimbas, and assorted hand percussion makes for a compelling prelude. The acoustic country romp “Somebody Once Told Me It Existed but They Never Found It” broadens out halfway through when what sounds like an army of mellotrons enters the fray, followed by a lush choral vocal sample. “The Broads” showers laconic hip-hop beats with bright crystalline melodies, while an exuberant Motown groove and sparkling synth swirls animate “Six Foolish Fishermen.”

If Maritime sounds different than Edwards' previous work, it should, given that he was inspired by seemingly divergent interests during its creation: Romantic imaginings about sea voyages, smugglers, treasure hunts, and pirates on the one hand (evidenced by song titles like “(She's In) Dry Dock Now”), and a fondness for the ‘70s FM sounds of Steely Dan, The Cars, and Hall & Oates on the other. While you won't hear those artists directly referenced, what you will hear are songs teeming with original and unexpected delights, all of which makes Maritime an unequivocally joyful listen.

August 2005