Songs Of Green Pheasant: s/t

Mesmerizing sounds course throughout Songs Of Green Pheasant, both the alias of Duncan Sumpner and album title the 30-year-old Sheffield-based artist and teacher chose for his solo debut. Sumpner recorded the album in his kitchen on a 4-track cassette recorder during the summer of 2002 and, as one might expect, a lo-fi ambiance pervades the work. While that's sometimes a deficiency, in this case the production quality befits the material by deepening its natural feel, an impression bolstered by the songs' mystical and transcendental lyrical content (“Knulp” even referencing the Herman Hesse novel).

While one might categorize the material as psychedelic folk, doing so seems inadequate when Sumpner's gorgeous songs so thoroughly transcend such constrictive pigeonholing and beguile with their fragile calm. The haunting and hypnotic “I am Daylights” is distinguished by a beautiful coda of gently soaring harmonies and, in a particularly sublime moment during “Nightfall (for Boris P.),” voices grandly swell before the bleeding snarl of guitars takes over. With its gentle vocal line and bell percussion, “Until...” sounds like the sweetest ‘60s folk song you never heard while “Soldiers Kill Their Sisters” isn't the fierce rant one expects but rather a soft lament; even when songs are no more than two-minute vignettes (“Hey, Hey, Wilderness”), they entrance despite their brevity. Sumpner's singing is especially appealing: typically multi-tracked, his sighing vocals are as pure and clear as a mountain spring, and even at times evoke the supple harmonizing of Simon and Garfunkel (the gentle interweave on “Knulp” one example). Songs Of Green Pheasant's captivating songs might be described more accurately as hypnotic and timeless incantations.

September 2005