Neil Campbell – Last Year’s News

Neil Campbell - Last Year's News

Music review by Joe Coventry

The final part of multi-talented Neil Campbell’s latest Flood Trilogy comes courtesy of this idiosyncratic and more introspective album, Last Year’s News. First came the solo The Outsider – News From Nowhere, a journey to recapture a personally disappearing rural musical past. Then in After The Flood a collective desperate attempt to salvage any musical tradition at all, following global devastation.

Now comes these 12 tracks from an intimate ensemble comprising guitars, keyboard and percussion, Campbell, drums Joey Zeb, Roger Gardiner’s Overwater bass and additional percussion from Jon Lawton.

This is not a heavily co-ordinated session album, as the composer freely admits in the cover notes. The easy going compositions owe more to his spontaneously improvised approach work on steel string slide guitar, the resulting output downloaded direct to mobile phone and reworked with the group from there.

The first half of the album casts no shadow on the ear but it would be hard to say what is much darker in the second apart from overtones on track seven. Once the enigmatically named first track Chi gets going Campbell’s infectious style dominates. Over repetitive bass beats a mellifluous guitar melody sets the scene for more of the same in Fat Of The Land, as musically upbeat and contentedly sated as its title implies.

Rainbows, last reminders of dark clouds on the horizon, are here reflected in a feel good factor desert island refrain. On side two the band are more immersed in threading a path through atmospherically infused Tubular Rainbows, driven with symbol led prescience from dream-like transcience to otherworldly stasis.

There is a sense that tranquility and repose have been achieved in this third compilation after the searching and chaos that has gone before and indeed the title of the CD, Last Years News, hints at having moved on. Wish You Were There and the last track There, again, and Missing The Inaction, add to the generated ambivalence.

Only in track 7, The Reich Of Strings, is the primacy of ‘what will be’ driven home, in an incessantly dark and overpowering chord intensity. But there is no need here of any sacrificial offering to propitiate the God of a new dawn in this music.

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