Interval – Erin Bardwell (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

The man himself describes this little side-project from his usual musical activities, using the wonderfully self-deprecating words, “ mid-life crisis.” If it is, he should have more. Many more. And before you all get up in arms defending his long and admirable back catalogue and dedication to the ska-wars and the ongoing reggae rebellion, I’m taking nothing away from any of that, niche scenes need their heroes and he has always been that to the music he loves and champions. Maybe it is because I am less knowledgable about the genre but that I did grow up with the two-tone movement as part of my formative years. Maybe it is because I don’t really like music which sticks to the rules too much but favour the things which happen where demarcations blur, where sounds meet, where genres gene-splice with each other. Maybe it is just that, for whatever reason there is something in the more drifting and hazy sounds found here, a sort of reggae yet otherworldly vibe, that appeals to my sensibilities. Maybe I should just stop trying to analyse the reasons and just revel in the music.

And it is an album full of revelatory music indeed. And it is perhaps the least typical track that I am drawn to most, (Like a Reflection on) The Liffey is both an unusual title, more in keeping with a Dublin pub lock-in, folk-jam band, traditional classic than an upbeat, yet hazy slice of dream-ska (more of which later.) I think I used a similar term when talking about Subject A  which perhaps shows where my tastes lie. Imagine A. R. Kane or The Veldt getting their reggae groove on and you’ll get an idea of the sort of thing that I am talking about. If not, just play the album.

Name on a Page is a gorgeous piece of nostalgic reflection where again the styles spill-over to embrace each other, reggae and indie, pop and dance all swirling around into the most wonderful of sound clashes, a place where genres collide and new sounds are born.

But the album also wanders some more familiar territory too and Windrush is both a powerful piece of reggae, one armed with easy pop sensibilities and a glorious swagger, and a poignant piece of lyrical documentary, not least through its beguiling spoken word play-out. There is also some wonderful reappropriating going on too, Bridge of Tears and That London Winter being originally songs penned by Eddie McLachlan for a folk album but proving that not only that a good song is a good song no matter which genre or style it takes as its musical vehicle but also reminding us how much music has its roots in the movement of people in search of a new life.

Interval is a great album, one which knows very much where it comes from but which seems even more interested in where it is going. It’s all very well giving people what they want, but that will only get you so far and only keep the listener’s interest for so long. Here Erin does that most clever of things and gives the listener what they didn’t realise they wanted and does so in such a unique way that they it is difficult to think that anyone will ever tire of this wonderful hybrid of sounds.

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