[sic] Magazine

E.L. Heath – Smiling Leaf EP

It’s been a good while since we last heard from Eric Loveland Heath, five years in fact. To my ears, Eric has yet to put a foot wrong, constantly delivering music that really doesn’t sound like anybody else or anything else. It’s not that it sounds particularly out of time with other music; it’s simply as if the concept of time ceases to exist. This really could be music from the past just as much as music from the future. Maybe Heath is a future revivalist, who knows?

Smiling Leaf is Eric’s latest EP and features five new tracks. From the start, the hallmark acoustic guitar that punctuates pretty much all of Heath’s records is intact. A delicious sounding bass and wonderfully loose drums then kick in following the initial vocals during ‘Out Of The Unknown’, which together propel the song throughout. Let’s talk about those vocals for a moment – firstly the overall ‘sound’ of the vocals is lovely, both in terms of the use of layered reverb and the way they project forward – but I particularly like the ‘less is more’ approach – for instance, the vocals appear fairly early on during the first track but when the instrumentation appears it’s then nearly a minute and a half before the vocals return for the second verse, allowing the music to take centre stage. A thumbs-up too for the lovely lyrics – “The harvest moon is sleeping on the hallowed ground“.

During ‘Otrov’, a nice strumming guitar kicks things off and is quickly followed by a Chinese instrument called a guzheng, which works surprisingly well. There’s a particular moment at around 20 seconds in where there’s a real sense that something big is about to happen. The drums are also a real highlight – they’re played with dramatic effect and add a widescreen dimension to the song. Once again, the vocals are nicely projected forward (though with my unfortunate lack of knowledge of the Welsh language, I’m unable to convey what the lyrics are about). As with the previous song, the music does much of the talking – particularly during the second half of the track – which I really like as there are lots of interesting things happening all at the same time. The drummer, Joseph Cave, certainly sounds like he’s having a great time and this really comes across well.

Whilst being a fairly short track, ‘Dandelion Clocks’ possesses a distinct underlying sadness in both the vocal melody line and even the way the track fades away at the end. It’s as if Heath is yearning for happier times from his childhood. The sound of people laughing and having fun peppers the final segment of the track. Even the acoustic guitar has the sound of an instrument recorded many years ago rather than music recorded only recently.

The effects that swirl around ‘Concomitance’ add a psychedelic edge to the track. Essentially a looped riff, the track ebbs and crawls its way through your conscience. It’s a stunning track – and I love those effects, particularly towards the end of the song. There’s actually a lovely feeling of space across the track – the feeling of being stood at the peak of a Welsh hill, surveying the landscape below.

Title track ‘Smiling Leaf’ closes proceedings with its minor acoustic chords. In fact, it makes an essential companion to many of the tracks on , Heath’s last album from 2013. Figuratively, it’s a stripped back song, but those layered acoustic guitars really elevate it. The eerie keyboards during the final minute of the track (along with the sound of the ocean) really help to place you somewhere else entirely.

In a nutshell, the ‘Smiling Leaf EP’ is an essential purchase. Nobody else makes music like this, which is quite a surprise in 2018 don’t you think?