[sic] Magazine

Songs of Green Pheasant – When The Weather Clears

Songs of Green Pheasant is the songwriting vehicle for Sheffield-born Duncan Sumpner, a school teacher and recording artist who now lives in Stockport. When The Weather Clears is his second album for the Irish label Rusted Rail, based in Galway, having previously also released albums for FatCat Records, one-time home to Frightened Rabbit.

The album is a dreamy affair, with multi-layered vocals not unlike those on, say, a Fleet Foxes or C. Duncan record. There are some beautiful layers of instrumentation across the album, which particularly stand out during tracks such as ‘The Wormwood Star Falls’. There’s also, sound-wise at least, a definite sense of delving into the past throughout all the songs – generally, the overall feel is of a folk/pop album, but occasionally we stray into the realms of psychedelia (‘Sisters of the District’, ‘Lucy Says’) or dreampop (particularly on ‘I’).

Not for a moment would you suspect that Songs of Green Pheasant is actually the work of just one man – the instruments sound well connected and the harmonies portray the feeling that there are at least four or five individual voices in the room. The tempo is fairly relaxed pretty much the entire duration, and rarely do songs become elevated in terms of either volume or tempo, which makes for an album which you can really sink into.

Sumpner clearly understands how to build a song in terms of introducing individual instruments – and also removing them – to create a fusion of darkness and light within a track. Potentially political decisions within a normal band structure such as “We don’t need the drums during the second half” are mere footnotes within the context of a solo project – and as a result, instruments can change several times through a song.

When The Weather Clears feels very much like an entire body of work. It’s not an album which requires a listener to connect with certain tracks or take away memorable extracts; it’s an album which tells its own story and feels very much like it must be listened to as a linear piece. There are, of course, standout moments, but quite honestly this is an album which you’ll likely play three or four times on repeat during the first sitting before realising that it’s way past your bedtime.

‘Northbound Trains’ bears the hallmarks of an artist who could only be from the North of England. It’s a beautiful track, mellow and reflective. Only during ‘Hello’ does the tempo rise a notch – and also heralds in a wave of optimism. Elsewhere, ‘Candlemas Day’ is a slower, emotional track and is followed by the delightful ‘In Very Truth’, which could almost be an early Bob Dylan outtake.

When The Weather Clears makes for an interesting and quite emotional listen. Sounding like it’s been recovered from a dusty basement box with along with odds and ends from the late 1960s, it doesn’t actually sound at all out of place in 2020. In fact, 2020 is all the better for it.