Black Swan Lane – The Sun and the Moon Sessions
Most fables begin with ‘Once upon a time…’. Ours begins with ‘Twice’. Twice upon a time there was a project called Black Swan Lane (for this is the second BSL album, this time named after the legendary Sun and The Moon). Twice now that notorious band has existed, rising from the ashes of the even more legendary Chameleons. Twice now The Chameleons have split in two – rent, seemingly beyond hope of repair, because of personal issues.
Before we go further, let’s remind ourselves; this is not a Sun and The Moon album review.
This is not The Sun and The Moon
This is Black Swan Lane.
This is quite wonderful.
I’m reminded of how Jah Wobble (dub bassist and founder of Public Image Ltd) used to fall asleep listening to the stars. (He’d playback ultra low oscillations originating from sunspots). There’s plenty of starlight here. Guitars twinkle like one of those night skies. You know, when the more you look, the more faraway stars seem to appear. Eventually you feel like you’re going to fall upwards, into it. And it’s awesome.
So why call it “The Sun and the Moon Sessions”? Simply this, The Sun And The Moon (band) reformed in 2008 for a handful of one-off dates. One such date was Atlanta, home to Jack Sobel, former Messenger and ringleader of BSL. And of course there are overlaps galore, TSATM being half-comprised of former Chameleons, as are BSL. So the scene was set for one stellar jam session – friends reunited in Atlanta GA.
I was a big admirer of the first BSL opus but TSATM sessions eclipses its older brother. Writing, playing and vocal duties are shared, like before, by seven or so key contributors, giving that essential texture and variety. For example, busked acoustics give way to Merseybeat which in turn gives way to signature BSL dreampop via an instrumental. (That’s just four of the first five tracks) Yet everything comes back to Sobel. He’s at the helm. His direction and production provide the continuity and identity.
TSATM sessions is a misleading title. The previous release was more session-like, many of its tracks coming across like extended segues. This is a full album. A double really and despite its length (Twenty tracks, 75+ mins) it knits together really well. If you buy both BSL albums you have more music than many box sets.
If you buy both, you’ll be staying in a lot over the next days and weeks.
There’s no great overture on here though. (There had to be something holding it back from perfection). Everything ranges from gentle to jaunty. No ‘smack you in the face’, ‘Don’t Fall’-like opener. No climactic finale either although ‘Age End’ clearly IS “good enough to be the last”. And if I’m allowed one other gripe: Kwasi Asante singing lead vocals only once??? Why? Asante has a golden soul and pipes to match.
At least his ‘Mother Nature’ is one of the albums clear highlights. Another is the Burgess vehicle ‘Weigh It Down’. Some of the lyrics will undoubtedly resonate with existing followers. Me I prefer the sound of it. I’ve always been like that. I appreciate lyrics but I’ll only notice them if the music has already caught my attention, as this record has with its beautiful, chiming, chorus-effected guitars. But the strings aren’t the only stars. Sobels ‘inhale/exhale’ vocals sum up the record for me – the perfect safe refuge for the world-weary.
BSL are a wonderful collective at the height of their powers. Sun plus Moon = twice the light.
Twice the love.