[sic] Magazine

New Century Classics – Natural Process

I always feel that I missed out on a mini-golden age of consumerism, due to being a minor at the time of the great Ronco Empire.

For those of you who might insist (perhaps for reasons pertaining to your immigration status, illicit romantic liaisons/digital knee-tremblers via the wonder of the electric abacus or simply pure vanity, coupled with a laughably inaccurate body-image) that you’re “too young to remember”, Ronco was the company which, in the early-to-mid-70s, brought the British public many wonders of the age. – Magic brushes (with revolving brush heads) to remove fluff and pet hairs from clothes, little vinyl-brushes to clean your Bay City Rollers LP as it played on your Dansette record-player, the ‘Buttoneer’ (a hand-held contraption to attach buttons to your clothes without the need of sewing – a device I’m convinced came into everyday use with both the IRA punishment squads of the day and the paramilitary wing of the Salvation Army) and many other mass-produced-in-the-finest-plastic 20th-century marvels, all of which hovered tantalisingly in that whorish strip of no-man’s-land between utter crap and the irresistible temptation to fill in the little coupon that began with the hallowed, breathless incantation “Please rush me my…” and ended with the dirty-as-discussing-business-with-a-prozzer-for-the-first-time feeling (but adrenalin-filled), black-magic promise of “Yes, I am over 18”.

But what, I hear you ask, gentle reader, does this have to do with anything review-based?

Very simply, the name of the band I’m reviewing today sounds like kind of album brought out by Ronco’s contemporaries in the field of audio entertainment.
Polish instrumental ensemble New Century Classics are the combo in question and I’m happy to say that they’re streets ahead of the Ronco Buttoneer (and would make for a far better aperitif to a dead-of-night, back-of-a-Ford-Sierra-Ghia-estate knee-capping, too) with their delightfully well-considered and delicately crafted album Natural Process.

Formed in 2006 by four friends, New Century Classics tread the route the ‘path that has no name’ Chez Lawton (or, if you insist, ‘post-rock’ – there, I’ve said it…happy now?) – and it must be said that they tread it in slippers made from the finest gossamer. No slabs of guitar here, no grinding, hundred-foot edifices in the graven image of My Bloody Valentine.

No, sir.

What NCC have done with Natural Process is to marry elements of (and now I have to say it again) post-rock with the more melodic sensibilities of the less pompous tendencies of your average prog act and layered with the finest layer of neo-electro-folk. I’m greatly (and favourably) reminded in style of Australian dream-pop/post-rockers This Is Your Captain Speaking, whose monstrously wonderful and tragically overlooked album Storyboard should be in everyone’s collection (check this album out, especially if you want something to play at the end of a trying day to exorcise les demons du jour).

Acoustic guitars plucked over sparse drum patterns; violins weaving in and out of the mix; Fender Rhodes piano fluttering into the soundstage alongside cunningly disguised flutes and the intelligent use of electric guitar, woven as part of the fabric of the cut, rather than the usual strategy of being a rough method of stitching each piece together, all make for a highly enjoyable listen.

Natural Process is a drive through an autumnal, arborial landscape (the short – at 1:56 – track Fish Went is a painfully lovely example of NCC at their tone-painting peak), with leafless, skeletal trees silhouetted against the afterglow of a late October sunset.

Wonderfully produced, impeccably played, rammed full with just enough emotion to make you want to listen and get drawn in, this would easily have made it into my top ten for the year had I not already compiled it.

So, gentle reader – spend not your Earth Pounds on a Ronco ‘Vomit-Away’, ‘Ear Enema’ or ‘Pube Angel’. No, no and thricely no, my child – spend it instead on New Century Classics’ Natural Process and let it lock the magic of short days, long nights and the wonder of frosty roofs, frozen ponds and snow-covered mornings into your soul.