[sic] Magazine

Raymond Scott Woolson – Broken Things Mended

Guitar heroes; (not the game) I guess we all have them. For many, those words will conjure images of the likes of Hendrix , Clapton and Gilmour . I love Hendrix myself but if the question was fired in my direction, my first thoughts would inevitably head towards Robin Guthrie , Dave Fielding or coming right up to date, Todd Howe . Once an effects man, always an effects man, I suppose! Swathes of chorus, delay or sustain and I’m rapt and in this I am certainly not alone. Bands like Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine have influenced whole generations of music-makers. Whether replicating the approach through their own pedal array or even on a Macbook, the sound of beautiful, swirling guitars lives on.

Raymond Scott Woolson is probably one such musician. If his tastes do not overlap with my own I’ll eat…something inedible. His album, Broken Things Mended arrived at the [sic] office with a very nice endorsement from the proprietor of his record label. If I were to paraphrase it read something like ‘I hope you enjoy Raymond. I release records very infrequently and only when I have an unswerving belief in the artist, etc, etc.’ Music to our ears, you could say. After all we founded [sic] with the sole mission to promote the best music wherever we found it, if it were the latest U2 record or the unknown bloke from the next village. Nevermind the bullshit, quality all the way, wherever it might be found, that’s us.

What we found was a very pretty album that sparkles and delights in much the same way as a Daniel Land and The Modern Painters or Winterlight . Clearly a huge amount of love and work has gone into the guitar sound. The album is fully instrumental putting rather a lot of emphasis and pressure on the way the strings sound as well as the melodies that they carry. The record also scores on its variety. No sense of sameyness here. It twists one way then the other, so let’s give credit where it’s due. My only real concern is the lack of vocals. For me, the singer is often the doorway into a record. Without vocals you’re kind of forced to enter via a back window somewhere. Certainly ‘instrumental’ is never a show stopper by itself as clearly evidenced by post-rock, IDM, Classical and Jazz. But…. sorry to say, you do have to be really special to carry it off. Broken Things Mended sounds lovely in places but I can’t escape an overriding impression of listening to a very nice record with the singer removed. I miss the ticks, traits and hang-ups, only a living and breathing person can bring to a recording.

Broken Things Mended is decent though and I certainly don’t want to damn it with faint praise, but if we look back at those guitar heroes of mine, it becomes clearer how they were part of something special, something even bigger. If I think of Liz Fraser’s voice or the lyrics of Mark Burgess it only goes to emphasise, a nice guitar is a nice guitar. A great band requires something a little bit more.

On the other hand, I’ve heard an awful lot of this type of music in the last 5 years, plus more recently I’ve been listening to much edgier and far sadder music. None of these things are Woolson’s fault. To be fair to him Broken Things Mended passes muster. I particularly enjoyed ‘Runner, Run Home’ with its purposeful time signature strongly reminiscent of Q Lazzarus , ‘Goodbye Horses’.