The sterile and impersonal download is not my music source of choice. I appreciate why it gains some favour for the hard pressed and busy music lover, a couple of clicks and there you are, for artists maybe it’s a much cheaper way to get your stuff out there, but for someone who mourns the triple gate-fold sleeve with its notes and inserts, the stickers and posters, a digital ‘blob’ isn’t enough.
All the more reason for joy to be unbounded when there is the sniff of a hand crafted artefact, the chance of a bit of stuck on labelling, the merest hint of late nights round the kitchen table assembly mullarky. So bless his cotton socks, Alex Steward, aka Umber, has released his six track EP, Morning’s Pass, not only as a download from his Bandcamp site but also for purchase from Big Cartel in the choice of Ivory or, (my personal option) Pale Lilac sleeve colours.
I guess Morning’s Pass gets stuck with the ‘ambient’ label, but its a bit more than that, as the PR material says , there’s bits of drone, post-rock and the whiff of folk in there as well. The six tracks, clocking in at just over 37 minutes makes this more of an album than an EP, but it’s a set of tracks that are best played as one, from start to finish. There is a natural cyclical feel to the set, each track building on the last, a little more added each time, peaking at around track five, Spark Mountain, before gently sinking back into itself with the closer, Mellow Drizzle.
There is a temptation perhaps to read too much into the music but it would be a perfect accompaniment to those (very) rare occasions when I have risen super-early and taken a walk out across the common, through the shin-high summer grass and between the wakening cows, as the sun climbs above the horizon of dawn and casts it first light on the silver strip that is the Severn and out to the Welsh hills beyond. All very bucolic and rural idyll I know, but for me there something inescapably rural and calming about the whole set.
Now this may not be entirely unintended what with the title and the misty cornfield photo on the cover courtesy of Martin Kimbell whose rather lovely pix should be given some time over on his web site. Frankly the track names are no help at all as they are perversely obscure, but no matter.
The whole kit and caboodle is by Alex Steward who wrote and recorded everything here, with some mastering help from Tom Morris (he of Her Name is Calla fame). Indeed there is a certain family cosiness here – Alex’s brother Cameron has done the EP design and also produces fabulous screen-print posters under the aegis of twoducksdisco for many bands including Calla, Ghosting Season and Worriedaboutsatan, Gavin Miller and Sophie Green connect through the same bands and are giving some support through their The Sound is Not Asleep PR enterprise.
Any which way , here is an EP (or maybe a mini album) of luscious music, calming and tranquil, indeed rather beautiful, and no home should be complete without a copy, so pop along and spend a modest few quid getting a copy.