The world of post-rock and neo-classical crossover is stuffed with groups happy to constantly rearrange and recycle the same old minor key chord sequences, and who, in the process, are about as adventurous as any mainstream indie guitar act. It’s always refreshing to come across an act who are happy to chuck out the rule book and come up with something constantly shifting, surprising and eclectic, whilst not being willfully obtuse.
bleeding heart narrative is essentially a one man band – cellist and pianist Oliver Barrett. all that was missing we never had in the world (eh?) is astonishingly assured for a debut release. It is an extremely varied work, but actually functions best heard as one long suite rather than a collection of individual tunes.
The album opens with “bhn”, two and a half minutes of blistering, distorted feed back noise. It’s a suitably provocative start to a record that seldom does what you expect. As it fades away, a single piano chord begins to strike, engulfed by a swirl of looped strings and a mournful cello melody. Just as it threatens to turn into something grandiose, the strings drop away leaving the piano alone, fading and decaying. “black glass” is an atmospheric, piano ballad with a beautiful, world-weary, almost lethargic vocal. Underlying it, though, there is a strange urgency.
Loops, drones, found sounds and distortion all have significant roles throughout the record. The loops help give it its restless energy. “braids and a necklace” almost has the feel of a sea shanty. Velvet Underground drones are overlaid by a beautiful cello melody, and a couple of choruses of multi-tracked vocals, sounding like the Watersons recast as drowned ghosts. The song has the woozy feel that Matt Elliott captured on his Drinking Songs album. “a nest” is like Stars Of The Lid played through broken speakers, and heralds a section of the album where things get fairly abstract. As the music seems to be dissolving into the ether, “nothing is out in the yard” comes in with a confident, chiming piano note and ends with a beautiful cello motif (is there any sound more heart-breaking than a cello in requiem mood). As if things are getting a bit too wistful, “though your feet have left footprints” begins ominously with spluttering feedback, but it draws back from repeating the full-on noise assault of the album’s opener. But it does go on a bit, juddering to a halt eight minutes in – at least four minutes after it could have.
The album comes to a heady climax with, arguably, its two finest moments. A vocal chant introduces “finding the door”, a stunning piano and cello duet. Best of all is “lillian gish” a sweeping romantic piece that has echoes of both Debussy and Bernard Herrmann in its romantic chords, and glassy strings, but builds into a vocal dirge that echoes prime period Jesus and Mary Chain. As it reaches for a crescendo, the vocals split into counterpoints and harmonies before they are left chanting in isolation as the instruments peel away.
This is a seriously good record – way beyond promising. It does sag a little in the middle, but pulls back into focus magnificently at the end. My copy is a promo, but the full retail edition comes in a silkscreen printed, hand-stamped gatefold sleeve. And there only 200 of them so be quick. They are available from the Tartaruga website. This is the label’s first release – three more are promised this year. They’ve set the bar dauntingly high with all that was missing we never had in the world (and the title still doesn’t make sense!)
2 as if yearning was all and more than enough
3 black glass
4 braids and a necklace
5 a nest
6 this is the world before this is
7 discovering abandoned houses
8 nothing is out in the yard
9 though your feet have left footprints
10 finding the door
11 lillian gish