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The Singing Skies — Routine and War (2011)

 The Singing Skies — Routine and War (2011)

The Singing Skies — Routine and War
◊   'Routine And War' - the songwriting project for Sydney musician KELL DERRIG-HALL. His first solo venture, Kell has previously contributed to records and live performances for the likes of Jack Ladder, Rand & Holland & Seaworthy. Soundwise think stark roots simplicity: Gram Parsons, Leonard Cohen, Mickey Newbury & Neil Young.
Location: Sydney, New South West, Australia
Album release: June 7, 2011
Record Label: Preservation
Duration:     38:50
01. Acting Fine     5:21
02. Say Your Goodnights To The Moon     4:33
03. Greet The Sunrise     4:17
04. A Message From The Cliffs     3:45
05. Loaded Dice     2:34
06. Tried And Trying     3:01
07. Spreading Secrets     3:57
08. Wandering West     3:48
09. Routine And War     4:33
10. When The Others Have Gone
Members: Kell Derrig-Hall, Lia Tsamoglou, Robin Dixon, Jon Hunter (on the Record) Kell Derrig-Hall, Lia Tsamoglou, Biddy Connor, Laura Jean, Jen Sholakis, Simon Grounds
◊   Artwork [Drawings] – Frances Barrett
◊   Design – Mark Gowing
◊   Mastered By – Giuseppe Ielasi
◊   Producer – Simon Grounds
◊   Written By, Producer – Kell Derrig-Hall (2)
By Doug Wallen
◊   An itinerate collaborator to say the least, Kell Derrig-Hall has played in Jack Ladder, Seaworthy, and Rand and Holland. There was also the duo Moonmilk with his partner Lia Tsamoglou, who just released an album as Melodie Nelson. Derrig-Hall finally emerges with a solo venture in The Singing Skies, although he’s accompanied in spots by Tsamoglou, Laura Jean, and Biddy Connor and Jen Sholakis of Laura Jean’s band. ◊   Routine and War is a singer-songwriter album of subtle flourishes, thriving in a fertile patch of space between drowsy folk and soft-stepping pop.
◊   By way of introduction is ‘Acting Fine’, a sort of campfire ballad streaked with weeping strings. It has the assured frailness of Perth songwriter Benedict Moleta or the late Sodastream, as well as the sad-sack tug of old country music. The Middle East and Augie March aren’t so far off either. Derrig-Hall’s crystal-clear singing swoons quietly and speaks to a lonesomeness that seems long since accepted.
◊   The songs that follow combine rustic wisdom with an understated parlour sophistication. The lyrical conceits come as sweet and simple as the titular phrase of ‘Say Your Goodnights to the Moon’, but also include a chillingly detailed portrait of death in ‘A Message From the Cliffs’. You’d expect some scarred rasp to deliver a song as old in spirit as the bluesy and layered ‘Loaded Dice’, but Derrig-Hall sells it without breaking his placid surface. Such beauties as ‘Tried and Trying’ and the title track are spare and uncomplicated, yet ripe with space and atmosphere. Likewise, the lyrics here reflect life experience is a way that’s both painful and soothing.
◊   The Sydneysider recorded this debut in Melbourne with another seasoned hand, Simon Grounds (Teeth & Tongue, Underground Lovers). It’s no exaggeration to say Routine and War does everything right, from singing to lyrics to arrangements. The songs reward close attention but also float past without always requiring it. It’s an album that can slip unbidden into the background, only to floor you a moment later.
Fortaken: http://www.thevine.com.au/
Description from label:
◊   The Preservation label presents Routine and War, the debut album from Sydney’s The Singing Skies.
◊   The Singing Skies is the songwriting project for Sydney musician Kell Derrig-Hall. His first solo venture, Kell has previously contributed to records and live performances for the likes of Jack Ladder, Rand and Holland and Seaworthy.
◊   On Routine and War, Kell stands front and centre with a presence built on old-school simplicity. Spare, disarming and open, these songs flower slowly with plaintive guitar at their core, often with a country lilt or a spellbinding, serpentine feel. Kell’s stark and soulful voice is buoyed by the achingly beautiful harmonies of Lia Tsamoglou, who also provides warm, enveloping keyboard sounds throughout. Now otherwise known as pop artist Melodie Nelson, Lia is Kell’s long-term partner and collaborator, the pair previously engaging in more experimental realms as Moonmilk. Also integral to Routine and War are its string arrangements – both stirring and touching – from Biddy Connor, (Laura Jean, Grand Salvo) lifting and weaving through lyrics that by turns prove haunting, piercing and gentle in spirit. Other guests include Laura Jean on piano and Laura Jean Band percussionist Jen Sholakis.
◊   Routine and War was recorded by Simon Grounds in Melbourne, who also produced the seminal early works from Underground Lovers as well as albums by Grand Salvo and Laura Jean.
◊   In balancing subtlety with passion, Routine and War finds a rare poignancy. It is a delicate, intimate and most affecting debut.
MySpace: https://myspace.com/thesingingskies#!
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Singing-Skies/209375632414494
By Ned Raggett
◊   The blend of slightly antique, mournful-sounding strings, steady acoustic guitar, and slightly tremulous singing on "Acting Fine," the opening number of the Singing Skies' Routine and War, clearly aims to call up a sense of something out of time; and it may be a bit high and lonesome, as well, reflecting an Americana refracted through Australian eyes (something a later song, "Wandering West," puts front and center from its title on down). It's a sweet, sad way to begin things, in keeping with acts on the Preservation label, exploring its artisanal side in the same way that acts like Indian Bingo had a home on Independent Project, or Supercollider had on Emigre. While his singing as noted can go in different directions, Kell Derrig-Hall's vocals sometimes aim for the steadier, with "A Message from the Cliffs" seeming like a pronouncement; its combination of unsettled strings and feeling shift the scope toward a bit of contemplative acid folk, at once resonant with a past and strangely unsettled. The album title has a particular resonance as well, there's something about it that suggests a documentary of long-ago battles reflected upon with sorrow, mixed with an attempt at normality, however sought after or achieved. It can be heard in the gentle, swaying performances on "Say Your Goodnights to the Moon" or "Tried and Trying," the latter mixing a bit of banjo with a backing chorus for extra impact, or the concluding mix of string parts on the title track, which feel like a slightly martial, final march somewhere. ◊   Meanwhile, "Loaded Dice" is almost a sudden ringer, finding a quick rhythm to match the easy delivery and granting Derrig-Hall's reflections on fate and luck with a sudden poignancy. It's enough to see it as something that could be a stand-out song in another performer's hands while still working well within this album's aesthetic. ~ Ned Raggett

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