Review: EL Heath – Shropshire Hill Country

Following hot on the heels of the new release from My Autumn Empire, labelmate Eric Loveland Heath returns with another record strong on psychogeography. Few album designs will have received such care and attention as ‘Shropshire Hill Country’. Inside the recycled cardboard sleeve there are some Ordnance Survey Map stickers and a leaf. Both are samples from England’s largest inland county and add a tangible slice of the atmospheres Heath captures on record.

Jolly folk instrumental ‘Bishop’s Castle Carnival’ – replete with accordion and flute – evokes images of villagers dancing and cheering but it’s the only time when happiness seems to be the dominant emotion. ‘A Song For The Village Of New Invention’ sees the tone shift towards darker waters with a sample from a folk evening.

‘Knockin Radio Telescope’ is guaranteed to cause a chill, whilst ‘Round And Round And Round Again’ drifts in to pastorally-flavoured dreampop territory. The nostalgic ringing guitars of ‘The Bridges, Ratlinghope’ will be familiar to those who’ve followed the music of July Skies and Epic45 down the years, although it has to be noted it’s also one of several tracks which remind me of Greg Lake’s ‘I Believe In Father Christmas’.

Comparisons to seasonal singles from prog-rock heavyweights aside though, ‘Shropshire Hill Country’ enhances Heath’s position as an expert in evoking the daytime reverie and nocturnal mystery of the English countryside. He could have easily made a folk pastiche record but his thirst for experimenting is once again rewarded here.

Web Sites:
EL Heath MySpace
Wayside And Woodland Recordings Label MySpace

Further Listening:
Mike Oldfield, Epic45, July Skies, Les Étoiles, Talk Talk

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