It was a decade ago when I first encountered Daniel Halliday’s work via his Motodestra project and this was my first introduction to his intricately-crafted guitar-based compositions. Since then he has released a handful of EPs under his own name and as Pictureville. Latterly this has included the sparse, acoustic-based ‘Haunts’ but new album ‘Surface Tension’ is closer in spirit to 2008’s ‘First Signs’.
Don’t be fooled by its tongue-in-cheek title, ‘Serenade For Tight Jeans And Metal Detector’ jangles delightfully; melodically speaking it’s akin to the lighter side of banjo duelling in ‘Deliverance’ you might say, although there’s a slightly melancholic edge to the arrangement which suggests not all is well in the Western world. That sense of darkness segues into sadness for ‘Recall’ where every ringing chord seems to resonate like another teardrop. The pattern of Western soundtracks versus pretty elegiac tunes becomes a common theme with the title track, ‘Streetlight’, ‘Night Scene’ and ‘Telegraph Hill’ all echoing feelings of languid, lovely loneliness. Meanwhile, the rambling, Wild West atmospheres of ‘There’s Fire On You II’ and ‘Foreshadow’ hint at cinematic ambition. Then, for the final excursion, ‘Last Wave’, there is the last sign of The Durutti Column comparisons but this time they’re imbued with the delicate insistence of The Sea And Cake.
A few may carp about a lack of variety on offer here and production-wise all emphasis is placed on the guitar skills of the musician rather than any outside accompaniment. However, it’s heroically tuneful from first to last note with no little emotional weight either, which means that ‘Surface Tension’ is another fine chapter in the Halliday catalogue.
The Sea And Cake, The Durutti Column, Ry Cooder, Mike Oldfield