Cheval Sombre

Mad Love

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Cheval Sombre's debut album showed that the poet/musician had a strong ear for overtly Spacemen 3/Sonic Boom-tinged psych-pop, especially in the latter's first solo effort, released as the Spectrum album -- to the point where Pete Kember himself was actually the producer, so perhaps there was little surprise there. Enjoyable as it was, Mad Love finds Cheval Sombre, again working with Kember, in a much stronger place, even as the basic approach stays similar to what happened before. Yet everything feels just that much more "on", for lack of a better term, with more focus and individuality even as "Someplace Else" has the drowsy flow, wheezy keyboards, and more, down to the last note. But subtle variation throughout is the key to the success of Mad Love, something demonstrated, if not quite song by song, then more often than not. "Walking in the Desert" is stripped down some to guitar, strings, and a bit of a western lope, including a full violin solo, while "She Went Walking in the Rain" has a great keyboard line as a central part. It almost functions as a sweet rhythm, while the rising/falling reverb shades are nice touches. "Couldn't Do" takes a calmer, stripped-down, and stately approach, getting weirder and choppier as it goes while still moving forward, a secret highlight as well as the longest song on the album. "Once I Had a Sweetheart"'s arrangement is more lost in wooziness, but at its heart, everything is very carefully structured and then flows from the source point with precision. "Let Me Follow You Down" concludes on a slow, easy note that's a perfect ending to the album; it's just that much more drowsy than everything before it.

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