It begins with a noisy crumble of feedback and static, then suddenly cuts to a quiet melody perhaps performed on bells, perhaps on keyboard. While it might be much to say that sums up Onomatopoeia or Butterfly Child in a nutshell, it does demonstrate the conceptual reach of Joe Cassidy, a man happily unafraid to embrace all kinds of extremes while still working with a central, overriding aesthetic. With his first full album, Cassidy works with a full Butterfly Child band proper, consisting of guitarist Pendle, bassist James Harris, and drummer Richard Thomas. Each are remarkably simpatico with the basic Child approach of wistful beauty, a sweet loping feeling that avoids enforced cheeriness for an open-ended, almost rambling feeling combined with a strong emphasis on rhythm throughout, sometimes percussive and sometimes slightly jazzy and folky. Thomas easily continues the drum sensibilities established on earlier releases, being at once crisp and precise but never pointlessly pounding. Pendle and Harris similar hold back as well, showing that the band as a whole know the value of when not to play as much as how to play in the first place. Additions and extra touches on top of the basic structure of the songs abound, lending them and the band further unique qualities. There's the buried squalls of noise and wash on "Who Said What to Whom," the high-frequency squeaks over ambient drones concluding "X:Celcius," and the keyboard arrangements on "Triumphant." Comparisons of Cassidy vocally to Tim Buckley's mid-period work, not to mention that of his soon-to-be-famous son Jeff, abounded upon the release of Onomatopoeia, but Cassidy is no clone, avoiding the sometime-histrionics of both singers for a lighter, nicely love-drunk touch throughout. Whether it's the gentle flow and performance of "Cancer Killed Capricorn" or the combination of woozy drift and feedback on "Stars Light Up Orleans," Onomatopoeia is an underrated success.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett