Alasdair Roberts

Pangs

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Edging fringeward from the acoustic minimalism of his excellent 2015 self-titled LP, Scottish folk auteur Alasdair Roberts and his nimble rhythm section meander through ten new explorations of the fresh and the ancient. Recorded in a converted mill in Northern Ireland by Julie McLarnon, Pangs is quintessential Roberts, melding centuries-old Anglo musicality with his distinctive quasi-mystical sensibilities that consistently distance him so far from the mainstream as to remain timeless. Nine albums into his career, he's pulled off the tough trick of staying anomalous while adhering to what is basically his take on traditional folk music of the British Isles. Take, for example "An Altar in the Glade," an agile two-parter in which the narrator chases a startled deer into a wooded altar then muses darkly on the assortment of creatures (crow, vermin, herring gull) going about their day's tasks. Roberts' twin acoustic and electric guitars stutter in warm cascades while bassist Stevie Jones and drummer Alex Neilson gamely follow suit, soon transitioning into a lively Renaissance-inspired refrain punctuated by a pair of spirited dog barks. An odd bird with a career to match, Roberts' flights of fancy may not resonate with the average listener, but the world he's authored over his nearly two decades of work is a truly unique genre and of it he is the undisputed master. "The Downward Road," replete with burbling synths, skittering drums, fiddle, and group vocals, offers another strange trip, while "The Angry Laughing God" delivers a rousing mash-up of early rock rhythms, bright folk-pop, and rapid Brian Wilson-esque changes. Melodious folk ballad "Scarce of Fishing" is one the album's loveliest, proving that Roberts can still dial in his eccentricities to deliver something more straightforwardly pleasing. Peculiar and ultimately charming, Pangs is another high caliber entry in Roberts' dependably creative catalog.

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