On his third solo outing, producer and guitarist John Parish pares everything down, down, down. Space and texture dominate Once Upon a Little Time. Using a quartet that includes bassist/vocalist Giorgia Poli, keyboardist and vocalist Marta Collica, and drummer Jean-Marc Butty (who played with Parish in PJ Harvey's To Bring You My Love band), and a host of selectively used guests including Adrian Utley, Hugo Race, and Jeremy Hogg, Parish creates a tapestry of 12 small, tender, sometimes angular and melancholy songs, all of which have sharp teeth. "Choices" begins with a slippery little organ line and Roberta Castoldi's cello atop sparse drumming to tell a tale of aging ungracefully. The slim line razor-rock of "Sea Defenses" is built from the beat up, but there is tremendous distance atmospherically between the instruments as his vocal falls somewhere just ahead of the rhythm section. It's an ultramodern love song with an age-old theme. "Even Redder Than That," uses a muted Bo Diddley bit on top of a near-skiffle rhythm with a poetic folk song line before Parish's electric guitar roars in and brings it to vibrant life. The minimalist guitar palette in "Stranded" makes it one of the album's more moving tunes on the set, though it is an instrumental. The haunted ballad "The Last Thing I Heard Her Say" is Parish at his most elegant. Enrico Gabrielli's bass clarinet slips alongside his strummed guitar and the band enters slowly, deliberately, methodically, winding the tune out into the labyrinth of near despair. Once Upon a Little Time may not be as immediately gripping as How Animals Move, but it grows on you, slowly and insistently, creating its terrain. Once Upon a Little Time is dark, mournful, and wonderful.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek