Peter Escott

The Long O

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In the Native Cats, Peter Escott is half of a minimal duo who specialize in stripped-down, keyboard-based tunes that often deal with issues of the heart and mind in a disquieting, personal manner. On his own, Escott doesn't sound a great deal different, though the absence of bassist Julian Teakle certainly takes some of the framework groove out of the melodies. On The Long O, Escott plays and sings everything that appears on the album (including the one guitar chord he knows), and while the clattering electronics of "Ship of Theseus" and "A16" are of a piece with his work in the Native Cats, most of the songs find Escott accompanying himself only on the piano, and often in a more accomplished manner than one might expect. There's a gloomy overlay to most of these 13 tracks, but Escott finds a certain very real elegance in his simple but graceful piano parts, sometimes giving them additional dynamics by including an overdubbed synth line as well. There's a sweet-and-sour fatalism in Escott's lyrics leavened with a wit as dry as dust, but at their best, his songs recall Robyn Hitchcock without his acid-tinged wit but with a similar melodic sensibility. The low-budget production -- clear but without frills -- turns out to be an asset, with the spare approach forcing the melodies to stand on their own, and while Escott's singing style seems less than studied, his voice is more than strong enough to carry the lyrics. The Long O is the sort of album that's destined to be a cult item since it's too spare and unpolished for many listeners, but this intimate look inside the psyche of Peter Escott could very well turn the right sort of listeners into loyal fans.

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