Three People


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Three People Review

by Wilson Neate

For an album recorded over five years between 1995 and 2000 by an English group, Three People is somewhat anomalous, its sound having very little to do with prevailing Brit-pop fashions of the period. London-based Farina draws on a range of influences largely unexplored by many of the group's more fashionable contemporaries. Overlooked American troubadours of the '60s and '70s such as Tim Rose, Tim Hardin, and David Ackles as well as more established figures like the Italian composer Ennio Morricone are the band's chief reference points. Three People is very much a homemade album: D.I.Y. symphonic pop arrangements performed on aging acoustic and electronic instruments (for instance, accordion, melodica, autoharp, drum machine, vintage Casio synths) and recorded on low-tech equipment (an eight-track reel-to-reel, a Tascam Portastudio, a 286 computer). While main singer/songwriter Mark Brend looks to a previous generation for inspiration, and while many of Three People's lush, melodic compositions certainly evoke earlier sounds, catchy tracks like "Confession TV" and "Liberty" are examples of timeless, not anachronistic pop. Numbers such as "Animals in the Zoo" move beyond the simple conventions of the pop song into the territory of the musical mini-drama; here, the combination of the whimsical narrative and the accompanying arrangement gives the track a theatrical feel that especially recalls the work of Ackles. Despite the band's primary roots in an American tradition, there's something distinctly English about the comfortably glum -- but never maudlin -- feel that permeates this material; on melancholy numbers like "Regret in Advance" this comes across with a subtlety that turns daily misery into something of a minor art form. In places, Matt Gale's vocals lack the character and presence of Brend's and don't quite do justice to these beautiful, accomplished arrangements. That said, Three People is still a considerable achievement.