Released: 8th December 2017
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Resin Pockets is a record for the times. Craggy, emotional and resolute, it already feels important. Jon Dale’s excellent notes for the record explain why...
'Resin Pockets is the first album from Crescent in ten years. If it’s been a long while since Little Waves, the intimate treasure they released on FatCat in 2007, that’s because much like peers Movietone and flying saucer attack, Crescent move in slow motion, but with sure steps, only doing things when they feel right and true. You can hear this in the confidence that underpins the nine songs written by Crescent leader Matt Jones for Resin Pockets, an album that nestles beautifully into a long history of visionary outsider English pop craft, in the same vein as the isle’s solitary voices, all singing against the grain – the playfulness of Kevin Ayers; the grace of Vashti Bunyan; the rhapsody of Robert Wyatt; the melancholy of Epic Soundtracks; the revelations of Bill Fay. It’s an album of joyous melody and evocative poetry, of community and intimacy.
Resin Pockets is titled perfectly, and exploring the resonances of the album’s title with Jones gives us some clues to the album’s charm – resin pockets, or pitch pockets as they’re also called, are an imperfection in the grain of pinewood, an opening that holds resin. “It’s a homemade album with its own particular imperfections” Jones relates. “The songs are like resin pockets, formed over time, kind of hidden, unseen - gaps, spaces in the normal structure of things.” The nine songs on Resin Pockets were recorded both indoors and outdoors, in everyday spaces. Matt predominantly performed the album, in collaboration with his brother Sam on drums, tambourine and ‘lookout’, though some other familiar faces appear, too: Kate Wright of Movietone is part of the evening chorus that closes “Roman Roads”; Lisa Brook and Michal William of Headfall are there, too, huffing away on melodicas.
There’s an ‘intimate immensity’ to the album: it’s close in your ear, as though you’re sharing the room with Jones as he plays, and yet the outdoors recording grounds the album in the natural world, too. Jones talks about the effect of having passers-by as incidental audiences, of engaging with the immediate environment and the “tiny coincidences of sound”. The songs themselves are vehicles for recollection. Often, Jones uses a surprising or everyday incident or object – tuning a guitar with pliers; seeing a stepladder standing in the mud of a tidal river – as a point of reference for more abstract yet personal reflection.
At one point in our conversation, Jones mentions, almost as an aside, “A lot of this album seems to be looking back, doesn’t it?” This is the essence of Resin Pockets: album as a work of memory and remembering, travail de mémoire, but also album as memoir, casting a glance across several decades of lived experience. As with many great albums grounded in memory, it doesn’t dare presume to reach any conclusions about the life lived, but it does understand that it’s in the fleeting moments, the passing gestures, that we truly grasp the art of living. And there are points of such beauty dotted throughout the album, from the memories of Sandy Lane in the Gower in Wales that occur in “Willow Pattern”, through a flock of starlings at a motorway services in "Starlings", and on into the trees on the Bristol docks, evocatively rendered in “Lightbulbs In The Trees”.
Jones also reflects on his time making music within his community. Anyone who’s been in a touring group will recognise the late night drift of “I’m Not Awake”, the way Jones allegorises life on the road: ‘I’m opening up the van, and the cymbals crash all across the street in the clear night’. The gorgeous “Willow Pattern” is a response to a song written by his brother, Sam Jones, “A Moth Like A Woodchip” (from The Balky Mule’s 2009 album, The Length Of The Rail). Elsewhere, Jones pans out and reflects on community then and now, on “Get Yourself Tidy” and “Impressions”, both songs relating “to the small community of the people in bands I was in or other bands, who got absorbed in making music rather than having careers.” The rickety trumpet and clarinet on “Get Yourself Tidy”, played with panache by Pete Judge and Steve Brett, give the song a joyous bloom, bursting out into a daytime rapture.
Jones’s community, of course, crested the wave of home-recorded pop and experiment that erupted in Bristol during the mid-to-late 1990s. Centred, to some degree, around Bristol’s Revolver Records, a store recently hymned by author Richard King in his elegiac Original Rockers, the key operatives of this loose ‘scene’ – flying saucer attack, Movietone, Third Eye Foundation, Amp, Foehn, most of whom released records on King’s independent label, Planet – made a virtue of necessity, recording in bedsits, on four-tracks, onto cassettes, with often improvised and jerry-rigged equipment. It was unassuming music that offered exploratory listeners a quiet revolution. Crescent were central to this scene, releasing some of its finest records, from the thorny thickets of noise-rock on their debut, 1996’s Now, to the murky dub experiments of 1997’s Electronic Sound Constructions, through to the distressed, evocative song surfaces of 2003’s By The Roads & The Fields and 2007’s Little Waves.
These days, however, Jones follows his own logic, slipping unexpected detail into the nooks and crannies of these reflective pop songs, so that they rustle with subtle incident – field recordings of trains in Japan; drone that slowly accrue over a simply strummed chord. But the music is now in service to melody and memory, to the evocative power of the song that’s just on the tip of the tongue. Resin Pockets gathers experience as a ladder to understanding, to finding ourselves, singing the landscape or swimming through the ether, within a community of sound.'