Sometimes a debut album comes out of its corner and without any ducking and weaving lands a knockout punch straightaway. Such a beast is this release by Edinburgh based Ardentjohn. It sounds great, well produced with a cracking belt of eight slices of musical quality (plus an extra "hidden track") that are high on creativity and down home excellence.
Track one, "Intro", announces itself with a shimmering wave of cymbals before a fast drum break and what sounds like John Martyn's echoplex guitar speeding through a short spacey instrumental. This segues into "Sleeping Soldier," a limpid swoon of a song that recalls the pastoral side of early Pink Floyd with liquid guitars and soaring but restrained vocal harmonies that add to the comparison. Following this the band get folksier and rootsier. "Hide Your Mind" is a fine canter through a song with an LA Canyon feel, perfect for listening to in high summer and it is in this vein that the band are most successful. "Orange Nights" has a laid-back groove and sparkling, countryish guitar, the refrain ""… and the sunshine man is here" just about sums it up.
Towards the end the band stretch out with the guitars becoming more insistent and the harmonies more ethereal. "Until the end" maintains the feel with lyrics such as "… you say I must be strong and to carry on/even though at times it is hard/ to believe in this thing we find ourselves in/ all the time/all the time" that seem to come from that same sun kissed fatalistic Zen well that Gene Clark drank from. The band also dip a toe into psychedelia with "Dark Highs # 54" which casts a nod to Arthur Lee's Love and the final song, "Synapses" which showcases jazz inflected guitars (and shades of the Canterbury scene of yesteryear) over its six minutes.
Overall a welcome debut with plenty of promise although may I dare to suggest that the more countrified songs could be the best way forward.