Album review: Skylark & The Scorpion - Weather The Storm
PUBLISHED: 14:24 16 October 2019 | UPDATED: 14:24 16 October 2019
Take shelter with these two and rediscover the joy of the album.
The creative partnership of Nick J Webb (formerly of psych-shoegazers The Lea Shores) and vocalist Petra Jean Phillipson, Skylark & The Scorpion's debut record is actually a multi-media experience-cum-concept album, accompanied by a 10-part short film set against the jagged Jurassic coastline of the Shetland Isles.
With high-quality bits of this project floating around online for over two years, it's clear this pair were not willing to compromise on what is clearly something of a labour of love - perhaps the very thing that has attracted praise from Nadine Shah and Steve Coogan among others, and got them signed to Guy Garvey's record label for this eventual release.
Not to mention input from Brian Eno's brother Roger, who lays down piano and accordion, and Ben Hillier who mixed the songs and has produced albums for Blur, Depeche Mode, Doves and Elbow.
Weather The Storm is a "song cycle" charting the doomed romance of two star-crossed lovers (the titular avis and arachnid) - an impressive and truly quixotic creative feat that is somehow realised simultaneously in cinematic scope and meticulous detail.
Phillipson's impish, quivering vocal is both distinctive and oddly engaging, taking on an almost theremin-like vividness in opener Hey Lover, in which she implores the object of her affection to stay until morning while sweet violin and folksy, finger-picked acoustic guitar and harp weave an airy but intricate backdrop. You'd never guess it uses the very first take of both the guitar and vocal, laid down in Webb's Peckham flat.
In fact, the arrangements and melodies throughout are a cut above - be it the swooning strings and soothing vocals of Take Me Away, the gently lilting title track that shines with restrained beauty, or Ocean Love's gentle harmonies - and it's easy to forget just how tough it is to marshal so many instruments and elements while maintaining a lightness of touch.
The elegant harmonic contrast of Phillipson and Webb's voices in I Don't Stand A Chance, which looms into the blackness with a stately brass outro, is even reminiscent of that between Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan.
Weather The Storm is a rare example of creative vision and determination paying back dividends.