A bare­back thrill ride on an un­pre­dictable mol­lusc.

Prog - - The Musical Box - IF

Where once Ian Black was mark­ing time as the tour­ing bassist for Mer­cury-nom­i­nated art­ful indies Field Mu­sic, he’s now onto his sec­ond, sig­nif­i­cantly more as­sured full-length re­lease as the driv­ing force of Slug. It’s hardly sur­pris­ing that Hig­gledy Pig­gledy finds Black forg­ing an iden­tity all his own in com­par­i­son to 2015’s feet-find­ing de­but Ripe when you con­sider Slug’s orig­i­nal stu­dio in­car­na­tion fea­tured his for­mer band’s sib­lings Peter and David Brewis. En­cour­aged by Ripe’s plau­dits, Black has com­posed, pro­duced and played ev­ery in­stru­ment here. Cast­ing aside generic con­straints, he’s em­braced fresh pos­si­bil­i­ties and de­liv­ered an al­bum of abun­dant charm. So who’s in here? There are wafts of pas­toral XTC, sug­ges­tions of Neu­tral Milk Ho­tel, a crumb or two of Cake, a steely core of po­lit­i­cal dis­sat­is­fac­tion soft­ened by hu­man­is­ing el­e­ments of wry hu­mour, en­gag­ing vo­cal fragility and melan­cholic psych-Prince sen­su­al­ity. It’s a de­li­cious hotch­potch with a wide vo­cab­u­lary. Gar­nished with strings here, hung off a driv­ing riff there, Hig­gledy Pig­gledy does what it likes, when it likes, and as a con­se­quence, it de­liv­ers a thrill ride of un­ex­pected sur­prises.

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