Prog pop Celtic mad­ness from Richard Daw­son-fea­tur­ing band.

Prog - - The Musical Box - JB

Orig­i­nally the avant im­pro­vi­sa­tional project of anti-folk man of the mo­ment Richard Daw­son and mav­er­ick harpist Rho­dri Davies, Hen Ogledd (Welsh for ‘The Old North’) have ex­panded on third al­bum Mogic by be­com­ing a quar­tet, with Sally Pilk­ing­ton join­ing Dawn Both­well on keys and vo­cals. That ti­tle is ap­po­site too, be­cause much of this al­bum sounds like a col­li­sion be­tween magic and logic, where songs that don’t ini­tially sound se­ri­ous can morph into sin­is­ter, sci-fi in­flected fa­bles for our time. Wonk­i­ness is ev­ery­where, but con­trasted with mo­ments of strange beauty: the art­less sing­ing and skit­ter­ing gui­tar of Sky Burial flower into a won­der­ful vocoder cho­rus; Gwae Reged O Hed­diw is a Welsh poem be­ing taught to and re­peated by a child over an en­viro-am­bi­ent back­ing. Else­where, First Date is a creepy bal­lad played by a ro­bot, while the in­sec­toid techno of Trans­port & Travel sound­tracks a Cale­do­nian acid trip. But ace in the pack here is the post-punk prog pop per­fec­tion of Prob­lem Child, Daw­son’s propul­sive bass and near falsetto vo­cal driv­ing what is surely one of the year’s must-hear tracks. Not al­ways the eas­i­est of lis­tens, Mogic is a play­ful yet dis­qui­et­ing al­bum.

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