It’s difficult to know where to begin with Norwich’s Wooden Arms. Self-described as ‘genre-fluid’, and with as much disregard for convention as such a label justifies, the five-piece craft seemingly effortless arrangements that veer from fragile and introspective, to sprawling and optimistic, often within a single track. And while ‘Trick Of The Light’, the band’s latest album, feels more sombre than the chamber pop of their debut, it still retains all the nuance, beauty and varied influences that made said debut so impressive.
Taking influence from seemingly disparate styles before merging them together isn’t a particularly new way of doing things, however. The difference with ‘Trick Of The Light’ is that it manages to pull it off with aplomb.
From melancholy classical, frenetic folk and rousing alt-rock, even at times trip-hop, it’s a record that segues between genres both wilfully, and stylishly. Initial listens might well leave one with ideas of it being disjointed or that it flows somewhat erratically, but ‘Trick of the Light’ is a record that’s worth spending time with. Dig deeper and its nuances and cinematic qualities slowly unfurl and envelope its listeners.
While not an easy album to digest, and one that certainly demands your full attention, once it clicks you’ll find yourself returning again and again. The beautifully meandering ‘Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky’, for instance, offers exquisite swells of strings and subtle piano, eventually blossoming in to a richly textured and utterly irresistible folk-pop masterpiece, somewhat akin to Sigur Rós, but even with flavours of The Magnetic Fields. This track alone is worth returning for, but following number ‘Cole Porter’ warrants similar merits, despite being a world away sonically.
Moody bass and icy piano offer the album’s first taste of its trip-hop elements; a dull throb providing a pulsating backbone to an ethereal vocal harmony. In lesser hands such a blatant sonic shift might feel disconcerting, but once again, here it works.
Such is the quality of all on offer across the course of ‘Trick Of The Light’, that it’s impossible to pick a stand-out moment. Even those tracks that hold less impact — ‘Bells’, for instance, or ‘Yawning At The Apocalypse’, feel intrinsic to the record’s overall makeup.
Though a record that takes several listens to adjust to, those that stick with ‘Trick Of The Light’ are rewarded with something that stays with you long after its gentle conclusion. Richly nuanced and staggeringly pretty despite undertones of melancholy, this is a full-length that warrants repeat rotation.
Words: Dave Beech
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