Directorsound: Two Years Today
Tona Serenad

Two Years Today is the latest work from Dorset, UK-based Nick Palmer under the Directorsound name. He's been hard at it since his 2003 debut album Redemptive Strikes appeared, which he then followed with 2005's Tales From The Tightrope vol. 1 (Powershovel Audio), 2007's Leaving The Moors (Rusted Rail), and 2009's Minstrels For Sleepless (Apollolaan Recordings). A shaggy dog of a recording, Two Years Today is, one presumes, the sound of multi-instrumentalist Palmer playing everything and building the tracks up through multi-tracking. There's a homemade feel to the material, not just in the production quality but in the rag-tag looseness of the playing and arrangements—that Two Years Today lacks the note-perfect precision of laptop-generated music-making is a plus in this case, as the material breathes all the more naturally as a result. Even if the tracks were created solely by Palmer, they often sound like the work of a slightly lubricated weekend band working through arrangements in preparation for its next local gig. The instruments used for the tracks—mandolin, harmonica, glockenspiel, piano, drums, accordion, trumpet, zither, clarinet, acoustic guitar—lend the material a European feel that one makes feel as if one's attending an outdoor English fair, relaxing in a Scottish pub, or strolling through the streets of Montmartre. Field recordings collected from his Dorset home base add to the album's rich sound world.

The opening cut, “Somewhen by the Sea / Balance the Balloon,” conveys the range of the Directorsound world when waves crashing upon a beach give way to a brief episode of Hawaiian guitar playing before the song makes a whimsical jaunt through the seaside pub with sing-song melodies played by piano, glockenspiel, and banjo. Tempos shift from breakneck to near-stillness, and compositional passages change so rapidly they're akin to channel surfing. “They Came Alive” lands us in a Viennese bar when a wonky tango is performed using accordion, piano, and—shades of The Third Man—zither. An occasionally lovely episode surfaces, such as the romantic waltz that lends “Sirens in August / My Shaggy Parasol / When the Sun Sets Over the Yard Arm” a sweet side. The album's occasional rambunction is nicely tempered by the pretty lullabies “Dreams of Donnybrook” and “Around Twilight” whose antique melodies could send even the crankiest infant off to slumberland, while the piano-driven title track alternates between light-hearted breeziness and delicate wistfulness. Two Years Today's eclectic breadth suggests one could group Palmer's Directorsound with kindred spirits Minotaur Shock (David Edwards) and DoF (Brian Hulick), who are also multi-instrumentalists of unbounded imagination that recognize few if any stylistic boundaries.

October 2010