The Left Outsides: There Is A Place
Eggs in Aspic

For anyone coming to The Left Outsides' music for the first time, There Is A Place provides an expansive introduction to the London-based outfit's particular brand of pastoral psych-folk. The cassette-only release (fifty copies) is hardly the first collection from husband-and-wife duo Mark Nicholas and Alison Cotton, whose previous releases include The Shape of Things to Come, And Colours In Between, and the live album Live At The Drop Out and who most recently appeared on Rural Colours' Pauline Oliveros tribute The Last Sense To Leave Us.

Drawing for inspiration from the forest, There Is A Place features new compositions alongside reworks of material the group wrote and performed for Gus Alvarez's film, Stand & Deliver. The melancholy cry of Cotton's viola playing is one of the set's major selling-points, and despite the release's half-hour length, ample stylistic ground is covered, with everything from eerie, hypnotic instrumentals to conventional vocal-based songs on offer. There's a gothic dimension to the group's sound that calls to mind images of misty English fields at dawn and the landscapes of the Brontës.

The brooding instrumental “Cry of the Hunter” eases the listener in on a dramatic note (much as “The Creeping Fog,” darkened with a spoken word passage, will guide one out seven songs later), with mournful expressions of strings, guitar, and wordless vocalizing punctuated by piano chords, the piece resembling at times a meditative King Crimson improv from the early ‘70s. In contrast to the opener's drone style, the crawling ballad “One Step at a Time” conforms to standard song form with a lead vocal by Nicholas backed by raw guitar textures and a wordless Cotton. If any track has single potential, it's “Under Noonday Sun” for the high energy of its uptempo drum groove, Alison's radio-friendly vocal, and the song's general Lush-like character. Still, it's the ballads that are more memorable, a prime example a stripped-down cover of Grant McLennan and Steve Kilby's “Civil War Lament” that sees Nicholas and Cotton sharing lead vocals and harmonizing to splendid effect.

July 2017