Sound — 7
Ambient-folk is a bit like a new bride using something borrowed and something new to make her ensemble complete. That's what The Black Watch have done on their latest release, Icing The Snow Queen, borrowing elements of psychedelic-folk from the 70s and making something new using coffeehouse-pop nutrients. Stemmed in country-folk foundations, The Black Watch don't stay in one place but move around using sources that are emblematic of The Cure's dream-enriched shoegaze, David Kilgour's emo-textured folk, and Yo La Tengo's lulling folk-pop. The wispy acoustic guitar brushing of Apres Lisette has a linear thrusting, while the country-embedded heartland rock bristles of the title track are laid out in rambling guitar shivers. The lead vocals of founding member, John Andrew Frederick is very relaxed along the rhythmic grooves of drummer Rick Woodard and bassist Scott Taylor, while guitarist Steven Schayer produces a variety of earthy and ethereally hued fronds around Frederick's vocals. The band integrates ambient and folk fibers into a soft candelabra of spirals moving across Jenny, Holly, Wally, Martin as country-tinged overtones are splayed delicately along the folksy links of Oh Death Death Death and Kindly Remind Me with clinging harmonica cuts enhancing the music's solace. Some tracks are draped in wingspans of jangly guitars like On Another Plane and Peppermint with fossils of shoegaze embers and glistening cascades in the effects, while the shuddering tambourine beats of Quite Contrary are branded in country-folk tones. The clopping beats of Quartz Pink Cloud are feathered in tenderly stroked acoustic guitars, which turn to a lulling pitch along the serene instrumentation of The Jean Rhys Appreciation Society. The album closes with the trippy-folk licks lining the soft psychedelics of The Love Of The Buzz borrowing elements of 70s folk and making something new out of modern coffeehouse-pop.
Lyrics — 7
The lyrics have a hindsight-angle, looking back at past mistakes and trying to decipher where everything went wrong like in The Love Of The Buzz as Frederick reflects, Had enough today and I'm realizing now the illusion that I had.. Had enough today. Many of the lyrics refer to feeling defeated and trying to piece back together what has been torn apart, only in a new pattern that will hopefully lead to a better outcome. Frederick's words in Kindly Remind Me allude to feeling misguided, Kindly remind me what I'm doing here / I'd love to be clued in.
Overall Impression — 7
Formed in Santa Barbara, California, The Black Watch give modern ambient-folk melodies trait's of being dreamy and earthy at the same time, and falling into Yo La Tengo's territory. The music lights up bonfires reaming with serene hallucinations flamed in a country-folk melodicism and soft picturesque effects. The ambient gloss on the tracks are relatable to David Kilgour with streaks of country-folk confections that are coffeehouse-pop good. Though Frederick's vocals are very much a vital part of the songs, it is the instrumental piece, The Jean Rhys Appreciation Society that stands out above the others. The musicianship and artistry of the tune is deeply perceptive and hypnotizing. It is the one song on the album that will make you see how talented The Black Watch are, and feel enamored of their music.