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Illesh; Robert: To Horsenden

If there's one thing you simply can't do, it's tie singer songwriter and man of many instruments Robert Illesh down to one style. Across his impressive catalogue you encounter Blim, a band who specialised in spacey psych prog, Aquaplanage, an outfit of more obvious Prog proportions, while Robert's previous solo album Golden (his second) quite beautifully explored acoustic/instrumental territory.

To Horsenden however veers (not too surprisingly) into pastures new once more, a folky acoustic and blues theme infusing twelve tracks which ably demonstrate Illesh's fine voice and undoubted skills on acoustic guitar. The album opens with "Strummin Dawg", which in truth is an odd choice, its gently tongue in cheek delivery possessing a lyric extolling the virtues of possessing and being loved by ones guitar. The song itself is harmonica strewn blues, where it's sometimes hard to work out if Illesh is hoping to portray a faux American accent, or a more upper crust English lilt; that quandary proving something of a distraction. "A Song For You" would have made a far more instant impact as album opener, a quirky recorder(?) – which at song's end sounds somewhat like the British childern's TV character The Clangers – darting across a hugely catchy acoustic strum and some wonderful vocals, before the spellbinding "After The Rain Song" transports you to a world as much of forgotten relationships and loneliness as the shimmering beauty of a dew mottled hill in the sunlight…

It's an eclectic start and a theme of altering styles continues across the wonderful folk of "Tiger Song" where once again a strong vocal and memorable melody prove enough to keep the attention thoroughly fixed. A more serious take on the blues arrives via "Matchbox Blues", harmonica once again in full flow as a languid theme is pierced by shards of electric picking, and then there's a wisp of the darting storyteller about "Wallowing In A Self Made Garden Of Thoughts" (what a cracking song title). Personally I struggle to connect with the the protest song vibe of "Were You There?" – although the lyric feels more about the one sided nature of a failed relationship and is possibly the most heart wrenching on the album. Cleverly the smoother lilt of "A Very Delicate Time Indeed" once more sets the tone on its head, wonderful vocal harmonies slipping alongside smooth flute, before "A Day In June" positively pops and powers through hand percussion which sounds suddenly forceful against the less 'pushed' moments.

From there the acoustic prog "North Carolina" reminds a little of Fish, although in a far less idiosyncratic manner, as "How Do I Know" follows a similar vein, although there's a more easy 60s carefree vibe that adds a dreamy air which proves tough to resist. Which leaves "Traveller's End" to close things in suitably busy but restrained style, the contradictions clashing neatly and in many ways summing up this album perfectly.

I often try to avoid reviewing an album through a straight track by track run down of 'this sounds like that and that sounds like this'. However sometimes an album is so intentionally all over the place that to truly illustrate its diversity, you find it hard not to touch on each and every song. To Horsenden proves to be exactly such an album and as such it's impossible not to be hugely impressed by what it portrays. Truth told, not everything comes off every time and yet there are huge redeeming features in even the songs which don't quite click into place. However when Illesh hits the sweet spot, resistance proves futile, if not always in the manner you expected.

Track Listing
1. Strummin Dawg
2. A Song For You
3. After The Rain Song
4. Tiger Song
5. Matchbox Blues
6. Wallowing In A Self Made Little Garden Of Thoughts
7. Were You There?
8. A Very Delicate Time Indeed
9. A Day In June
10. North Carolina
11. How Do I Know
12. Traveller's End

Added: August 30th 2015
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Robert Illesh online
Hits: 1581
Language: english

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