Welcome to Bat Country
Somewhere, in the middle of nowhere, a dilapidated big top stands. Trudging through the rain towards it, a small orchestra is besieged by birds of paradise. Inside the tent an ill-fated clown juggles a selection of salamis (clubs pawned, loan sharks placated) accompanied by a knackered barrel organ and the purring of a cat with a megaphone. Backstage, a monstrously overweight stunt motorcyclist nervously contemplates gravity, whilst outside the bats are circling ever closer…
Welcome to the atmospheric second album from “The Golden Age of Steam”. The regular trio is augmented by string quartet, brass section, electric bass and a baffling array of samples, found sounds and electronic wizardry to create an aural journey of strange and psychedelic proportions. As a result of some intuitive, empathetic musicianship, all this activity still leaves plenty of space for contemplation and interaction.
Welcome To Bat Country has a cinematic, noir-ish quality at times, and at every possible turning point something unexpected emerges. Aglow-Piano Dentist creates a juxtaposition of extremes, with tense, absorbing keyboards suddenly colliding with a vicious bombardment of sound and ideas. The desolate, intricately crafted Quiet Now moves slowly into a sci-fi world of final dreams. The opening Animal Slices and the skittering Butterdome have a quirkier, more playful quality, and the closer Bat Country conjures a giant red shark plunging headlong into the afterglow of the American Dream.
Every composition here tells a bold story, and the range of musical colours and textures James Allsopp deploys as composer and arranger lead to a heightened, more vivid narrative experience. This is a nuanced, dizzying and genre defying musical landscape – Welcome To Bat Country is surely one of the albums of the year.