Keiron Phelan and David Sheppard are busy fellows apparently. Sheppard is not only currently writing an ultra-extensive biography of Brian Eno, but is part of both Ellis Island Sound and Wisdom Of Harry with Pete Astor. Phelan is also working on another musical project, and together the duo have also released music (including last years excellent Cottonhead) under the name State River Widening.
Harps Old Master is the second album from the duo going under their birth names, and it follows in the steps of their nice little first disc, mixing flourishes of electronic processing with lots of played instrumentation including woodwinds, chimes, hand percussion, stringed instruments, guitar, and organs. The result is something that comes in somewhere between the instrumental work of Adem and the steady and subtle work of Tape. "Broken In The Wrong Places" gets the album going after a short introduction track and in over seven minutes, the group spills all their styles onto the canvas as a quiet drum machine beat, organ, strings and double bass intro morphs into a more fluttering second half that layers backwards chime loops, some filtered acoustic guitar, and more strings into something lush and beautiful.
"Weaving Song" introduces wordless vocals from Spanish singer Ines Naranjo into the mix for the first of several tracks, and her breathy words provide yet another pretty organic layer in the whispy folktronic track. There are places during the first half of the release where the group lingers a bit too long in one place (such as on the somewhat meandering and slightly lukewarm jazz of "Oriental Star"), but it's mostly forgivable considering the spellbinding ambient music that they create.
Towards the end of the album, they move into some more invigorating places again with the shorter, but percolating filtered guitar, double bass, strings and drone of "Parachute Seeds." Another standout is "Water Clock," where the group again brings a beat back into the mix to nice effect, as hushed electronic layers bounce off overlapping acoustic guitar melodies, some more dynamic double bass, and deft cello. A quiet, but highly inviting album, Harps Old Master is another successful outing from this young duo.