On his self-titled release under the name Songs Of Green Pheasant, Duncan Sumpner turned in a dizzying debut of lo-fi songwriting that seemed to mix equal parts Galaxie 500 and Simon & Garfunkel. It was one of those little releases that came out of nowhere and really knocked me back a bit, leaving me waiting with baited breath to see what he'd come up with next. Although it's his second release, Aerial Days isn't really a proper follow-up to his debut, but instead more of an "odds of sods" collection of tracks recorded over the course of the past couple years.
The above reason makes the release a little bit frustrating in places, not only because of the levels of recording quality but the hit-or-miss quality of the songs themselves. The short disc actually opens with what is probably one of the best songs that Sumpner has ever done in "Pink By White." With a heavy dose of reverb on everything, breathy words fall in alongside some beautiful guitar work while washes of simmering drones offset the more fragile moments. A more rocking end even manages to blend some fuzzy guitars with the more spectral sound that Sumpner has done so well.
From there, things get fairly spotty despite several great moments. "Remembering And Forgetting" gets by on sheer atmosphere alone for awhile, but at seven minutes simply repeats itself a couple times too many, while "Wolves Amongst Snowmen" seems to possibly have some promise but suffers from such a low quality recording that it's hard to parse. The more poppy rhythms combined with Sumpners usual dizzying sounds at times feel like two completely different songs pushed together into an uneven marriage.
On the other side of the coin, the understated "Wintered" sheds a lot of the heavy reverb and shows off a more sparse side (with sparkling bells and hopalong percussion) that works quite well. His cover of the Beatles' "Dear Prudence" (which he created for a Radio One show commemorating John Lennon's death) is great as well, taking the original and filtering it through a grainy lens that pushes it out of the original comfort zone. Given his debut and the rather similar overall feel on this release, here's hoping that Sumpner pushes his boundaries even more on his next album (which is supposedly nearly done and will follow shortly).