Make no mistake, we love Swindon folk-rock duo Sound Affects here at Devizine. Ergo I’m prepped with some fond words and in high expectations prior to listening to their new album out today (13th Dec) Ley Lines. It’s been over two years since reviewing Everyday Escapism, their previous nugget of wonderful. And if I praised them for the honest folk songs then, Ley Lines is an immense enhancement for acute subject matter, and is lyrically grafted with more passionate prose. The result is sublime, as I anticipated, but that smidgen more.
From the off Gouldy and Cath compose with significance, and these eleven tunes don’t simply drift over you aimlessly with acoustic goodness, though they have that. They stand as testaments to the tenet of injustices of modern social and political issues. Upon faced with the political reformist opening song, One Man Army, you know there’s an aim to reinforce the lost ethos of political standing in a song, as is the direct influences they often cover as their band, The Daybreakers; of power-pop, new wave post-punk, eighties garage and mod. Though as a duo, Sound Affects are strictly folk-rock, only maintaining the ethos of their inspirations in lyrics.
The second tune projects like a musical of an Alan Bleasdale play, there’s certain bitterness in the broken dreams and prewritten fate of folk in the decay of modern poverty, and Gouldy nails it akin to Ken Loach, with No Means to Pay. What follows is a Kafkaesque, revolutionary dream, but if you felt this is all liberal point-scoring, King for a Day has more acquitted associations similar to the drifting and euphoric sounds of Everyday Escapism.
Windmills drifts similarly, gorgeously, and is naturally Edenic. While shards of the aforementioned bitterness are subtle now, replaced with an idyllic moment, you consider if they’re losing the edginess of the opening tunes. Then Cath’s flute takes us back to a tender era with Giving Something Back, and Gouldy sings, perhaps the most simplistic chorus, but genius song here, it opens a clear nod to his love for the narrative of Irish folk; it’s a working-class ideology, and you can effectively visualise the labours leaving for home on a dark winter’s eve, with the backdrop of a cold red-bricked factory. There’s something acutely Levellers, but a sprinkling of Springsteen’s Nebraska about it.
Typically, romance with a twist is a not forgotten subject, but played well, in Say it to my Face, and it returns with ponderings of conspiracy and dogmatic hierarchy. Unanswered Questions has overtones of a missing girl, without mentioning the McCann family, there’s connotations of a similar tragedy, and it’s heartbreakingly candid. Yet throughout any dejection in theme, Sound Affects always ascertain a joyful euphoria through the sublimeness and effortlessness of their sound; acoustic guitar and flute, fiddle; tried and tested formula to hold a pub gig spellbound, as they recurrently do.
Together what you have is a numinously uplifting, wandering and softened euphoric album which drifts on rancorous and sometimes acrimonious subjects many modern musicians might steer away from. It’s folk alright, but with a bygone bite and righteous morals. More importantly, it’s so damn good, it’s essential.