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Released 30/01/2012 - Chemikal Underground Records

I had the end of January in my mind as the release date for new albums from both Errors and Django Django. It was on the day itself that I found out about this album from Glaswegian guitarist RM Hubbert. Thirteen Lost & Found is his second album, and builds upon the stripped back approach of his first, First & Last. The ampersand fanatic this time uses his distinctively loose instrumental arrangements for acoustic guitar to act as the water cooler around which he and friends collaborate. Some, such as Alex Kapranos, Aidan Moffat, Emma Pollock and Paul Savage are probably well known to purveyors of the Scottish indie scene. Others, such as the Icelandic Hanna Tuulikki provide something unexpected but equally as mesmerising.

To say the instrumental approach has been abandoned is overstating things a little, as opener ‘We Radioed’, ‘Foe Joe’ and ‘Gus Am Bris An Latha’ each set out Hubbert’s stall as an artist of real merit and intrigue. The former in particular, a collaborative jam with Luke Sutherland, reminds me of last year’s Bill Orcutt albums, although that probably owes more to my general ignorance of the contemporary post-blues scene than anything else. Regardless, after 2 minutes of somewhat sinister scene-setting in come Aidan Moffat and Alex Kapranos with ‘Car Song’, introducing a lo-fi mix of Hubbert’s white spirit acoustics and the grizzled poetics of Moffat’s chanson storytelling. Anyone familiar with last year’s excellent ‘Everything’s Getting Older‘ (alongside Bill Wells) is sure to be charmed by this, as it channels much of the same spirit(s).

The following two tracks, ‘Foe Joe’ and ‘Gus Am Bris An Latha’, are two ample slices of folk-tinged Americaledonia, Hubbert joined on the latter by John Ferguson, who I know little to nothing about, although if he’s this John Ferguson then he’s certainly restrained himself for this number. The next track provides what at the moment I consider the album’s highlight, ‘Sunbeam Melts the Hour’, a brightly arranged melding of somewhat disparate guitar and vocals, laden with hooks that sweep and roll. Vocalist Hanna Tuulikki gives the whole thing a hint of Dirty Projectors meets the Dirty Three, as introduced by Olof Arnalds. 6th track ‘V’ provides further melodious improvisational (in feeling if not intended) invention, reminiscent of some of Lambchop’s William Tyler’s playing on 2010’s excellent ‘Behold the Spirit‘. Follower ‘Sandwalks’ brings a reverberating piano into the mix, which tumbles over loose stringed fretwork to create a sense of dark foreboding and uncertainty. Cymbal crashes create a literal translation of the sea as it batters a path through the liminal terrain underfoot.

Delgados lynchpin and now-solo artist Emma Pollock steps up next on ‘Half Light’, and in doing so hints at fertile ground for a lengthier collaboration in the future. She sings of her receding sense of self-knowing and self-assuredness, over woozy, fiddling strings, creating a tense atmosphere that lies unresolved by the song’s end. ‘Hungarian Notation’ and ‘Switches Part 2’ are two more purely instrumental numbers, although on the latter there are smatterings of fingertaps that use the guitar’s body as a percussive rather than stringed instrument. I’m never a great fan of this to be honest, but as it doesn’t feature too much here (and is well done, in truth) I’ll let him off. ‘Hungarian Notation’ is rather more to my taste (the tapping in the background rather than foreground) and with some accordion added to sharp, insistent drumming you can’t go far wrong. The guitar hooks are delivered with little fuss, and work with rather than dominate the accompanying instruments. It all comes to a close with ‘The False Bride’, as vocalist Alasdair Roberts sings a beautiful, regretful paean to love misplaced by reticence or indiscretion, whose only recourse lies in a retreat to an early grave, to slowly forget his bitter memories through eternal sleep.

I’ve been playing this album all week, which is saying something considering the other albums released alongside it. It has been a thoroughly rewarding experience, and the next time RM Hubbert releases something I will be sure to anticipate it rather than greet it as a welcome surprise.

Tracklisting

1. We Radioed

2. Car Song

3. Foe Joe

4. Gus Am Bris An Latha

5. Sunbeam Melts the Hour

6. V

7. Sandwalks

8. Half Light

9. Hungarian Notation

10. Switches Part 2

11. The False Bride

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