Review: Cavalier Song – A Deep Well

Mark Greenwood’s voice is chasing itself. The vowels hang open; tired or slightly drunk I don’t know, but the slack of the open mouth is a beckoning for the next sudden vision, or the next flare of sensation, not so much ejected from the mind as claimed from the unfolding of time, pregnant in the air that sits just in front of Greenwood’s lips. His spoken word is an excellent fit for Cavalier Song, whose intricate spindles of krautrock Americana often tick and rotate like the cogs of a watch (syncopated beats pushing around those arpeggiated palm mutes), or snake like fingers through mist (reverb-drenched guitars pooling outward from the corners). There is, throughout A Deep Well, the sense of an inexorable movement through time, always gathering in urgency as consequence compounds consequence. Tom drums gallop forward. The bass rumbles like an uneven road. Guitar noise fizzles as the temperature drops. The trepidation is palpable – evident in those anxious jolts of cymbal, or those brief bursts of distortion – although the band have no choice but to continue.

“Adam’s Apple” sets the album into motion: bass guitar and snare drum in frantic whirl, guitar solos bouncing on top like a tin can tethered to a moving car. “I will live forever!” proclaims Greenwood, and it’s this prescient vision that burdens even the most incidental of his words with grave severity. Each minor observation bears the weight of all that it will eventually become. These anxieties soak through the fabric of the music itself. The latter moments of “Insect Fire Dance” remind me of Debussy’s passages of terrible fantasy, the piano melody awkwardly transposed into guitar, bass and cymbal wash. And then there’s the album’s calamitous closing minutes, which rides the descendent rails of a thumping beat over the course of nine minutes: guitar feedback folding over itself, Greenwood’s words leaking into slurs of t’s and s’s, rendering an imminent disaster that’s almost vivid enough to touch. With each smack of the drum, Cavalier Song come closer to puncturing the membrane of the present.