Oddfellow’s Casino – The Raven’s Empire

January is a slow month for album releases, after the December slow-down it takes time for the new releases to start appearing. This does make it a good time for lesser known acts to get some attention whilst the big acts are waiting for more commercially targeted periods to release new material. Brighton band Oddfellow’s Casino, lead by David Bramwell, start the year in a very positive way with an excellent showing on their third album.

The Ravens Empire

Opener ‘The Day The Devil Slipped Away’ starts gently, soft guitar and keyboards layered against Bramwell’s hushed vocals. The initial feel is similar to some of the more keyboard lead 60s acts, The Zombies sping to mind, or forgotten 90s band the Kingsbury Manx. The sound here though is more intricate and sounds are layered sounds superbly, then8-track recording here achieves a big studio sound, the song reaching a storming prog-rock conclusion.

The second track ‘Winter In A Strange Town’ mixes picked guitar and jazzy drumming in a way that recalls Pentangle, no surprise on an album called the Raven’s Empire. Again the arrangements are superb and continue to be so for the length of the album. As the album progresses more and more instruments make an appearance with wind and brass instruments becoming increasingly dominant on the second half of the album.

It is the playing and arrangements that make this album a little bit special. The vocals are good, and the lyrics are literate, but they are subtle and can’t compete with the relative bombast of the instrumentation. This is no criticism and the vocals are nicely layered through the tracks adding to the slightly hypnotic effect of the songs.

It really is a masterclass in recording, and comparisons that have been made to Sufjan Stevens are certainly accurate in this respect. The horns during the codas of ‘We Will Be Here’ and ‘Bluebirds’ or the drums in ‘When The Comet Came’ sound brilliant and you can imagine how good these songs would sound played by the full compliment of musicians live on stage.

The album closes with the much smoother club jazz sound of ‘Death Won’t Have Me’, with accordions joining the orchestration, but like all the tracks here it is a complex, building and beautifully arranged piece. This is the kind of album that it seems particularly unfair to review after only a handful of listens, it reveals more of itself each time and demands more attention. It is, however, an immediately enjoyable and interesting set of songs that makes for a pretty perfect start to music in 2012.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

Oddfellow’s Casino launch the album at the Brighton Proud Ballroom on the 23rd February. Click here for details.

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