Sepiatone: Echoes On (Interbang Records)
Bad Seeds man Hugo Race and Sicilian diva Marta Collica collaborate on widescreen epic as Sepiatone.
He’s a prolific fella, is Hugo Race. As well as being a founder member of The Bad Seeds, he counts numerous solo albums, collaborations, film appearances, scripts, theatre performances and a dozen other things into a life in which he’s stayed in most of the worlds major cities.
Teaming up with Sicilian singer/musician Marta Collica for Echoes On, a dreamy, filmic, almost trip-hop record, he’s produced something that’s a worthy companion piece to his own masterpiece, the Fatalists from 2011.
Opening with Conflicted, a piano led, string laden giant, Collica’s vocal is part spoken, part whispered and as seductive as you’d hope for. I’m immediately reminded of some of Serge Gainsbourg’s work; French chanson with a slightly sinister, seedy, late night thread woven through. Some echoed slide guitar towards the end adds a bluesey tinge.
Race and Collica duet on Shallow Tears which is not unlike a Phil Spector girl group song being played by The Tindersticks. This is a good thing. Giovanni Ferrario provides some Sergio Leone guitar figures over the “dying stars” coda and the song has a real damaged grandeur.
Mare Grosso sees Collica revert to her mother tongue as Race and cohorts add a doomy, gloomy backing which is oddly uplifting. Deep piano notes, brushed drums and double bass add a suitably melancholic air. It’s actually not unlike The Bad Seeds in its menacing fade out with some neat guitar flourishes.
Never Been Away is lighter although no less atmospheric; Collicas’ vocal recalls Stereolab or St Etienne at times; she has a classic pop sensibility which works well against the at times multi-textured, at times skeletal backing.
Air Berlin sees cello and piano soundtrack the cityscape in which Race spent many years; the fuzzy twang of the sparse guitar leads the melody in an instrumental that is in many ways the heart of Echoes On.
Morning After again lightens the mood with some jazzy figures amid it’s plaintive melody from Collica. As a song of loss and longing it’s almost perfect; Race again duets throughout and his Malboro coated baritone adds gravitas to Collica’s honey sweet voice.
The album works well as a collection; it’s fascinating throughout and is perfect for those half past stupid o’clock moments that we all find ourselves in from time to time. Race is a man who’s on a mission to spread his gospel far and wide. Maybe we should all listen.
All words by Joe Whyte. More writing by Joe on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.