Grawl!x: Appendix (Reckless Yes)

A tonic for the grim spring season we're currently encountering, James Machin returns with winning third album

Released Apr 6th, 2018 via Reckless Yes / By Al Judkins
Grawl!x: Appendix (Reckless Yes) This spring, in short (and we will definitely keep this short, folks) has so far presented the death of Stephen Hawking, the perpetuated abysmal weather, and the alleged fear of the Russians being injected into society by the mainstream media everywhere one turns. If there was a saviour of an album to offset the gloom for 47 minutes and warm our souls, it’s undoubtedly got to be the return of Grawl!x, and their unapologetically exclamatory spelling game. Someone certainly needs to organize a gig with Grawl!x opening for !!! in Westward Ho! (the only place in the UK ending with a punctuation mark).

Something this author failed to pick up on before is that Appendix is the third of a trilogy about grief. The first outing got missed, but you can find a review of the previous/second album Aye! also on Bearded scribed by yours truly. So, another record, and another haunting piano prologue in the name of Appendix A lures us in to the melancholy setting. This surely means that somewhere down the track listings, Appendix B will occur. And by rule of chance, it does… straight away, in fact. The second of appendices sets the bar almightily high with euphoric soft chants, gliding string arrangements, and glittery guitar effects over amazing wholesome vocal ideas. The general sound is reverb-heavy and floaty, yet it all still locks down tightly with the main frames of the tune.

The band name is a quirky pseudonym of Derby-based artist James Machin - the brainchild of this ensemble, and most of the musicians performing and producing on this album have been ever-present on said trilogy. Harmonised and doubled up nicely by the hushed vocal tones of Shelley Jane Newman on The Moment’s Gone and Danielle Butterflies of Pet Crow fame in the following track Don’t Do It To Yourself, Machin’s voice is a soothing antidote to anything that waves boisterously in the opposite vibe.

Trawpse makes for a luscious eight-minute melt-in-the-middle centerpiece, arguably boasting the catchiest lines of them all. This number reminisces the now defunct Efterklang, and the Gorillaz track on Plastic Beach featuring Little Dragon, To Binge. The outros on the tracks in Appendix are worthy of a special nod, by that meaning that they take the tune away in a whole new unexpected direction, to much commendation. Particularly visible is that of A Tether. Four minutes of piano-led ethereal rest sounds lead up to a rabble-rousing Irish fiddle jig that emerges literally out of nowhere. Out of the water, it is blown. Apricity scores high on an ender choice. Interestingly, it’s the same ending track name as Syd Arthur had on their latest album of the same title. Its isolated low woodwind line does a sterling job of creeping into one’s mind across a daily basis. Musically, it may personify a sad duck on a lonely lake, but it’s powerful stuff and it sandwiches the song perfectly.

Appendix is another unyielding success for the Midlands outfit, yet it comes out sonically and structurally stronger than the last record. Admiration grows on every listen and it makes the personal list of albums of the year so far.