Stealing Sheep - Into The Diamond Sun (Heavenly)

Liverpudlian alt. pop trio release impressive debut LP

Released Aug 20th, 2012 via Heavenly / By Richard Lewis
Stealing Sheep - Into The Diamond Sun (Heavenly) After a brace of EPs compiled on last year’s mini-album Noah and the Paper Moon alerted the world to their nascent talent, female alt.pop trio Stealing Sheep begin afresh with their debut album proper. Proving how the Liverpudlian three-piece have developed over the past eighteen months, Into the Diamond Sun showcases Becky Hawley, Emily Lansley and Lucy Mercer’s idiosyncratic songwriting to frequently dazzling effect.

Adorned with a cover dimly reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s debut masterpiece The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967), the music contained within the present LP isn’t entirely dissimilar in feel. Like Floyd founder Syd Barrett, Stealing Sheep deal in a form of psychedelic folk music, imbued with strangeness and possessing a whimsical bucolic charm all of its own.

Recorded by Liverpool based producer Sam Crombie the fine details of the band’s live sound has been magnified, each percussive thud and buzzing synth note captured perfectly. Opening gambit The Garden sets out the band’s stall, guitar work that swerves between straightforward and seasick, vintage synth sounds, deep tuned tom tom drums backed with slo-mo cymbals overlaid with watertight vocal harmonies.

The superb, sinister nursery rhyme-like Shut Eye – the band’s best known song – appears second, with the vocal melody weaving its way across the foundation of Becky’s synth line before bursting into a massed chorus. Rearrange, constructed around a see-sawing acoustic guitar line and handclaps, takes turns to spotlight the trio’s distinct voices individually, while the band’s off-kilter instrumentation comes to the fore on White Lies. Led by a military drum tattoo which breaks into a solo on novelty 1960s pocket keyboard the stylophone mid-way through, the track is the most direct on the album, the detached delivery of ‘You say that you love me/But we both know you don’t/So why lie?’ seemingly addressed in frustration at a former acquaintance provides the lyrical highpoint of the set.

Arguably the band’s best song to date, current single Genevieve appears immediately after and is the shiniest gem on offer. Here the imaginative leaps taken by Emily’s guitar playing throughout the album reaching its zenith during its two and three-quarter minutes.

Elsewhere the Moroccan sway of Gold, writhing along on a serpentine guitar figure and Eastern instrumentation is a joy. Its hazy, jostick-scented atmosphere sure-footedly navigating its way through several tempo changes before returning to its initial theme.

Closer Bear Tracks proves to be the most radical departure, nudging the band into progressive rock territory, a suite of three songs condensed into one track. Just shy of ten minutes long the piece connected by a recurring archaic sound effect, sees Becky Hawley’s lilting vocal meander along before the music breaks into a gallop during the opening section.

As the oscillating time signatures and zig-zagging guitar line gradually merge into one hypnotic blur next the final stretch, a vocal-less piece that resembles a piano recital overheard from an adjoining room, brings the LP to a close in mysterious fashion. A frequently brilliant debut placing the band near the cutting edge of alternative pop, where Stealing Sheep are headed next is anyone’s guess. The answer is likely to be soon mind, as the band are already discussing the follow-up.