A good sunset comes across like a dose of pleasant melancholy. If the day has to end, then let in end in a spectacle, and let it make its audience wonder about this realm and realms beyond. Even in these late months, the sunset presents a façade of warmth, which could well be understood as consolation for actual warmth. It’s something to watch from house windows and car windows, near bridges and rivers, over rooftops, beside skyscrapers.
In its finest moments, Tiny Ruins’s Hurtling Through EP conjures the spirit of a well-designed sunset. It’s music with no deathlike urgency, in plain denial of the ecstatic tendencies of… well, most other strains of popular music. It goes slowly and burns itself through in unhurried steadiness. Similar to Leonard Cohen’s debut, the engine of each track is singer Hollie Fullbrook’s rhythm guitar and voice, bolstered by adornment aplenty. Percussion is a player but not a protagonist. Most instrumental hooks come via the acoustic guitar; on 'Little Did I Know', Nick Drake is alive and kicking within the recurrent hammer-on that punctuates the EP's strongest lyrical hook: “I thought a lot, little did I know.”
Opener 'Tread Softly' sets a reliable tone. Understated production serves well the brief, potent sentiment of the WB Yeats poem of the same name. The narrator supposes that if she were rich, she would spread “embroidered cloth” beneath the feet of the song’s addressee. However, she admits her poverty, offering therefore only her dreams as cushioning to tread upon. Thus, she implores: “Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.” I couldn't name a more tenuous, more honest foundation upon which to base a relationship. The song’s addressee remains anonymous, and is equally as likely to be a romantic interest as the narrator herself.
It’s one of two Yeats poems set to music. The other is 'Wandering Aengus', the labyrinthine narrative of a wanderer alternately inflamed and intrigued, intent upon consuming the various divine fruits of the cosmos. Perhaps unfortunately, Yeats’s two contributions represent two of the more interesting lyrics on the EP. The repeated presence of Yeats frames Tiny Ruins as aspiring to the literarily canonical, another contrarian-by-default feature of Hurtling Through. While I’m sure there are plenty of contemporary lyricists who would love to be counted among the finest wordsmiths of our (or any) time, not many employ the comparatively high-minded diction of somebody like Yeats.
Oh, and the field recording 'Public Menace' – on which collaborator Hamish Kilgour bangs railings with a spoon and Hollie Fullbrook laughs — is essentially wasted space to these ears. It’s neither especially funny nor especially illuminating, and you’d hope that a recorded candid encounter (is there such a thing?) would at least be be one or the other.
The key issue with Hurtling Through is the key issue with folk-infused music in general: its earnestness sometimes just sounds wimpy. Good sunsets produce dazzling palettes of colour, but they also presage night, which is analogous with death. Night is when enlivened souls become manic, and the reliable divisions of day are blurred. In essence, night has an edge of cosmic mystery that the sunset precedes, and therefore predicts. Hurtling Through has all the preciousness of a beautiful sunset, but none of the edge of impending night. Which means this: it will make you feel nice, and meaning does await patient lyrical study, but it’s just not especially challenging.
6Dustin Lowman's Score