Ever since their formation in 2008, The Wave Pictures have always played live in the studio, rather than tracking one instrument at a time, resulting in a back catalogue that sound as if the band is in the room.
A Season In Hull manages to amplify this live feel even further. The album is entirely acoustic, percussion is very minimal, and it was all recorded through one microphone in one room with a bunch of their friends around. This is an approach rarely used for label-supported releases these days. But by self-releasing it on Wymeswold Recording, on vinyl only, they’ve managed to eschew any norms and expectations a third party might impose.
This one microphone approach was apparently suggested by friend and collaborator Darren Hayman, previously of John Peel favourites, Hefner, and welcomed with open arms. It was also a decision consolidated by the bands love for the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe & His Bluegrass Boys, who used this method. The decision to try this way of recording is an effective technique for The Wave Pictures, as the stripped back arrangements allow for Dave Tattersall’s lyrics - which have always been the biggest thing to grab onto whilst listening to The Wave Pictures - to shine brighter than ever.
Particularly illuminating lyrically, are his slightly deranged animal metaphors. On ‘Tropical fish’, Tattersall sings, “There are tropical fish flapping frantically on the red wood floor / when the chest is thrown wide open / you notice how much blood is in the heart itself.” Meanwhile, on ‘Remains’ he rambles, “You are a black throated diver / a grey like goose / a whooper swan / fashioning his long white neck into a noose.”
The deeper you dive into Tattersall’s words, the more you begin to see he doesn’t write about conventional pop songwriting subject matters. He tends to sing about struggle with a glimmer of hope, as ‘The Pharmacy Cross’ illustrates in the following stanza: “I have no idea of the forces that you were up against/ I have arms though, good arms for holding / there is a home somewhere, we could grow old in.” There are exceptions to the murky feel, the most obvious being the hopeful sounding cut, ‘A Season in Hull (Dom’s Song)’ where the words, "Your sense of humour will get me through" are chirpily sung.
On the whole, the album is deeply imaginative lo-fi gem, but ‘Memphis In Paris’ begs to be skipped as Tattersal simply repeats, "See you later alligator, in a while crocodile."
The joy of listening to a very good quality acoustic album, that has a warm ambient feel thanks to the ye olde way they’ve gone about it outweighs any minor irritation, though. The Wave Pictures have embraced DIY ethic and shown that less is more and will hopefully inspire more people to make a record this way.
7Cai Trefor's Score