Tom Slatter -
Murder And Parliament

(CD 2017, 43:25, Bad Elephant Music)

The tracks:
  1- A Scattering(8:28)
  2- Crookedness(4:52)
  3- Grey Malkin(4:50)
  4- Kettle and Cauldron(3:05)
  5- Firecracker(5:02)
  6- Embers(6:43)
  7- Clamour(4:53)
  8- They Broadcast My Birthday On A Numbers Station(5:29)

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Tom Slatter is a London-based troubadour, whose previous two solo albums and live appearances have marked him out as one of prog's quirkier characters, possessing humour, charm and a sense of the absurd in equal measures.
Opting to change the trajectory at this stage in his musical career and release an instrumental album is not a decision Tom has taken lightly. It is all down to the songs which have been running around his head for the past decade, back as far as his university days that now find themselves packaged and presented on Murder And Parliament.
The original intention was for the songs to be performed by a string quartet and a solo harp: instead, it's very much Tom's one man show, aided and abetted by jazz bassist Alun Vaughan and Chrissie Caulfield on violin.
Tom's ambition and ability shine throughout this album, his guitar playing fluent and highly listenable for the whole 43 minutes. Opener, A Scattering, very much sets the tone with Tom going off at different tangents, playing the piece's central melody line three times, twice with different guitar effects and once on the synth. It is a scattergun approach but the track is all the more compelling for it.
The other tracks progress through a series of interesting twists and turns, the pell-mell tempo of Grey Malkin turning it into something fast and furious.
Kettle and Cauldron is much more percussion-led and slightly avant-garde in expression while Firecracker offers some lovely arpeggios in a piece that is both studied and sedate in its approach. However, the stand-out track is Embers, Caulfield's smouldering violin enriching the dark, smoky textures of this gorgeous mood piece.
The album sits very nicely alongside some of his fellow Elephant label stable-mates such as The Fierce and the Dead for whom instrumental albums are a way of life rather than a musical diversion.

*** Alison Reijman

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