Wednesday, 1 June 2016

EDD DONOVAN & THE WANDERING MOLES

CD Review

Making Mountains (Vol1)


The debut album from Edd Donovan & The Wandering Moles, Something To Take The Edge Off, brought something fresh, innovative and refreshingly different to the table, so for those who enjoyed it their second offering had something to live up to.

Edd Donovan  
Picture copyright Jess Jones
Legend has it second albums are notoriously difficult when it comes to surpassing the original, however EDWM have cracked it.
The album kicks off with Donovan's distinctive and almost lazy style of laid-back singing with Dogs Don't Bite which seems to have two layers there is the classical style accompaniment underneath Donovan's singing which is then moved along quite briskly by what is close to a military type beat. The same type of rhythm almost segues into the following track. Are You Going The Same Way. where there is a retro feel to this song which touches on memories of The Monkees. The native Merseysider, who has made his home in Cheltenham, adds a slightly Spanish feel to the opening of Bowerbird but again keeps that retro feel to this very light ballad which, if you listen carefully, sounds like he has sampled Donovan's Jennifer Juniper. By this track you realise how Donovan manages to put a feelgood factor into his songs which invades your psyche and as you listen you find yourself smiling for no reason and thinking things just might turn out all right.
He brings in the oomph factor for Ballad Of The Dying Day with a much stronger beat and darker lyrics and an edgier style of singing. The lyrics are a little more sinister too with lines such "It's not what you know, it's what you don't."
Towards the middle Donovan bends the tune and almost takes it off kilter so you can never quite get comfortable with the longest song on the album, it's like he is trying to keep you on the edge. There are four distinctive parts to this epic with the final cranking up the retro and giving it a sound that's close to Jim Morrison and The Doors.
In contrast, Who Will Show Us? has the lighter feel of a travelling song and you get to hear the distinctive qualities of Donovan's voice which has that softness which belies his rugged and bearded looks.
He goes down the old time spiritual road for Talking Jesus and add a few crackles and you could be listening to a 20/30s gospel radio show on a massive set with glowing valves. There is such a gentleness to the way Donovan constructs and sings some of his songs you almost feel them wrap around you like a warm blanket.
There is close to a doo-wop feel bringing in Alien Light and Donovan's lyrics are almost released reluctantly one at a time, like a cabaret performer producing bubbles each one floating away to slowly fill the room.
I Am is a really simple but deep ballad, it's almost like a poem with each statement let go like a mantra sent out to give people time to reflect, meditate and digest the profundity of what he is saying. The gentle strumming of the guitar and light ethereal harmonies underneath his singing give this song a pseudo spiritual quality.
His stream of consciousness has everything in there, deep observations and light-hearted similes added to what is a hypnotic tune which you never really want to end.
There is a contradiction in The Day I Lost My Wife, the lyrics are straight out of the country pot but the tune is lighter with a busker quality which is created with the help of the understated use of the accordion.
Donovan's Hedgehog has a beautiful strings section underneath the slightly bizarre lyrics which include "You put a hedgehog in my heart." The ballad produces what seem like unconnected images which is almost challenging the listener to make sense of or put their own spin on it, a sort of DIY interpretation kit.
There is a Ska beat to the cutting lyrics of Pink Belly, a song which highlights the issue of over population. The harsh edge is back in Donovan's voice and as the song progresses it becomes more menacing and the tune gathers pace taking on a more chaotic hue.
The new album
TV Squares, the final track, is another comment on social life. This time Donovan sounds as weary as the channel hopping, social media watching population who are aimlessly looking for something interesting and more stimulating to watch. Anything rather than face or get involved in life for real.
With this album EDWM have lost none of the originality or inventiveness of their first collection and Donovan's gentle way of getting his point across can be as unnerving as it is entertaining and thought provoking.
He has such an easy manner in his singing and songwriting that while it's restful and comfortable to listen to Donovan never let's you quite relax fully, he has a wonderful way of putting a sting in the tale.
The only thing left to say is bring on Vol 2, which if you didn't know is due in 2017.

Making Mountains (Vol 1) is released June 3 on Paper Label Records.

You can see him live on June 4 at the Wychwood Festival, Cheltenham where he will be playing the Hobgoblin Stage and the Wychwood FM Stage see the festival website for ticket information.