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The first release on the new Unwashed Territories label is Beggars Belief by The Hogarths. It's the kind of record that makes you want to start a record label.
It’s the mixing of styles, the variety of instrumentation, deftness of touch and the refusal to view any musical territory as uninhabitable, that sets the album apart. ‘I May Kill You’, for example, utilises a Duane Eddy guitar line to minimal but brilliant effect. The Eddy effect is warped and disjointed into something misshapen and sublime in the supremely cluttered swarm of ‘Pink’ ‘Yellow Bellied Pondweller’ is a slow-burning swampy crawl with an almost Gene Clark-like propensity to yield sound features that probably aren’t actually there. Such passages of instrumentation, textures and references fall away and recur throughout.
There aren’t too many comparisons to make with Crocodiles here, but regular listeners of my show will know that their albums have a way of sounding great to me at the start and then somehow sounding even greater later on. So it is here. The brooding ‘Whisky Queen Mary’, which I play in my January Dandelion Radio show, cranks up the intensity, and is followed by the lilting ‘Pigeon Pollock Stains’, its references to the interface between the made and the discovered – with the latter playing no less a part in the creative process – a template for the album as a whole, its play with the Socratic concepts of the art and the knack redolent throughout this amazing collection, just as the world-weary tenor growl of Jack rubs up against the liquid smoothness of Olga Hogarth’s voice.
While it’s possible these names may be pseudonyms, the unity of sound that blends so many barely compatible musical features is something best achieved by two people playing everything, including their obsessions, untainted by other musical input. While the bastardisation of a work via the influence of, say, a bass player and drummer who won’t do what their told, is often no bad thing, ‘Beggars Belief’ has an exquisite value that is so neatly executed that you feel even the smallest of musical additions might queer the mix to detrimental effect. There aren’t many albums of which this could be said, and this is one of the few to warrant such reverence thus far into the current century.