Album Review: The Catenary Wires – ‘Til The Morning’

The Catenary Wires - 'Til The Morning'
The Catenary Wires are Rob Pursey and Amelia Fletcher, named after the overhead wires on tram systems.  If their names are not familiar – their voices might be. They’ve been working in various bands together since the 80’s including legendary indie pop bands Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, Tender Trap, and Marine Research (all worth checking out).  The Catenary Wires are an emotive indie duet, capturing the spirits of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood, Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot, and releasing them into modern Britain. The resulting songs will appeal to fans of Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile or Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan.
On this album, they are joined by Andy Lewis (Paul Weller Group, Spearmint) on cello, mellotron and percussion, and Fay Hallam (Makin’ Time, Prime Movers) on Hammond organ and backing vocals. Matthew King (a classical composer) plays piano. Nick and Claire Sermon play brass. The local Kentish countryside provides ambient noise. The album was recorded during 2018 at the Sunday School, in the middle of nowhere in Kent. The duo’s move from the London indie scene was the impetus behind the new band and sound, in fact they had almost given up on making music. Fortunately for us, they did not and on one winter’s day, picked up their daughter’s small guitar, just to see what happens.
These days, big studios aren’t as important as the artist themselves and the homemade recordings were surprisingly made in an un-soundproofed room, with each sigh as coming in as clear as breath on an icy morning. Instrumentation is simple, such as the snare an old metal trailer hit with a stick.  It is a big step forward from their first album (Red Red Skies on Elefant Records/Matinee Recordings): more complex and more beguiling, with a multi-layered sound that reflects a range of additional instruments, including harmonium, bells and an old trailer.

The album was produced by Andy Lewis, who has recently produced albums for Judy Dyble and French Boutik. Track 1, Dream Town, is the first single from the album. “Dream Town” is a beautifully harmonized song that seems to be about divorce. “Hollywood” also demonstrates Rob and Amelia’s vocal harmonies while seeming to provide advice to an aspiring actor or friend about beauty and truth. Amelia’s vocals takes the lead on “Sixteen Again,” a more upbeat pop tune with delicate instrumentation and alternating chorus. “Dark Brown Eyes” is a melancholic dirge-like tune beginning with Rob Pursey joined by Amelia occasionally. 

The mood changes on the album with the poppier “Back on Hastings Pier” with its layered chorus and stripped down acoustic sound, which feels somehow familiar while exploring new territory.  “Love on the Screen” seems to express a fear of the world where love seems more real on the screen than in real life (“I wish that I could stay their hands / As they reach for their bibles / And their rifles”). There seems to be a repeated theme of lost relationships, which continues with “Half-Written” describing “what might have been”, like half a book, story, and song which ends with Amelia’s spoken lyrics about someone leaving.

“Tie Me to the Rails” is familiar sounding call and response tune that alternates between a sort of swinging version of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” and a more hopeful chorus.  The more stripped down “So Quiet in This Home” alternates vocals as well as a chorus that sounds intentionally boxed in, which makes you feel slightly comforted.  The album picks up again with the jangly “I’ll Light Your Way Back”, which contrasts Amelia’s spoken vocal and alternated harmonies.  “Til the Morning” is a slightly dramatic track backed by piano with lovely vocal harmonies about hopefulness on “waking up to a bright new day.” “Dancing” closes the album with a slightly grand chamber pop sound reminiscent of The Magnetic Fields.

The Catenary Wires’ new album is full of unusual sounds and pop hooks, which effectively showcase the harmony of Amelia Fletcher’s and Rob Pursey’s contrasting vocal styles. “Til The Morning” shows that inspiration can be found anywhere, even the countryside. The album launch will be on 14th June at St Pancras Old Church in London. The band will play in the UK in July, the US in August and Germany later this year.
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1 Comment

  1. […] Wires reached out to me on Facebook after seeing my review of the Catenary Wires album on about Backseat Mafia. His new band/album European Sun, which does feature Amelia on this track “Favourite Day,” […]

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