EP Review: Pictish Trail – Dream Wall

Johnny Lynch, aka Pictish Trail

The Breakdown

Johnny Lynch soothes us with a lovely new track and some delicious reworkings of tunes from his Thumb World album.
Fire Records 8.0

Pictish Trail, the one man band of Johnny Lynch, release new EP – Dream Wall, on 1st April, featuring the title track (original and remix) plus three remixes of tracks from 2020’s Thumb World.

The name was familiar, and I guess if Green Man 2020 had gone ahead, I would have seen him live, given that he’s been there every other time.  But it didn’t, so he wasn’t, and I haven’t. As a result I’ve been enjoying Thumb World in stolen moments while doing my research.  Its titular comment on popular culture, and mobile phones within it, reminds me ever so slightly of the working title of Super Furry Animals’ Rings Around The World LP (‘Text Messaging Is Killing The Pub Quiz As We Know It’).  In any case getting to know Thumb World has been a welcome experience. So, what have they done to it here?

Kinbote’s remix of Pig Nice takes the bouncing, lolloping sonic cousin to Neil Finn’s Dream Date and dials up the dislocation.  A phasing radio, a warped hospital monitor, looping flute and a sudden drum rush under the chorus turn this into waking up at the wrong station after one too many and having fallen out of the last train. What are you going to do now? Where the fuck are you anyway?

Slow Memories gets two reworkings. Callum Easter slows it right down (no mean feat given the soft, sweet hush of the original), and gives us only fragments of the vocal mixed with the noises of early computer games to heighten the presence of electronic ghosts. Bamboo’s version brings back the subtle disquiet of the original and foregrounds it. Echoing jabs of sound bracket the vocals which Bamboo has worked lovely magic on, creating new and beautiful effects and harmonies. There’s a sense of something coming up from underneath – touches of new melody and percussion – but the tension never breaks, whoever it is that is coming never arrives. So both worthwhile diversions but on balance I’d still take the version from Thumb World and settle into its less-jarring embrace.

New track Dream Wall is not a surprise – the sound, the atmosphere are of a piece with Thumb World – but it seems to me that this track benefits from extra clarity in Lynch’s voice. It gives us the opportunity to hear and enjoy the slight trace of an accent as he sings. Running through the track is warmth, a cosy fuzz, a modulating thrum mirroring the “turn towards the blood-red beam” he sings about.  I have to admit, though, as much as I can see myself enjoying this in the reassuring calm of a warm evening, I loved Good Dog’s remix more.  When I first heard it, I pricked up my ears: “Hello! It’s New Wave!”. There’s a delightful new bassline, treated vocals and an excellently basic-sounding drum machine.  Soundtrack for series 5 of Stranger Things?

Support from Savage Mansion
Tue 22 March 2022: BIRMINGHAM – Hare & Hounds 2
Wed 23 March 2022: GUILDFORD – Boileroom
Thu 24 March 2022: CARDIFF – Clwb Ifor Bach
Fri 25 March 2022: BRISTOL – Louisiaina
Sat 26 March 2022: LONDON – Omeara
Sun 27 March 2022: BRIGHTON – The Hope & Ruin
Tue 29 March 2022: NOTTINGHAM – Bodega
Wed 30 March 2022: HEBDEN BRIDGE – Trades Club
Thu 31 March 2022: NEWCASTLE – Cluny
Fri 01 April 2022: MANCHESTER – Gullivers
Sat 02 April 2022: LEEDS – Brudenell Social Club
Thu 07 April 2022: EDINBURGH – Summerhall*
Fri 08 April 2022: DUNDEE – Beat Generator
Sat 09 April 2022: ABERDEEN – Lemon Tree
Sun 10 April 2022: STIRLING – Tolbooth
* Note change of venue, all previous tickets valid.

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