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This EP consists of four songs that didn't make it onto the album The Last Holy Writer. And all four are wonderful.

Beth's title track is a sprightly little number, reminiscent of a more rootsy Helen Reddy; a power/poppy little jumper that certainly should've been included on the album.

The other three songs are Wratten's, and they are all pretty spiffy. "As Easy As Being Alone" is a pretty jumpy little number with a cool retro guitar sound; "Outside Looking Elsewhere" and "And Then Silence" showcase a more familiarly slower and quiet side of Wratten's writing.

Very highly recommended as a companion to The Last Holy Writer, this brief collection is a little bittersweet, because in the months leading up Last Holy Writer's release, Wratten announced that the Trembling Blue Stars had retired from live performances. A shame because they really were on a roll ... Wratten subsequently resurfaced with his next project, Northern Picture Library.

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Posted: Sunday 12th May 2019 11:13 AM

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album review
Basically Northern Picture Libarary were the final core three-member lineup of The Field Mice (Bob Wratten, Anne Mari Davies, and Mark Dobson), with help from Ian Catt, recording under a different guise (and under the influence of psychedelics - probably).

So, they're basically the same sprawling, ever-searching (and finding) band, except on acid. How could I say no? The final Field Mice recordings are a good table-setter for what this band would sound like. They've basically picked up where The Field Mice left off six or so months previous.

Despite that, Field Mice fans and the British music press decided against the band very early on, perhaps because Wratten wasn't playing a 12-string guitar anymore. Oh well - everything he's done is a logical progression from his previous move, and this band just happened to find him making a lot of different moves, very quickly.

Alaska is dreamy and poppy, but not a 'dream/pop' album, thank goodness. After a short wordless acapella introduction from Anne Mari Davies, the first two songs quietly and subtly redefine what I expect these musicians to sound like ...

Instead of taking their influences from their contemporaries, there seems to be a lot of stylistic influences. Mostly, the ambient soundscapes scattered throughout the album are indicative of Brian Eno's post-modern musical ideals; while elsewhere, dub/reggae inflections and classic acoustic singer/songwriter confessionals bump heads, pointing the way towards Wratten's next project, the Trembling Blue Stars.

Practically everything here looks either farther back or to a broader scope for its influences, consequently making for something entirely unique. The 2005 deluxe edition appends the Love Song for the Dead Che EP, which is two different recordings of the old United States of America hit from the 60's, and also "The Way That Stars Die", which is a straight-up techno/house track. It feels genuine, but sticks out as a flub because everything else on the album is so dissimilar.

Alaska is worth checking out, because the sounds that Slowdive, DJ Shadow, and Portishead would later construct seem to be taking their cues from some of the blueprints laid down here.

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Posted: Friday 24th May 2019 10:18 AM

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