The new King Creosote album, a collaboration with composer and arranger John Hopkins, is a beautiful, redolent drift of a record. It’s intended to evoke a specific place (a district of northern Scotland), and pulls that strange trick of making me feel that it succeeds, even though I’ve never been to the place in question. Its seven songs are slow, soft, and shrouded in atmosphere, from the ambient sounds of a cafe to slowly disintegrating piano loops, car indicators, plains of synthetic chords, and the feel of tired fingers on banjo strings. I’ve listened to it four times just this evening (easily done, as it lasts barely 32 minutes).
King Creosote, who has released some 30+ albums in the last decade, has said he’s been working on Diamond Mine for seven years; I don’t know his catalogue enough to know if this is true, but apparently Diamond Mine is comprised of reworked songs from his other records, given elongated arrangements courtesy of Hopkins. Again, I don’t know either man’s previous work well at all, but they seem like a good fit for each other.
King Creosote has also said that Talk Talk’s Spirit Of Eden, which I know very well indeed, is his favourite album, and that Diamond Mine is something of an attempt to capture the aura of that legendary record. I can see what he means, and I can understand that Diamond Mine, which I am already very fond of, succeeds in this ambition. To an extent. But there is something missing.
So many artists who profess to aiming for the feel of Spirit Of Eden emulate only one side of that record; its beatific, otherworldly beauty, its gentle washes and becalmed vistas, its ambience and soothing balm. Too often the other side of Spirit Of Eden is ignored, or not noticed, or else out of reach for some reason; the clattering, cathartic noise, the pummelling drums and yowling guitars, the sense that all is not well, that, in fact, something is very, very wrong indeed. Perfect calm juxtaposed with absolute chaos. The beautiful parts made all the more so by falling in relief to the parts that threaten to destroy them.
Diamond Mine doesn’t need absolute chaos; it’s a beautiful record either way. But I wonder what it might have been had it reached for both sides.