Review: No Thee No Ess – Spring Dawn Glow

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Released on the excellent Folkwit records, home to Joyce the Librarian, Laish and Pulco among others, Spring Dawn Glow is the fourth release from No Thee No Ess. The band is the musical project of acclaimed artists Andy Fung and Paul Battenbough, examples of whose work can be found on the front and rear covers respectively. For those not in the know, they are also regular collaborators with Welsh music giants such as Richard James (Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci) and Cate le Bon.

At times experimental, at others direct and accessible, the songwriting and arrangements on Spring Dawn Glow are diverse, yet happy, co-habitants. They are brought together under the umbrella of Fung and Battenbough’s contrasting but wholly complimentary voices. With Fung’s Beachboys meets J.Mascis vocal gymnastics grounded perfectly by Battenbough’s crooning, it’s an odd coupling but an entirely harmonious one.

Collapsing Realities opens the album with intent. It is the lead single and is a big, extravagant pop song with more hooks than a tackle box. And it is the first indicator of how the two writers vocals work so well together, with Battenbough coming in midway through and lending the song a new dimension.

Don’t expect this to be a tone setter though. It is followed by the psychedelic Animated Glowing Souls/Ordinary Day with its beautiful, strings bringing it to a Beatlesesque conclusion. Cold Sunshine takes another poetic turn, Battenbough’s voice perfect for its spoken word delivery. And it is the diversity in these first three songs that set the tone for the album.

There are plenty of psychedelic meanderings on Spring Dawn Glow – in-keeping with Fung’s visual art – but these are perforated with some of the most joyous pop songs you’ll hear. Salad Daysand Spring Dawn Glow as well as the aforementioned Collapsing Realities are incontestable examples of this and should garner far more national airplay than is likely.

That they should follow the gorgeous, dreamy, harmony-rich Salad Days with the sort of reggae-inspired Is it Alright for Me demonstrates No Thee No Ess’ disregard for adherence to expectation. In fact, this is a labyrinth of an album full of twists, turns and tangents, yet somehow coherent. The big tracks here are immediate and exciting, but with plenty to discover. The rest are well worth the investment of further plays.

Nathan Fisher