Until now, David Rothon has focused on collaborating with bands, ethereal balladeers and experimental spoken word projects, but it seems his debut solo album, Nightscapes, has benefited from great patience and a knack for timing, because it’s an instant classic.
Predominantly a pedal steel guitar player, Rothon has extended his range for this record, and included a Mellotron, Omnichord, strings, cor anglais and various diffuse vocal additions and field recordings. Opening with “The Midnight Bell/ I have Been Here Before” the South London musician conjures up a mood somewhere between John Barry’s “Midnight Cowboy” and some half-remembered show-tune. Rothon’s treatment of his select group of instruments via various analogue techniques and effects pedals immediately sets an inviting tone for this peaceful and yet richly melodious record.
“Waldeinsamkeit” is a highlight. Nestled beside the gentle chirrup of crickets, the delightful melody, played by a cor anglais, could have been taken from a folk-horror film soundtrack from the 70s; tranquil yet hinting at a long-dormant mystery. A stylistic theme follows with “The Bus that Never Came, The Train that Never Left” but takes you more into soft-focus telly-romance territory.
In “Lonesome Depot”, Rothon’s pedal steel duets with rain sounds that trickle and plop in some lonely, concrete hollow as thunder rolls in the distance. The next track “The Years Fall Away” is equally humble and yet handsomely evocative, pairing a simple Omnichord melody with the sound of footsteps, high strings and a distant hymnal chorus.
With equal measures of nostalgic serenity and cinematic mystery, Nightscapes evokes all the things that you love and fear about the dark of night. With cover art by Frances Castle, on 500 numbered copies of turquoise vinyl, this Clay Pipe collector’s item not only looks the part but will no doubt become a firm favourite on your turntable.