The Clientele: Bonfires on the Heath

In an era where slacker sensibilities and low-gazing attitudes seem to dominate the musical mainstream, the Clientele’s preoccupation with lush, radiant textures and elaborate, ethereal arrangements consistently go against the norm. Vocalist/guitarist/musical mastermind Alasdair MacLean’s aversion to bombastic singers and self-serving guitar solos finds thoughts morphed into action via the collision of horns, harmonies and soft-swaying melodies that adorn Bonfires on the Heath, the latest extravaganza from this Hampshire band. The group conjures up a number of obvious influences – Love, the Zombies, Galaxie 500 and the Felt – but given their seamless delivery and breezy, shimmering style, it would sell them short to merely attribute their sound to appropriating that of their predecessors. “I Wonder Who We Are,” “Bonfires on the Heath” and “Jennifer & Julia” purvey a genteel charm and a soothing, sensual ambiance that seizes attention even on first encounter. And while the scattershot shuffle of “Sketch” almost seems disruptive in the midst of these mellow soundscapes, a song such as “Never Anyone but You” shows their ability to make a seamless transition from meditative reflection to gently compelling refrains. Varying the tempos between a samba and a sway, this rich mélange provides an allure all its own. (Merge 2009)

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