We get a lot of strange emails and messages here at Jellyfish HQ. You could call it fan-mail, but I don’t think these people are fans of our work. One asked me if I could fix his radiator (because of course all music writers are unemployed losers who will do anything for cash), another emailer told me I should kill myself because I declined to comment on the current Aberystwyth industrial-shoegrime scene. One even had the temerity to call me a wanker because I broke his radiator after he paid me to fix it. You just can’t please everyone. Messages we do like receiving though, are those from Kent based artists who would like us to check out their music. We’re especially happy when the music turns out to be absolutely bloody amazing.
Sam Flastic Hughes’ new album ‘Soft Out of Seventeen‘ is one of those that is, i’m delighted to say, absolutely bloody amazing. So good that I had no idea how to start this review, so i’ll begin by telling you what I knew before I started listening. It’s exactly one hour long and when it’s played on repeat it loops around on itself forever. It’s a combination of genres, drifting from EDM to Prog- rock, segueing from bossa grooves to ambient, and switching back and forth between acoustic pop and a little more Prog for good measure (SPH’s words, not mine). But it’s so much more than that.
Imagine, if you will, that they made a modern Alice in Wonderland (not that one, a decent one!). Instead of just taking her mushrooms and spacing out in her garden, Alice has also been given a large amount of Ritalin, antidepressants and god-knows-what. All because her doctor doesn’t know exactly why she’s on one and he really wants to get home in time for The Chase. ‘Soft Out of Seventeen’ is the soundtrack to that film! At ten minutes in Alice has found a Kazoo, and is pushing her mum slowly towards regret and alcoholism. But good old Alice just keeps on blowing that kazoo, having a fucking brilliant time.
The track boasts a brilliantly expressive effects laden guitar richly complemented by expansive disco arrangements, each taking turns to draw your attention before hitting you with a tempo/time change or a spacey descent away from the rest of the music. At different parts of the piece, Electronic beats and electro-jazz morph back into flamenco flavoured guitar or delightfully sombre keys with only the competent bass work throughout seeming to tie it all together. It’s immensely difficult to describe, and a little overwhelming on the first listen but totally works.
One segment that I would pay good money to hear fleshed into a full individual track, would be the section from 10:46 to 11:40. It barely even lasts a minute, but that piece of music completely blew me away. The gossamer drums and acoustic guitar wind around the lead melody (is that a clarinet?) which is then immediately elevated by the wonderfully breathy vocals. It is truly amazing. I’ve had that part on repeat for about 4 days now, so if you have an extended version lying around please send it over!
I could (and probably have) analysed the record to death, it’s very tempting to go through ‘Soft Out of Seventeen’ bit by bit, section by section and dissect what occurs and where. My initial reaction was to breakdown ‘Soft Out of Seventeen’ and present it to you part by part. However, to have done so would do SFH a massive disservice. The track doesn’t require your attention or even conscious effort on your part. It’s odd but attempting to understand it merely inhibits ‘Soft out of Seventeen’s’ power. The track is surprisingly delicate and shouldn’t just be listened to, but be properly heard; savoured and appreciated at a respectful distance. The journey between the eclectic soundscapes is a fantastic experience, with contrasting sections layered and distinct. ‘Soft Out of Seventeen’ should be enjoyed for what it is; an album that can pull you in and take your breath away but it can only do so if you let it, you have to really let yourself hear it. It’s not one for a cursory glance but by turning out the lights and really listening, who knows where the track will take you.
(Alice is out on the street now and her meds have really kicked in, she’s running in and out of traffic. She’s seeing wonderful new shapes and colours while the very fabric of reality falls apart around her. Rainbows turn to Alice and smile, for the benevolent Rabbit in the sky looks down and loves all. Alice floats through space towards absolution, and her seat in the sky at the great Bears table.)