Dusted Reviews

Songs of Green Pheasant - Soft Wounds

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Songs of Green Pheasant

Album: Soft Wounds

Label: Rusted Rail

Review date: Apr. 12, 2012

Songs Of Green Pheasant, the alias for Sheffield-based singer-songwriter Duncan Sumpner, emerged fully-formed — or as fully-formed as his gauzy, opaque songs would allow — back in 2005, with a self-titled album on FatCat. In the following two years, he released two more equally gorgeous records — the odds’n’sods collection Aerial Days and 2007’s Gyllyng Street — before seemingly dropping off the map. Not an earth-shattering story, true: we all have our preferred mystery songwriters, figures who step haltingly into the half-light, hand us a small vial’s worth of quartz-like songs, and then disappear, never to be heard from again.

I don’t think Sumpner was ever poised for anything like a “breakthrough,” but for what it’s worth, those three albums have lodged firmly in my consciousness, rewarding repeat listens with their graceful, slow unfurl. In a slightly uncanny turn, weeks before Rusted Rail’s announcement of the release of Soft Wounds, I’d been moved to contact Sumpner’s former label to ask of his whereabouts. (They didn’t know.) But here he is, offering another small collection of songs to the world, his weightless, almost androgynous voice still drifting above the songs, nursed by a cloud of reverb.

“Drifting above” is a recurring theme in Soft Wounds, with Sumpner threading the same lyrics, or minor variations thereof, into a loose narrative. Witness the initial, bird’s-eye view of the world that begins “Teenwolf”: “Looking down on oak trees / like a pilot.” He sings of “old war planes” in “Deaf Sarah,” and connects the two themes in “Flesheaters,” where our protagonist now looks down “on oak trees / like a war pilot.” There are also figure eights traced (though mist on glass) in “Teenwolf” and “Deaf Sarah,” while the “sun sinks on graves” in “Mirror” and “Lemon Yellow.” The protagonist here is obsessed with reiterating visions, like a damaged soul repeating the same story over again, but from slightly different perspectives, as if drinking the nuance from the diorama.

Sumpner’s songwriting is as “haunted” as his lyrics are, with fragile figures for guitar spinning in cycles while violins and trumpets sing out long, lone notes. The patience with which he tends these arrangements reminds slightly of Bark Psychosis’s Hex, though the melodies on “Teenwolf” are pure Fleetwood Mac. (The video, recently posted at the Rusted Rail web site, is a whole other thing again, recalling the mythopoeic visions of Stan Brakhage’s Dog Star Man.) Throughout Soft Wounds, Sumpner takes his time with his songs, lending them a panoramic flourish, reaching its pinnacle with the eschatological litany at the end of “Flesheaters,” which then dissolves into a long instrumental reel of melancholy in “Sad Flowers (Viva Happiness).” It’s a beautiful record, perfectly poised and delivered.

By Jon Dale

Other Reviews of Songs of Green Pheasant

Songs of Green Pheasant

Aerial Days

Read More

View all articles by Jon Dale

Find out more about Rusted Rail

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.