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Crown and Treaty CD

4.9 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD (30 April 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Luxor Purchase
  • ASIN: B0070CFQN2
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 96,399 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product Description

BBC Review

It’s been three years since the release of Sweet Billy Pilgrim’s Mercury Prize-nominated album, Twice Born Men, an eclectic mix of folkish tropes and indie-rock-orientated musing. Yet appropriately enough for a band whose name is taken from a character in a Kurt Vonnegut novel who became “unstuck in time”, the group have unhooked themselves from any particular genre, presenting instead a captivating mix that moves freely between supposed boundaries or categories.

Although the product of many hours in the writing and production process, Crown and Treaty avoids sounding overworked or belaboured, creating instead a soundworld of dazzling vitality. Much of this invigorating freshness emanates from the numerous layers of musical information that’s been lovingly threaded into each of these nine tracks.

The density of instrumental colour and dynamic ambition contained in every song makes them akin to symphonies in miniature. Joyful Reunion is typical of this approach, bristling with tooting Michael Nyman-like horns, sumptuous chorales, sonar pings, growling bass, and Tim Elsenburg’s gently unfurling vocals. He is joined once again by drummer Alistair Hamer and bassist Anthony Bishop, alongside recent recruit Jana Carpenter on guitar and vocals, whose presence is most obviously felt in the plaintive break-out vocal of Shadow Captain. Here, a tripping, rippling melody is powered by the churchy burr of a harmonium and sunny harmonies that Fleet Foxes would envy.

A witty, instinctual songwriter, Elsenburg creates intriguing portraits taken from life’s bigger picture, smartly using happenstance and the intersections of people and places as his subject matter. Such abstract notions find surprisingly accessible expression on tracks like Arrived at Upside Down. Complete with glistening celesta embellishments, Elsenburg marvels at what comes our way if we pay attention. Without compromising their artistic vision one iota, Sweet Billy Pilgrim have gone from black-and-white art-house to breathtaking widescreen, and the results are quite simply glorious.

--Sid Smith

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About the Artist

The brand new album by Sweet Billy Pilgrim. Entitled `Crown And Treaty' is the follow-up to the Mercury Music Prize nominated album `Twice Born Men', released in 2009.

`Crown And Treaty' is quite simply stunning. Ambitious, literate, dramatic, heartfelt, beautiful, artistic and capable of moving you to tears, it is the sound of a band taking a quantum leap forward, throwing every ounce of their belief, passion and dreams into the creation of a truly special body of work.

A rumination upon history and our place within it, `Crown And Treaty' is the result of songwriter Tim Elsenburg's change in circumstances, living alone for the first time in many years with enough money finally from a small publishing deal to actually devote himself full-time to making a new record. With the ability to use every creative moment in the pursuit of his vision, `Crown And Treaty' is a masterpiece; the sound of a band sealing their artistry with wax and signet ring to send it out into the world.

"I wanted to talk about history, and the idea that we're all chained to it; all our ideas, actions, wants, needs... everything, are tied to what's gone before. We might not see it consciously but everything we do is coloured by the past, for better or worse, and to be able to break away you have to recognise it and make your peace. You have to crown it. Make a pact with it, and move on."

Having recorded `Twice Born Men' in his shed, this time Tim was living and working in a tiny bungalow in the country. And as he watched the seasons turn outside the windows and often had to stop recording as the birdsong intruded onto the tape, he knew the shape of this new album was going to be bigger and more ambitious in every respect.

"I've always wanted to make a record and throw practical considerations to the wind; to let my imagination run riot, and make music with all the stuff I can hear in my head, without having to worry about how we're going to play it live, or how it might be received after a previous record. And this time, I wanted to make it in bold strokes... less smudging... primary colours. Basically, I wanted to make a record that sounded like a million dollars for next to nothing. My physical view, from the window, had opened up. This record was going to have the same feeling."

And how! The previous shades of Nick Drake, Scott Walker, Elbow, The Blue Nile and John Martyn that have infused Sweet Billy Pilgrim's sound have been expanded and driven to new heights. Each and every song on `Crown And Treaty' is an unfurling, revealing gem; a beautiful, moving, uplifting treat.

From `Joyful Reunion' with its glorious marching beats, tales of Emperor Charlemagne and epic, swelling finale, through the choral singalong of `Brugada', to the delicate beauty of `Blood Is Big Expense', this is the sound of Sweet Billy Pilgrim stepping out of the shadows and establishing themselves as one of the most exciting surprises of 2012.

Tracks such as `Archaeology', which reveals its pop heart amidst Sylvian-esque sonic experimentation and `Kracklite' which blossoms from its initial Portishead-meets-Talk Talk stately grandeur into a driving guitar stomp reveal a band whose talents have exploded. Swirling throughout are mercurial hints of Spiritualized, the Beach Boys, Vaughan Williams and Bon Iver, traces of Steely Dan, Prefab Sprout, Wilco and Tom Waits - but this majestic brew is mere background to something truly magical, a distillation of atmosphere that creates a whole new world to explore.

Tim's songwriting and production talents, with an obsessive attention to detail, have found shape in the careful hands of band members Anthony Bishop, Alistair Hamer and new addition to the group vocalist Jana Carpenter. Together, they have delivered in `Crown And Treaty' a glorious body of work that will stand the test of time.

To download one of the album's standout tracks, just log on to the band's website and revel in the sounds of `Brugada'. Sweet Billy Pilgrim will also be headlining the Borderline as part of the HMV `Next Big Thing' gigs on February 6th. More live shows will be announced soon.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Crown and Treaty, the third offering from Sweet Billy Pilgrim, takes all of the best of them -- the narrative craft and the mournful beauty -- adds a massive shot of confidence, and opens the sound out into a far greater space. And the result is nothing short of staggering.

From the opening woodwind bursts -- like revellers being corralled into a wedding photo -- this is a looser, more open album than its predecessor, the Mercury nominated Twice Born Men. The band sounds bigger and bolder. There is a greater range of ambition, and a vitality and joy that floods the record with energy. These songs are adventures. The band, secure in its essence, happily doffing its collective cap to folk, soul and indie rock -- and delivering a wonderfully coherent set of songs with a confidence and level of accomplishment that is unapologetically brilliant.

With this album, Sweet Billy Pilgrim strides as well as shuffles.

Tim Elsenburg is fast establishing himself as a songwriter of rare ability. This is exquisite craftsmanship. Though drawing from a wider palette, there is still nothing extraneous here. Not a word is wasted, or easy, and the same is true for the arrangements. There is a beautiful new female vocal that benefits the whole -- and is not overplayed -and a lightness of touch that belies the level of detail and musicianship at work, as the listener is time and again moved effortlessly up into magnificent sweeps that are just breathtaking.

Rightly given `instant classic' status by Mojo magazine, Sweet Billy Pilgrim have pulled off the feat of creating an album of songs that people will sing, without sacrificing their identity or artistic integrity in the process. With any justice, this will give them the audience they deserve; Crown and Treaty is a triumph.
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Wasn't sure at first whether I concurred with all the good things I had heard and read about this album. I had seen the album featured in several publications but was put off slightly by the album cover and band name specifically because it gave me an erroneous impression of the type of artist and music it may contain (a bit shallow I know). Even on listening to tracks off of this and Twice born men I was initially intrigued but not fully sold. I was not really sure that I particularly liked Tim Elsenburg's voice either which is very distinctive. I am so glad I persevered and took heed of the various reviews I had read because the music is all engrossing and the vocal is a perfect fit. It is an album that needs to be listened to with no distractions and contains plenty of high points. It is a real grower and the songs do stick in your mind so don't give it up on first impressions. The music is quite moving in places and the songs are well constructed - you can tell that a lot of work has gone into them to achieve the perfect end result. Certainly more accessible than Twice born men but strangely I love the undulating variety (and I suppose strangeness) of that album too. You could do worse than buy them both. Incidentally saw them recently (just prior to Christmas) as a threesome performing an acoustic set. They were engaging, vocally brilliant and possess a real talent.
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Every now and again an album release shatters all my expectations and re-sets the bar. Here's one.

Although a regular on my players, I think I was intrigued more than anything by Twice Born Men and consequently found myself looking forward with great anticipation to Crown and Treaty, waiting to see what he'd do next, hoping that it would be a real development. I need not have worried - it's a giant leap forward. Initially impressive and readily accessible with interesting chord progressions, particularly Kracklite, searing melodies and strong hooks, it rewards repeated listening to reveal the full effect of the lush harmonies and dense instrumentation which give it such a broad soundscape. Thoughtful, intelligent lyrics only add to the overall impact and experience.

It's a natural development from Twice Born men, much more cohesive, and with less of the fragility and Sylvian-esque twitchyness (and I'm a big DS fan).
I'd sort of compare this progression to Aqualung's organic development through his albums. I know we like to see what other artists people think someone sounds like - it helps us pitch a point of reference. I'd go along with most of the artists mentioned in various other reviews, but would stress The Blue Nile and add Colin Vearncombe (as possibly the closest vocally), Aqualung and Everything Everything.

Standouts? Joyful Reunion, Archeology, Blakefield Gold.....actually you've just got to listen to it all. Blue Sky Falls rounds the album off with absolute perfection in all it's anthemic majesty. Trouble is - you won't be able to resist the temptation to play the whole album again. Wonderful stuff!

"Senior Kracklite, do you dream?" Oh yes.
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Great album from a great band. We saw them for the first time last year in a extremely small venue in Brick Lane London. They were brilliant and deserve every success. Can't believe they are not more popular.
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I hadn't heard of SBP until May this year and stumbled across them when I was doing my weekly troll of Amazon, ITunes etc.

I'm the first to admit I'm not the greatest reviewer and there are many good reviews on this group, so I will just say this, when I'm In a dark place or I want to be happy I put this CD on and find myself between SMUG and SMILING/GRINNING and to quote one of the reviewers I think of how ACHINGLY BEAUTIFUL this CD Is.

I have been collecting music some 55 years, since I was 14 and I would happily put this Into my TOP TEN ALBUMS.

Cheers Everybody
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