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N. Hall "softhearted1967" (Cardiff, South Glamorgan United Kingdom)
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Golden Omens
Golden Omens
Offered by positivenoise
Price: £20.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 7 GOLDEN REVIEWS FOR GOLDEN OMENS, 8 July 2016
This review is from: Golden Omens (Audio CD)
7 GREAT REVIEWS FOR GOLDEN OMENS
BY SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS

Shindig Magazine July 2016

SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS
Golden Omens
★★★★★
THE HIP REPLACEMENT 2-CD
The range of this four-part, two-disc
album, encompassing as it does the band's
familiar territories of ’60s psychedelia and
Barrettesque stylings, (alongside dark
surf-rock froth, languid pickin' blues, ghost
folk and show tunes tinged with the bleak
Edwardian inflected cheeriness of the
Vietnam War era protest musical), realises
the Scientists’ forever stated aim of
transporting the listener away on a
revitalising, if disturbing, holiday.

Seven albums into their exquisite
journey and the Cardiff-based psychedelic
collective's thirst for jolly, occult-hued
sinisterism, as a means of divining both
the shadows and bright spots on the lungs
of modern society, whilst simultaneously
exploring and exploding personal angst,
has refined itself to sublime perfection.

Entirely homemade and posited as a
sibling to 2014's The Slow Cyclone, this
album has, however, its own distinctive
flight path.

Among many standout tracks is
the humorously poignant 'The Missing
Mountains Song'.

They just get better and better.

=======================================================================
Blissaquamarine.net
SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS Golden Omens double CD (The Hip Replacement)

Seventh album from prolific Cardiff psych band Soft Hearted Scientists, released as a double CD on 8th July 2016. Comprising a mixture of homemade and studio recorded tracks, Golden Omens continues to demonstrate the witty lyrical style and inventive approach to psych-pop and psych-folk that the Soft Hearted Scientists are known for.
Shiver Me Timbers is well crafted, intelligent, off-centre psych-pop with a multi-part song structure incorporating a super-catchy chorus. Rue the Day is dark-edged psych-folk meets quirky pop and spacey synth music, with a barbed lyrical wit.
Zeds is off-kilter DIY acoustic psych-pop, the lyrics shifting from a potted summary of the Oedipus myth to hibernating in a cardboard box to escape the British winter. Helicopters of Habershon Street is haunted psych-folk ornamented by vibraphone and eerie vintage electronics. Surferella, "a theme tune for a fictional surf goddess", puts a psychedelic spin on surf music.
Glimpse! is baroque pop with eerie folky touches. The Missing Mountains Song is innovative DIY pop inspired by a longing for the Welsh mountains whilst stranded in Bethnal Green. Cherry Blossom Velvet Vision Shield My Mind From Broken Glass is eccentric psychedelic folk sounding rather like the Incredible String Band having borrowed a synth from some spacerock outfit.
In addition to the main songs, the album is punctuated by evocative instrumental interludes with titles like 27 Seconds in Antarctica, Imaginary Film Scene #1 and On a Pathway Darkly, which aptly describe the atmospheres the pieces create.
Kim Harten
=======================================================================
June 2016 Review for Golden Omens in Psychedelic publication Ptolemaic Terrascope.
SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS – GOLDEN OMENS

Thoroughly British lightly psychedelic and exquisitely crafted pop.

Like The Slow Cyclone which came out in 2014, this is divided into four sections comprising short and often incredibly sweet instrumental vignettes and charming sounding ditties of which the majority seem to be nonsensical or autobiographical (or perhaps nonsensically autobiographical) but entertaining stories in their own right.

There is also an everyday feel to some lyrics – the misery of the British winter, the banality of TV “popular culture” for instance, while some of the more personal content hint at darker themes of homesickness and breakdown. Like Cyclone it also has an endearingly rough-hewn edge to it – you can sense that the overdubs have been kept to a minimum, so listen out for the occasional squeak or clunk.

Of those implausibly lovely instrumentals, “Imaginary Film Scene No.1” and “On A Pathway Darkly” sound practically utopian in their bucolic simplicity yet splendour and the polar opposite end of the “psychedelic spectrum” from the drone monsters.
As for the wordy-ones, “Golden Omens”, “Shiver Me Timbers” are among the early strong pace setters. “The Opportunity”, when it arrives, is a melodic yet understated gem, while the Gorky’s-like “Helicopters Of Habershon Street”, the twilight “Glimpse!” with its wistful “ghosts of the young men we once were”, and that unerring pop bullseye “The Creeps!” make for such a strong supporting cast that you simply have to marvel at the pleasure to be had in Hall and company’s “Syd meets Fabs meet the Oldham Tinkers” brand of wonderland whimsy.
(Ian Fraser)
=======================================================================

Goldmine magazine
[...]

Seventh album time for the sentimental boffins, and four sides/two CDs worth of the kind of music that gives pigeonholes a bad name. With a title track that shimmers like a surf western soundtrack, if XTC had ever tried shooting one; a folky instrumental that’s all about the weather; and another that would simply ooze psychedelia if it didn’t sound like Davy Graham, Golden Omens does nod towards the P word more often than not, but that’s all it does. It nods.

Reputations are good, after all, to lure people in, but the Scientists have never placed all their eccentricities in one basket, and Golden Omens would kick them over if they had.  Punctuating the songs with brief, haunting soundscapes, it’s the kind of album that chases you round the house for fun, then tickles your feet when it catches you.  “Zeds” is maddening, a nonsensical chant over plangent acoustics, with one entire verse of wordless muse; and “Strange Oceans” is a nursery rhyme for solo Syd Barrett fans.

And there’s a McCartney-Wings mood that clings to everything, from the days when Wildlife and Ram were home to his heart, and he refused to take his own past seriously.  “You think ‘Let It Be’ was meaningful?  Wait till you’ve heard ‘C-Moon’.”  Or “Incredible Design,” for that matter.  If you’ve never thought of jellyfish as chandeliers, you will now.
Things get even weirder across the second half of the album, as it holds a fun house mirror up to the first, and takes off from there. Again, a short melodic intro; again, a ride on the woody, with “Surferella’ rolling like the Who at Big Sur.
“Glimpse!” is as melancholy as its opposite number, “Shiver Me Timbers,” is raucous, but it still feels like a sea shanty; and so on.  And then there’s “The Missing Mountains Song,” a slice of wry autobiography about a young man leaving London for a new life in the Scientists’ hometown of Cardiff, delivered complete with one of rock’s most memorable slabs of iconoclastic scorn – “take your jellied eels and burn them in the fires of hell.”
Twenty-seven tracks and not a dull moment among them. The Scientists might have invented perfection.

DJ Astro Astralzone blog

The Soft Hearted Scientists is one of MANY great bands that I have found through Fruits de Mer Records and definitely one of the most interesting as well. This double CD is the 7th album by this Cardiff-based psych rock/folk outfit and recorded mostly at home like some of their earlier stuff. There is a warm, home-baked feel on the album, but the sound and overall production is still great and professional. The album is divided into four parts and lasts for a little over one hour.

There are 26 tracks in total, so average track length is pretty short. There are lots of little instrumental interludes, and just like before, all the little pieces form a nicely flowing whole. The lyrics are very important in the great songs that at first seem very simple. Only after listening to the album many times you realize how well-crafted and clever the music really is.

The instrumentation includes electric and acoustic guitars, kitchen sink percussion, vintage keyboards and weird, psychedelic effects, and I really enjoy the vocals.

I'm having difficulties in finding anything that sounds like the Soft Hearted Scientists, but they must have been listening to Syd's Pink Floyd to get so whimsical, late 60s/early 70s UK acid folk for the beautiful/spooky acoustic vibes, Robyn Hitchcock for the 80s alternative/indie ingredients etc. and there are lots of pop elements, electronic beats and even some surf & country stuff in there as well as nature sounds and other samples. I also really like the cover art made by one of the band members.

=======================================================================

PENNYBLACKMUSIC.CO.UK REVIEW

[...]

Something has been stirring in Cardiff! The Soft Hearted Scientists have been hidden away in their secret laboratory with bottles of ginger beer, jelly babies and re-runs of 'The Prisoner'. Quiet bunch, the Scientists. Apart from the odd rant on Facebook they keep themselves to themselves until there is something to say.

After venturing into London to perform at Games For May, they returned to Wales muttering rumours of a new record.

So, 'Golden Omens' is upon us. Just what can we expect?

Clocking in at just over an hour, 'Omens' is a sprawling two CD set of compositions divided into four parts. What a trip this is, enhancing their growing reputation as an inventive and leftfield nu-pyschedelic band.

With 'Golden Omens', the Scientists continue to demonstrate an amazing ability to offer insightful and witty social observation encased in moments of true beauty.

Opening with a shimmering instrumental piece, 'Little Gardens Full of Ghosts' (one of many tasteful interludes scattered throughout the album), the listener is invited into the strange world of the Soft Hearted Scientists.

Obvious references to British Psych pop are there for all to hear but Soft Hearted scientists have an uncanny ability to seamlessly and unashamedly move from a catchy chorus ('Shiver Me Timbers') to the dark psych-folk of 'Helicopters of Habershon Street' in a refreshing and innovative style.

One could easily pass the Soft Hearted Scientists off as just another “psychedelic” band attempting to re-create a past era but that would be wrong. Yes there is a touch of whimsy here and there but Nathan Hall has an uncanny ability to weave words and melodies into diverse tiny universes to explore.

'Surferella' reveals a side to Soft Hearted Scientists not often heard, an
uptempo affair totally in keeping with the unexpected twists and turns that keep popping up in the most delightful manner. 'The Creep', for instance, with Beach Boys' harmonies is followed by another pastoral instrumental

'Imaginary Film Scene 1' that could easily featured in 'The Wicker Man'.

'Golden Omens' is inventive, intriguing and beautifully played and reinforces the Soft Hearted Scientists' reputation as one of the best kept secrets on the scene at the moment. Probably the biggest compliment I can offer is that when the album ends you want press play and experience the trip all over again.

'Golden Omens' is glorious and their finest offering to date.

A BOX OF DREAMS REVIEW

[...]
It’s that time of year again.
If you long for songs depicting Simon Cowell being pulled apart by Plough horses or yearn to know more of Mr Achey Breaky Heart himself (Billy Ray Cyrus), wander no further.
This year we are presented with a double album of Welsh Wizardry from the psychedelic tunesmiths The Soft Hearted Scientists.  This particular album has been on and off the player for a few weeks now as I begin to grow more accustomed to it.  From little acorns mighty oaks grow and this particular disc has been tendered and nurtured to form a thing of beauty. There remains still a Kevin Ayers vibe to this band and that is not a bad thing at all as “Joy of a Toy” still remains one of my favourite albums of all time.
Quirky, melodic, catchy and very easy on the ear.  I don’t know what jiggery pokery this lot get up to in their tunes laboratory but with results such as this they have hit on a winning formula yet again.
Perfect for these warm and balmy summer evenings.


Whatever Happened to the Soft Heart
Whatever Happened to the Soft Heart

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AURAL INNOVATIONS REVIEW, 13 Mar. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It’s unusual for Fruits de Mer Records to release a full LP of a band doing all original music so when they do it’s gotta be good, and this sucker is a 2-LP package. Soft Hearted Scientists are the Welsh quartet of Nathan Hall, Dylan Line, Paul Jones and Michael Bailey. They formed in Cardiff in 2001 as the duo of Hall and Line, making cassette demos in Hall’s house, and have been releasing albums since 2005. Whatever Happened To The Soft Hearted Scientists compiles Fruits de Mer’s favorites from the band’s CDs, plus a title track exclusive to this set, songs from their soon to be released new album, and a 7″ consisting of previously unreleased demos. We’ve got a total of 23 songs here so I’ll give you the skinny on some of my favorites that should provide a good feel for what the band are about.

Soft Hearted Scientists cover a fair range of territory. The music is heavily 60s influenced and mostly folk-psych and pop-psych based, though the band incorporate traditional influences, progressive rock, and much more. Mount Palomar is a seductively dreamy folk-pop tune with a 60s vibe and spacey alien effects. I love how it starts off acoustic driven and then blasts off into a lush and uplifting chorus. The space effects are front and center on the haunting yet melodic Wendigo. The tale of the The Yongy Bongy Bo combines traditional folklore elements with a pagan folk feel. The acoustic guitars and vocals are enchanting on Siberia, and the looped effects and keyboard lines add multiple layers that keep things continually interesting on this beautifully flowing song. Rockford’s Return is a fun, quirky, spacey acid-psych-pop song. Eyes has a stick-in-yer-craw melody that sounds straight out of 60s pop-psych, but incorporates the fun freaky space effects that the Scientists seem to like so much. Most of the songs are in the 3-6 minute range, but The Caterpillar Song is a 10 minute epic. It starts off as a spaced out folk infused pop-psych song and eventually builds into full blown progressive rock, with BIG keyboards, a ripping tripped out guitar solo, and oscillating UFO effects. Wow! Road To Rhayader consists of mesmerizing psychedelia, with its hypnotic melody and vocals, interweaving acoustic and electric guitars and marching rhythmic pace, and all-around beautiful instrumental arrangements. The Scientists show their flair for foot stomping music-hall fun and whimsy on Halloween People. And the four songs on the 7″ may be billed as “demos”, but they’re as good as anything on the LPs, my favorite being Newest Things, a stellar example of immaculately produced 60s influenced pop-psych.

In summary, this is a thoroughly captivating set of music, with outstanding compositions, arrangements, and excellent production. I agree with the folks at Fruits de Mer… this is a special band.
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The Slow Cyclone
The Slow Cyclone
Price: £12.92

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Rock "Everybody will enjoy putting this epic psychedelic puzzle together, 3 Nov. 2014
This review is from: The Slow Cyclone (Audio CD)
Reviews of 'The Slow Cyclone'
"Proper Psychedelia from the outer reaches of sense and reason." — Andy Fyfe, Q magazine
"...Of all the SHS albums to date, The Slow Cyclone may well be the most complete full album experience; you really must hear all 24 tracks from beginning to end." — Aural Innovations
"An epic mash up of Syd Barrett, The Byrds, Roy Harper, CS Lewis, Chicory Tip and Philip K Dick." — Geoff Barton, Classic Rock
"Everybody will enjoy putting this epic psychedelic puzzle together." —Shindig magazine
"Charming, Endearing and Beguiling and every time you dip into this disc you will encounter something you missed the first time around." — A Box of Dreams
"...psych-folk and dreamlike harmony pop songs with strong tunes and an engagingly off-centre atmosphere." — Bliss Aquamarine
"...Ultimately a record lives and dies by its melodies and they are there in spades." — The Strange Brew
"...Very very clever and unusual lyrics, stunning harmonies and vocals, together with eclectic psych-pop tunes. A blast from the past and a blast from the future." — Starship Overflow


Incense And Peppermints / Wake Up… It's Tomorrow
Incense And Peppermints / Wake Up… It's Tomorrow
Price: £11.24

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful stuff, 9 Dec. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It swerves back and forward over the line of self parody and is very easy to lampoon with some hilarious lyrics - "Freshen the flowers woman" being my favourite clanger(I'm sure the Mighty Boosh know the Clock's back catalogue intimately) but ultimately the highlights are just wonderful. Life affirming, soft psych gems laced with brilliant sonic layers including some great stinging acid rock lead work from future Lynyrd Skynyrd member Ed King to ensure that it does not become too soft centred. I love this band. Sadly, music this innocent and untainted will probably never be made again.


Night of the Demon (1957) [DVD]
Night of the Demon (1957) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Dana Andrews
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Number 1!, 9 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Probably my favourite horror film of all time. Tremendous atmosphere, creepy country houses, runic symbols, witchcraft, seances, Stonehenge, black magic whirlwinds, the crumbling self confidence of a way too cocksure scientist, a creepy warlock and a dirty great big demon. It's got it all.


False Lights
False Lights

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 3 reviews - Shindig, Ptolemaic Terrascope and The Active Listener, 7 May 2013
This review is from: False Lights (Audio CD)
Shindig June 2013 preview

SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS
False Lights
The Hip Replacement LP

Now that their Fruits de Mer retrospective (reviewed last issue) has whet your appetite for more wonders from these weird Welsh wunderkinds, it's high time for their fifth effort of efulvent psychedelia to waft across your living room. The "Tintern Abbey Ghost" bookends a dozen headscratching toetappers, from the Kinksy hoedown, `Seeing' and chorale-infused processional `Golgotha' to the funky Caribbean vibe of the anti-commercialism rant `Song From The River' and the high-stepping waltz, `Turn The Tables' (imagine Tenpole Tudor invading a Morris dance competition).

PTOLEMAIC TERRASCOPE REVIEW
SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS - FALSE LIGHTS
(CD from [...])

Maybe 2013 is going to be the year of the Soft hearted Scientist, judging by the excellent sounds to be found on this brace of releases it just might, the albums crammed with whimsical melody, sweet psychedelia, harmony and a charm that is hard to describe.

It is time to take a peek at the "False Lights", the latest offering from the band. After a very brief opener, "Seeing" is reassuringly familiar, melodic and lovely, the band identity still intact and sounding as fresh as ever, with the drifting synth ambience of "Seeing Further" a delightful coda to the tune.

Mixing Gorkys with The Dukes of Stratosphear, the title track reveals a darker lyrical content, the track and to some extent the whole disc, dealing with society's ills, the financial situation, big business, the division of wealth and the crumble of traditional values. This is not to say that the album is overtly political, it is more social comment than protest, a gentle prod swathed in psychedelic finery, the lyrical trend continued on "Golgotha", another tune that floats on a cloud of sweetness, an excellent example of the softly spoken psych the band do so well.

Then of course, there is the groove of "Song From The River", a tumble of percussion twirling under piano and guitar, a hint of Eastern promise adding to the delightfulness, the sing-a-long chorus instantly singable. To end side one (even on a CD), "Turn The Tables" is another psych sing-a-long, reminding of The Idle Race, which is a really good thing in my book.

Now, I am a bit of a sucker for whimsical psych, especially those tunes that have that distinctive UK edge of something sinister just underneath the surface, underneath the surface literally in the case of "Seaside Sid and the Giant Squid", the tune an instant favourite in this house, a jaunty tale of Sid and his rather unfortunate choice of swimming partner, "The squid was vicious, Sid was delicious", all wrapped up in some gorgeous melody and arrangement that includes flute and banjo, bloody marvellous.

Filled with lyrical strangeness and suddenly familiar, "Halloween People" is also on the Fruit De Mer collection, a lovely early Floyd acoustic riff mixed with some lyrics that pick apart the press and their influence on modern life, all melded to more sing-a-long happiness. That same Floyd feel is present, even more so, on "Trees in the Wind", whilst "Monster of the Id", has a tinge of Roger McGough in its words and rhythms, a slightly disturbing and surreal piece that compliments the sweetness of the rest of the disc.

Stepping back a couple of years, Syd Barrett is the influence on "Night of the Hunter" (also on the compilation), the song having a wonderful sixties psych second half that is perfectly realised, it just makes me smile. Finally, apart from a brief outro, "Panorama" is seven minutes of heaven embedded in a round shiny thing, distilling everything that has gone before into pure Soft Hearted Scientists elixer, rounding off an album that is going to get played a lot around these parts, especially if the sun ever makes an appearance. Not released until May, put this on your wish list and, while you are waiting, get the compilation and mellow down to some psych-pop loveliness. (Simon Lewis)

Monday, 22 April 2013, The Active Listener
Soft Hearted Scientists "False Lights" Review

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

The Welsh alchemysts of sound are back with a new album - always a cause for excitement, and as always that expectation is fully rewarded with an album that may well be their most well rounded and memorable yet.

After an unlikely, moody, hauntological introduction the psychedelic pop gears are engaged thoroughly with "Seeing"s playful bounce, which has moments that suggest George Formby disappearing down the rabbit hole.

"False Lights" sees the Soft Hearted Scientists exploiting their pop smarts to the max and pound for pound, I'd say it's their most concise, hook laden effort so far - which is saying something. Reining in their more proggish tendencies may not on paper, sound like a particularly good idea for a band who's reputation has been partly built on diversity, but the decision (conscious or not) to trim the excess back has resulted in an album with an instant appeal that previous albums - great as they have been - have had to work a little harder at.

I don't imagine for a moment that these lads have any interest in stardom, but "False Lights" certainly feels like a breakthrough album. History has proven of course that quality is no guarantee of success, but it's hard to imagine anyone not getting carried away by the irresistibly catchy "Song From The River" or the innocent, childlike charm of the sinister nursery rhyme "Seaside Sid & The Giant Squid", which makes being eaten by a giant squid sound like it's been given an unnecessarily bad rap.

The Scientist's ability to switch from whimsical good humor to the beautifully dark melancholy of the flawless "Golgotha" at the drop of a hat is their biggest drawcard though, which makes approaching any of their albums a thrilling prospect, and "False Lights" has more twists and turns than most bands cram into an entire career.

Certainly one of the most tuneful albums I've heard this year. Highly recommended.

[...]


Wandermoon
Wandermoon
Price: £4.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Various Reviews in Press and Online, 20 Jan. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Wandermoon (MP3 Download)
Uncut, August 2011

A melting pot of the the lysergic whimsy of Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, Traffic, and the Who at their trippiest.

The Independent, August 2011.

Whimsical psychedelia must be like mother's milk to the Welsh. Soft Hearted Scientists are spiritually indebted to Syd Barrett. Wandermoon is an epic expedition.

Q Magazine, August 2011

Cardiff-based Soft Hearted Scientists christened their fourth album with their own word for escape from the drudgery of modern life. A wide-eyed trip reminiscent of those other Welsh psychedelicists Super Furry Animals at their most whimsical.

New Sound Wales

This band are progressing organically and in the process producing some truly wonderful music. Gentle melodies, rich vocals and intriguing lyrics. The Soft Hearted Scientists take the elements from a bygone age but have their own sound which is instantly recognisable and enchanting. I sincerely doubt you will hear a more magical track than "Tornadoes in Birmingham" or a more beguiling one than the title track "Westward Leading" this year.

I Heart AU

A semi-precious nugget of pure Sixties psychedelia, and their 4th album, yet Soft Hearted Scientists boast all the freshness of new kids on the block. Echoes of Barrett-era Pink Floyd - think 'See Emily Play' in glorious technicolour - but with a modern twist.

Subba Cultcha

Music for the modern day psychedelically adventurous. Importantly, they put their own stamp on the psych template. Wandermoon manages to sound utterly contemporary and is hugely enjoyable - seeing the fantastic in the mundane and everyday, like Blake's world in a grain of sand.


Take Time To Wonder In A Whirling World
Take Time To Wonder In A Whirling World
Price: £11.82

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The critic's verdict, 2 Jan. 2010
SOFT HEARTED SCIENTISTS
The Cardiff Based Psychedelic Magic Realist Music Collective

4th album "Wandermoon" coming in 2011!

But in the meantime you can enjoy our back catalogue
1st album: Uncanny Tales From The Everyday Undergrowth!
2nd album: Take Time To Wonder In A Whirling World!
3rd album: Scarecrow Smile!

What the critics say:
"A new legal high is unleashed - 8/10" - NME

"Mind bending" - Word Magazine. "Absolutely amazing" - Claire Sturges, XFM radio

"A beautiful, warm, sparkling collection of songs", Huw Stephens, BBC Radio 1

"A magical little fairyland of a record" - Mark Radcliffe, BBC Radio 2

"Cloudy chants, electro squiggles and instruments we couldn't even begin to name neon highlight the campfire brilliance of SHS's choruses" - Jamie Fullerton, NME

"Inspired storytelling set to melodies that burrow into your mind like a caterpillar - 4 stars" - Louis Pattison, Uncut magazine

"A little bit of sanctuary in a relentless world" - Drowned In Sound
"The equivalent of finding a pot of gold at the bottom of the garden" - Western Mail
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Scarecrow Smile
Scarecrow Smile
Price: £9.38

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 8 out of 10 review from drownedinsound.com October 2009, 31 Dec. 2009
This review is from: Scarecrow Smile (Audio CD)
It's an interesting proposition, this. The third full-length from Soft Hearted Scientists isn't an album proper - instead, it's a collection of 16 demos. Is it a novel approach to the Welsh band's intricate sound, or a cynical stop-gap release?

The signs are good upon hearing the first strains of opener 'The Strangest Scene', which fades in with a simple rhythm that's most reminiscent of classic Lemon Jelly. By second song 'Effervesce', the mood is well and truly established - and it sounds like going for a picnic in the countryside on a sunny day. You pick up your hamper, climb onto a train at a busy mainline station, and watch urban life retreat as you escape to somewhere like the Gower Peninsula or the Lake District. It's langorous, relaxed, unhurried - and utterly absorbing.

Indeed, the fact that the songs are all demos only adds to this effect: by stripping down their sound and making it far less layered than previous efforts - almost under-produced, at some points - there's an air of intimacy which permeates the whole album. It's almost like Soft Hearted Scientists are trying to hark back to some imagined simpler time: for example, songs like 'Totem Pole Blues' and 'Scarecrow Smile' itself are infused with echoes of old English folk, and the vocal harmonies interweave and complement each other in such a way as to ease you into a peaceful dreamworld.

That's not to say that this album is all about fantasy, though - the lyrics often snap you back to reality with a pithy turn of phrase, often pricking the fragile structures of modern life - although the refrain "Things slip away on an average day/So promise you will never die" in 'The Impossible' does carry unfortunate echoes of a particularly memorable line in Team America: World Police.

In fact, it's around this point that things start getting a little uncomfortable. 'GardenSong', 'The Impossible' and 'Return of the Black Dahlia' form a spooky, melancholy little triptych within the wider piece which at first seems incongruous - like opening your picnic hamper to find an infestation of ants. That's not to say they're bad: far from it. Actually, by turning the mood on its head, Soft Hearted Scientists add an element of the wilderness into the overall mood. Yes, the outside world is beautiful, but it's still dangerous: you can die on the mountainside,after all. Even so, it's still a real shame when the final notes of Sixties-esque psychedelic lullaby 'Manta Ray on Main Street' die down, the dream ends and you're thrust back into the daily grind.

Ultimately, for what is essentially a collection of demos, this is an incredibly cohesive album - it's almost like a symphony at points. The roughness of the demos, which at some points is obvious and at others almost imperceptible, only adds to the intimacy and immediacy of the songs: this is an album that will transport you from wherever you are to to a place where the wind blows in your face, where the air smells fresh and where you can breathe easily. It's a little bit of sanctuary in a relentless world, and that is undoubtedly a good thing.

* Soft Hearted Scientists 8 / 10


Let You Down
Let You Down

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Velvet Floyd, Pink Underground, 16 Dec. 2003
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Let You Down (Audio CD)
This is one of my favourite albums of the last 2 years. Its a strange hybrid of almost mathematical precision and hazy wooziness. I think that if you genetically spliced the Velvet Underground in their 3rd album phase with Pink Floyd they would sound like this. Beautiful sonic details and a Syd Barrett out to lunch feel to the vocals. There are also shades of later Spacemen 3, early Beta band and Gorky's Zygotic Mynci. The album sustains a dislocated dream like mood thoughout and does not indulge in any gratuitous noise outbursts. It is very much night music and (I mean this as an extreme compliment) a perfect album to drift off to sleep to - no nightmares guaranteed. Few albums are good for that - Premiere Symptomes by Air being another.


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