The Goner – H.H. (2009)

A while back, when the imperious Sunrise Ocean Bender introduced me to E-Gone’s superlatively playful and adventurous All The Suns Of The Earth, I reached the acoustic third track and felt slightly deflated. Another guy with an acoustic guitar. Ho hum. It takes a top drawer songwriter to fly backed only with an acoustic. Daniel Westerlund however, is a top drawer songwriter, and much more. Exploring his back catalogue as The Goner has revealed a treasure trove of diamonds and pearls. He generally oscillates between folky singer songwriter cuts (see Behold The New Traveller) and ambient medieval soundscapes (see Bitemarks EP, both from 2010). (Reviews of these can be found at the bottom of the page).

H.H. was released into the wild by the good-hearted folk at Deep Water Acres collects his first two albums: Hind Hand and Haven from 2008. Which is handy as according to the sleeve only 66 of these 2 albums were originally released, which is only marginally more than the number of people on the Earth who understand the rules of tennis. Hind Hand shows the soundscapes side of the man perfect for those long winter nights with a book, a cup of tea and a packet of biscuits. Haven leans towards the man-with-a-guitar that shows a thousand douchebags covering ‘Hallelujah’ how it should be done.

Hind Hand begins with tumbling drums and a throaty vibration on ‘This Time A Thousand Years From Now’ that brings to mind a Viking longship drifting through the mists. Ending with a haunting guitar lament that Vini Reilly would be proud of, it sounds like Spanish heartbreak. The sheer realisation that The Goner can throw in such moments as the end of a song is quite startling. ‘Spirit Round Up’ is a remarkable piece of music. Percussion like the inner workings of a Grandfather Clock mixed with guitar strums and a Morse Code signal. The song could almost be a Steampunk techno smash until it acquires the drama of a Post Rock soundtrack to a Nordic crime show. Stark and layered, buoyant and spooky, this probably has no right to work as well as it does, and be as fascinating as it is. ‘I’ll Draw You A Picture’ offers a shindig on the HMS Surprise. ‘Hind Hand’ is an Eastern deliverance of meditative sitar-ish twanging that for once, doesn’t sounds like the music piped into curry houses. Descending into squalls past 4 minutes that evokes panic in a flock of seagulls before re-assembling itself into a cavernous subterranean hinterland. ‘Among Thieves’ is a brief banjo interlude of warmth and wit. ‘There Is Another Story Of Adam’ starts with a riff that sounds like a 17th century Rage Against The Machine. Spanning the course of 11 minutes you go wondering over hills and dale. Past five minutes the fog descends and you become lost on the moors. Out of the corner of your eye something scurries around, just in your eye line, a small imp, jinking through the undergrowth. The tension ratchets up with a droning skull buzz. Looping on and on, this is a nightmare that can’t be woken from. This is a story without resolution, fading to black and the end credits. ‘Shotgun Wedding’ ushers you from the door of Hind Hand with a doleful whistling, like the ghost of a cowboy mourning the passing of the old west.

Over on Haven the birds are singing and an ecstasy of gold is unleashed from DW’s guitar as he croons “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” on ‘A Song’, adapted from a 17th century ditty. The voice… it just cuts through you: warm, honest and heartfelt. Echoes of John Cale and Ian McCulloch reverberate to my ears. Not showy, just inhabiting the song and knowing how to punch the emotion. ‘Haven’ offers stomping drums with the occasional twangs, like battle coming to Middle Earth. After the glory of the first song more vocals would have been appreciated but this still wins. ‘The Last Folk Song’ has a killer melody and vocals, reminiscent of the last episode of a long running sitcom when the characters walk off into the future. Sweeps of strings back up the elegiac vocals provided by The Goner. It swings and keens upon the ocean of eternity. ‘Field Ceremony’ has a playful perkiness, like a cartoon mouse looking for a cheese. Halfway through it acquires a see-saw stagger and a slowly descending riff not a million miles away from the one in ‘The Power’ by Suede. Vocals would have helped. ‘Field’ is an interlude that features a wah-wah pedal, though I may be mistaken. ‘Leave Home’ kicks off the second half with a message beamed in from beyond the hills and slow delicate guitars like the fall of leaves in Autumn. May have been better placed on Hind Hand. Overall it has a sensation of trying to recall a diminishing dream. ‘No Atheists On A Sinking Ship’ is a coiled frenzy of strumming. ‘In Time Everything Will Come Together’ is piano led and features vocals. The lyrics are have a slight school poetry vibe here. ‘Travelogue’ mixes the skittish with the glacial. ‘Harbor Song’ returns to the olde-worlde melancholy he does so well, sounding like a village theme to a 90s Role Playing Game. Finally, The Goner walks off into the sunset…

A long conclusion to wrap up the case proves unneccessary. Being both a first-rate singer songwriter and a highly travelled music explorer he brings new life and vitality into both the world of folk and post rock. Assembling a discography to improve anyone’s music collection, whether he goes by The Goner or E-Gone, Daniel Westerlund builds worlds, inhabits them and then allows you to holiday there. The intrepid are urged to pack their bags and set sale…

OK, this song isn’t from H.H. but it’s the best I could do:

Note – as this isn’t the easiest to locate the curious traveller is advised to look in the direction of Deep Water Acres.

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One thought on “The Goner – H.H. (2009)

  1. Pingback: “…a treasure trove of diamonds and pearls” |

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