Thomas House, frontman and creative brain of the Brighton outfit Sweet Williams, recently seen lending his vocal talents to Haress, is due to release the third album in the band’s catalogue, Where Does The Time Come From, as a solo endeavour. Resulting from over 20 years worth of ideas gathered while playing in a variety of bands (Charlottefield, Joeyfat), it will see the light of day on 20th September this year on Gringo Records. With all parts performed by House himself, it is Sweet Williams’ greatest LP up to date – carefully devised, rich in flavours and textures and instilled with a mysterious beauty bound to reveal itself little by little with every consecutive listen.
Comprising ten succinct tracks averaging three minutes in length, the album clocks in at just a bit over half an hour. Fruit of passion and self-constraint, an unlikely and ever so uncommon match made in heaven, it is a tight and substantial piece of musical invention, utterly devoid of the superficial or the superfluous. Less is decidedly more here with every note hitting the exact spot and every instant passing by in the most meaningful and fulfilling of manners. The titular time reveals a whole array of connotations – from the primordial physical dimension, through a personal experience of memory, closure and a new beginning, to the strictly sonic understanding of a rhythmical pattern.
Intently structured and impressive from start to finish, the album opens with ponderous Stop I’m Killing You followed by just as in-yer-face Stunt Freeze. Their urgency and immediacy, conveyed with battering drums and insistently resonant strumming, set the tone for the whole record, which appears as an expression of an unflinching spirit sheltering a vulnerable core. And it is precisely thanks to the ambiguity of those two elements that the outer layer marked with hard-hitting determination never comes across as monotonous. As the initially straightforward tempo and tonality begin to dramatically shift and swerve, we are kept on our toes while striving to soak up the underlying subtlety, which lulls us into a solemn reverie.
Fifties introduces slivers of melody on the backdrop of heavy drum lines dissonantly interlaced with meandering vocals and guitars. Elusive lyrics evoke self-blame and regret for the mistakes that end in a definite loss. It is here that the pounding pulse for the first time so clearly reveals itself as an aural shell, at once protective and affirming of the elemental gentleness communicated with a tender yet powerful riff. That lovingly protected soft nucleus becomes the very focus of RF – an organic instrumental wonder based exclusively on two guitar tracks – a thundery and somber lead coupled with its finer counterpart, complementing each other in a demanding yet ultimately concordant bond.
Imbued with a sense of frustrated exhaustion, Very Long Division, the cyclical centrepiece founded on a powerful bass line propelled by delightfully rolling drums entwined with chiming guitars and drowsy vocals, leads to a hypnotic plateau. Warm and fuzzy but nonetheless intense, the track fades out leaving behind a sense of indefiniteness and perpetuity. Ride a Gold Snail, lyrically conveying the elation and confusion of – perhaps – a newly found love, follows up in a faster tempo, gradually gaining density, as tolling and grinding chords rise above the bumpy percussive surface. It is a dynamic and rhythmically exciting piece featuring a variety of ideas coming together to form an intricate patchwork.
Rust relies on a minimal beat interjected with mordant guitar staccatos. House’s vocals take the spotlight in this vehement, highly-strung composition. Expelled in a jerky manner, words both relieve and build tension, just as an obsessive thought or a nagging line keeps recurring until it ultimately discharges in a violent outburst. The next and the longest opus on the record, Two Golden Sisters, gives the artist even more scope to demonstrate his vocal prowess. Guttural and threatening, his voice ideally supplements the quietly penetrating riff composed of single resonant notes, while imbuing it with a dark, ominous atmosphere.
Harmonising of the seemingly incongruent elements such as disparate measures and keys, has long become Sweet Williams’ trademark. Reflecting the idea of instrumental incoherence in the lyrical discourse founded on snippets of an overheard conversation, Facing East* is a stellar showcase of this compositional principle and an aural delight to behold. Bearing a subtle similarity to Shipping News’ Louven, it flows in splendid instrumental cascades falling on the backcloth of dreamily hushed vocals. The punchy closer, Discomforter, strongly affirms House’s musical sensibility permeating the whole album, as it weaves a dismayingly observant account of a long while of social awkwardness into a heavy fabric of metric complexity.
Where Does The Time Come From, consistent as it proves with its inventive title, reveals its creator’s deep awareness of music as a medium boasting the purest and most natural connection with the dimension to which it exclusively belongs. As such, it presents itself as a true delight to all those who wish to be led to a sonic crossroads, repeatedly diverted on the route of time and ultimately left to their own devices amidst the wilderness, in a state of utter bedazzlement.
*Tracks & Frames exclusively revealed Facing East on August 21st as a bonus to the extensive interview with Thomas House available here.
© Anna Bajor, Tracks & Frames, 2019