The Balky Mule - The Length Of The Rail
Sometimes an album comes along that baffles and delights you in equal measures. Sometimes these become minor favourites that you can’t seem to get off of your stereo or help telling friends and colleagues about. Sometimes you’re not even sure why you like them or what it is exactly that draws them to you. This is exactly what has happened to me with The Balky Mule’s forthcoming release ’The Length Of Rail.’ An odd and at times ramshackle collection of songs that somehow have confused me whilst at the same time crawling underneath my skin and refusing to allow my brain to switch over to another album.
The Balky Mule is Sam Jones, a self taught instrumentalist Ex-Pat now living in the sunnier clime’s of Australia. A stalwart of Bristol’s thriving post-rock scene in the nineties, he contributed various instruments to bands such as Flying Saucer Attack and Third Eye Foundation among others. Recorded over the last 5 years at his home in Melbourne, he has played and programmed everything on ‘The Length Of Rail’ leaving the album with a Lo-Fi sound that fans of Alt-Folk may well appreciate. If you like Syd Barrett’s solo work and, like me, believe Skip Spence’s ‘Oar’ was an insane masterpiece then this music could well be for you.
‘Dust Bird Baths’ starts the album and rips The Balky Mule wide open, easy listening this is not, but if you persevere you will be rewarded with great songs like ‘Wireless’ and ‘Range.’ Whilst a majority of the album is driven by Sam’s acoustic guitar, tracks like ‘Illuminated Numbers’ are bristling full of electronic wizardry and invention. ‘Paper Crane’ is Radiohead circa ‘Kid A’, if they had congested their own body weight in hallucinogenic's. The heady mix of acoustic guitars and electronics make for an awkward but thoroughly rewarding listening experience perhaps demonstrated best of all on ‘Blinking.’ Delicate guitars are entwined with sounds not unlike some of Aphex Twin’s ambient works floating around in the background. Album closer ‘Tell Me Something Sweet’ signs off in delicate style allowing the guitars and drums their slice of time together away from the other chaos.
As I’ve already said, I wasn’t sure about this album when I first heard it, but subsequent listens just drew me further and further in. Behind all the electronic experimentation and Lo-Fi production is a genuinely good album with some very good songs. If you’ve got the time, meet The Balky Mule and see how you get on, you might not understand him at first but it might well be worth it.