I have a funny story to tell that relates me and Trespassers William, and i feel that i should get it out of the way up front. So here it is.
In September of 2004, i was in Los Angeles for a Cocteau Twins fan event. One of the organizers of this event, a local i will refer to as "Phil", kept going on and on about this particular song by Trespassers William, who at the time were on Bella Union, the label run by ex-Cocteau Twins bassist Simon Raymonde. I don't even remember what song it was, but it was probably something off of their Different Stars record, which was just being released in the US around that time.
Phil kept obsessing about this song, and finally he got it played on the soundsystem at the club. Now, this was day 2 of the vacation for me, so i had spent 10 hours or so walking around downtown LA taking photos in the desert heat, had listened to Phil rant about this song for a few hours the night before and a few hours this night before he played it, i was a little inebriated, and i was surrounded by very inebriated Canadians (jet lag + no food + vodka = bad!), and the song just didn't fit.
Phil, no doubt it awe of my status as a world-famous internet music critic, kept pushing for me to say something about the tune. So i said, "It bored me to tears". At which point the shortish dark haired girl who had been hanging out with Phil for most of the evening says, "Thanks for nothing!" and stalks off in a huff. At which point, Phil laughs and tells me that she was Anna-Lynne Williams, the vocalist of said band.
The point here is this: context is everything. A song can be great when sitting on the patio of your condo, enjoying a nice cool glass of tea while watching the sun set, and that same song can be utterly boring when played in an energetic club where people are talking loudly, dancing (or trying to), and being drunk.
I wonder if Ms. Williams even remembers this event? I do, and i still owe you for this Phil! Watch your backÖ.
The thing is, i own two other Trespassers William CDs (beyond this release), and do find their light, dreamy pop to be perfect for calm introspective moments. I listen to them occasionally, and really enjoy the music when i have the space to devote some attention to it. And this, my friends, is their best release to date.
They are not the most productive of bands, this being only their sixth release in 10 years, but they epitomize the idea that quality cannot be rushed. The Natural Order of Things also fits in perfectly with what i have heard from the Gizeh Records roster (think Glissando, with perhaps a bit of Sleeping Dog thrown in).
The band is now down to a duo of Ms. Williams and guitarist Matt Brown, and they give us five tunes here. Let's examine each.
Sparrow kicks off the EP with a loping drum beat, some echoed guitar, and Ms. Williams singing longingly. The guitar shudders under layers of echo, and strange vocals layers float by. This song sounds like what Beach House are striving for, only here it is fully realized.
The Lids is next, starting with some burbling keyboards and that voice again, before some light drumming and a stuttering guitar come in. This sounds a lot like that O + S record, only Ms. Williams' voice is buried in the mix more than Orenda Fink's voice is buried on that album. I really like the way this swells up into a veritable fountain of sound in the middle. Nicely done.
Red begins with an organ drone and some clattering percussion, before her voice joins in, echoed and talking calmly. This almost reminds me of what Underwater were doing on their last record, only Ms. Williams has a subtler singing style than Melissa Mileski. I like this song a lot because there is some intense drumming in the middle that almost sounds like a kettle drum. You just donít hear enough kettle drums for my taste, but the big echoing sound used here (and probably really produced by a standard floor tom that has been echoed) works well with the light vocals, the organ drone, and the guitar arpeggios.
Catch Not Break features an acoustic guitar and some faint electronic bubbling noises alongside the voice. This is almost like folk music, except with computers involved. The mixture sounds organic, and although this is my least favorite tune on the EP, it still works for the most part.
I Could Go Back is the most rocking tune here. It features some insistent drumming, layers of voice, and some nicely tremoloed guitar. It moves along at a mid-tempo pace, which is actually pretty fast for Trespassers William. I think the way that her voice is layered against itself here works really well.
And that's it. The whole EP clocks in at just under 25 minutes, but they pack a lot into those 25 minutes. This is one of those EPs that you want to start over again just as soon as it is finished. It is relaxing and deep at the same time.
However, i still don't want to listen to this in a busy nightclub.