Though this is an obvious statement, I am going to make it anyway: album-making has changed since the days of The Beatles vs. The Stones. Now that technology has evolved, anyone can make a record at home using a microphone or two, a four-track or computer, and a little self-motivation. The definition of 'album' has changed so much over the past 50 years that there isn't really a clear distinguishing feature, other than the length of a recording.
Songs of Green Pheasant is a collection of songs recorded on a four-track in 2002 by solo artist Duncan Sumpner, being released on FatCat's 130701 imprint, which also houses such acts as Max Richter and Sylvain Chauveau. Most reviews you will read of this album are likely to reference Iron & Wine, and unsurprisingly so. After all, this is the debut release by a middle-aged teacher, consisting of four-track recordings of gentle folk songs on a six-character-named record label.
But the obvious comparisons are not necessarily the most appropriate ones, as Mr. Sumpner extracts more from Simon & Garfunkel than Mr. Beam. There is a very fragile beauty about the sound of this collection of songs that is truly endearing. However, as others have pointed out, there is not a lot of deviation from the sound and format of the whole. Not unlike My Morning Jacket's stubborn love affair with reverb, Songs of Green Pheasant initiates its own formula and adheres to it throughout its entire running time.
There are some triumphant moments where allusions to tide changes reside, such as the Low-esque denouement of "Nightfall (for Boris P.)" or the drum-machine driven "The Wraith of Loving." The true magic behind the disc is in the way it crawls under your skin with an understated hush. It isn't splashy, or immediately catchy, or hiding behind fancy graphic design. Instead, it is an honest, modest reflection of its songwriter. Unfortunately (or fortunately) for Sumpner, what it leaves you with is a desire to hear what he is doing in the present day, as he is capable of much better than this output.
1. I Am Daylights
2. Nightfall (for Boris P.)
3. The Burning Man
5. The Wraith of Loving
7. Hey, Hey, Wilderness
8. Truth But Not Fact
9. Soldiers Kill Their Sisters
10. From Here To Somewhere Else