Oddfellow’s Casino: Music from the Cult of Water (Self Released)

Whimsical Brightonian prog / pop outfit create sparkling redux version of their previous LP

Released Oct 14th, 2021 / By Norman Miller
Oddfellow’s Casino: Music from the Cult of Water (Self Released) Earlier this year, veteran Brighton-based outfit Oddfellow's Casino released a striking album entitled Cult of Water to mark their 20th anniversary. Six years in the making, it augmented pastoral electronica with spoken word and field recordings to create a unique meditation on northern English landscape, inspired by the path of the River Don.

Travelling in time and space, this was home territory for the band's leader David Bramwell. With vocal contributions from Alan Moore, the album touched on topics as diverse as environmentalism and the occult, plus the sort of whimsy loved by fans of someone like Ivor Cutler.

This album is an instrumental companion to that grand rag-bag of wonderment, its 11 tracks bearing the same titles as the earlier album, but this time cast as a seamless, shimmering flow of sounds, like the fluid river that provides its source inspiration.

As tracks merge into one another, sound veers gently through variations on a similar style, or change gears sharply. Minimalist keyboard slides into electronica, interleaved with slices of post-rock, ambient hypnotics or moody drones.

Standout sections start early, as the pastoral psych of Doncaster - low hum topped by delicate electronic patterns - slips into the beautifully melodic The Ladybird Plague of 1976, dappled with bird-like sounds and acoustic guitar. From Swerve of Shore to Bend of Bay (a line from James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake) is another hypnotic beauty, with a carnivalesque dash Joyce might have enjoyed.

Tracks like The Current Of The River Only Flows One Way deliver something altogether spookier, with electronic voices and moody string slowly crushed by heavier slabs of sound, while the surging Northern Alchemy echoes early Depeche Mode given a weird twist with instrumentation including flutes.

The big brush sweeping grandeur of Cast Your Swords, Coins and Shields Into Her Waters, Boys! echoes the stirring tone of the track title. In an era when so many musicians plough defined furrows, Oddfellow's Casino defy pigeonholing in the same way as Brighton itself.

At various points, I thought of Bristol multi-instrumentalist Manyfingers, then Snow Goose era Camel. Others have made comparisons with Tunng, late period Talk Talk and The Beta Band. The Quietus, meanwhile, spoke of a band that "Joins the dots between Pentangle and The Pet Shop Boys, Basil Kirchin and British Sea Power". What more could any curious listener want? 4/5