Puzzle Muteson – Theatrics

Back in 2011 I completely fell in love with ‘En Garde’ by Puzzle Muteson – playing the album again and again on repeat, like a child with a favourite video. The album came out in late spring/early summer but I didn’t get round to grabbing it until the winter and for that reason I’ve always seen it as a bit of a Christmas album. Seems a strange thing to say but music evokes nostalgia as you recall whatever you were doing at the time. That year it was certainly my favourite record and it will go down as one of my all time favourites.

So, for this reason you can imagine my delight when I stumbled across a link to pre-order ‘Theatrics’, the follow-up album out on Bedroom Community. I generally tend to always preview samples of a record even if I am familiar with an artist but in this case, the order was in before I had much chance to realise what I was doing. My music collection literally expanded by an extra record automatically.

Another thing I tend to experience when buying a follow up to what I feel is a classic, is a sense of disappointment. Looking back over my all-time favourite records and the subsequent or prior work from the artist – there is usually always that favourite album and others that fall a little short by comparison. For instance, Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left takes some beating and whilst there was some excellent work on Pink Moon, Bryter Layter was nowhere near as good. Portishead’s ‘Dummy’ is a wonderful record – ‘Third’ was an automatic purchase for that very reason but a lot of it just wasn’t as magical.
So once I’d received ‘Theatrics’ I felt a little apprehensive – how many good tracks are there? Would I be disappointed?

After a week of repeated listens, I’m already hooked and as the weather starts to turn cold it’s beginning to feel like the winter of 2011 all over again. Terry Magson’s follow up record is another masterpiece with each piece really capturing a sense of magic. Overall the production seems richer somehow – ‘En Garde’ always felt delicate and a little fractured, despite the help of Nico Muhly and Valgeir Sigurðsson. Perhaps it’s because En Garde was originally a set of demo recordings from Magson, then adapted whereas presumably this time the label have helped plan Theatrics from scratch?

Opening track ‘We Are, We Own’ is fast guitar and keys set to Terry’s slow and fragile voice. Often when you are listening to an album, you might skip to a certain track; with Theatrics, the opening track is the fitting introduction to any listen. ‘In Circles’ and ‘Bells’ are the two pieces that have really helped bring home those same onset of winter feelings that I’m so fond of from ‘En Garde’. Fourth track ‘River Women’ was given away free with the album initially during the pre-order stage and is possibly my favourite track so far; a seriously strong track with such great depth and variation. The more electric sounding but still beautifully smooth guitar lines of ‘Into & Opened’ is another real standout piece before the beautiful partnership of piano and guitar in ‘City Teeth’ comes in; melancholy in mood. Some listeners will recognise the voice in the next track ‘By Night’, which sees Chantal Acda join in with the vocals. The two voices work perfectly together and at this point after a continuous listen from the beginning you’ll become extremely fond of this album. ‘Winters Hold’ brings a touch of simple folk to this set of tracks before the icy cold ‘Belly’ follows. ‘True Faith’ is a truly excellent cover of the New Order track from 1987 (better than the original?) which also features synthesizer by Rutger Zuydervelt. The record is closed by ‘Chair’ which is a dramatic crescendo, beautifully composed with piano and voice at the fore.

Highly recommended album – check it out by pressing play above or clicking HERE