George: A Week of Kindness

A week of kindness is the very least you should extend to anyone who introduces you to this little gem. The duo of Michael Varty and Suzy Mangian have produced an inspired fusion of icy slowcore, lo-fi instrumental textures and ethereal electronic atmospheres. At times calling to mind the achingly sad quietude of Low, at others the aerated starkness of Julee Cruise, the album progresses through its fifteen tracks like a slowly unfolding musical drama.

The purity of Mangian’s voice is heard to sumptuous effect on “The Living Sound,” hovering over simple piano and percussion. Varty and Mangian sing together on “Now You Want To Settle Down,” their voices floating in feathery harmony as they anatomise chilly, wounded emotion: “Whisper to me words of happiness, too far-fetched at best, go home to him.” In between, the instrumental “Week of Wonders” draws faint lines of recorder and flute against an ominous crescendo of liquid electronic noise.

Exhibiting flashes of wry humour on “Spend My Time” (“I’ve no time for drinking, because I spend all my time with you”), and the occasional moment of Kate Bush-style eccentricity, George ultimately keep returning to a position of rigorous calm and caution. Instrumentation is spare and intensely evocative: dustbowl banjo on “Song of Degrees,” drifty organ on “Fabula” and a touch of accordion on “Joy Could Be Here” that somehow conjures up a vision of blasted Englishness. Musing that “words have a way of resounding off surfaces,” the song acknowledges the existence of joy while simultaneously appearing unable to believe in it. It’s this tentativeness, this sense of quiet exploration at its own careful pace, that makes A Week of Kindness such an uncompromisingly fine record.

(Originally published in The Sound Projector 16, 2008)

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