St. Just Vigilantes, Pastor of Oaks, Sheppherd of Stones

Pleasant but underwhelming album of mainly acoustic moves from a duo apparently based in Vancouver and London.  The self-consciously rustic title and faux-medieval lettering on the cover might lead the casual browser to assume that St. Just Vigilantes lie within the presently ubiquitous “weird folk” movement.  And elements of that sound are indeed present on the record, although it’s plain that the group are actually closer in spirit to the goth-inflected apocalyptic folk of Current 93 and Death In June, with a dash of ethno-folk à la Dead Can Dance stirred into the pot for good measure.  Now I yield to none in my love for all three of those groups, but this is a case of the whole being rather less than the sum of its parts.

A song like “Rose Grenades”, for example, passes by agreeably if unmemorably with its plaintive threads of glockenspiel, violin and acoustic guitar.  The vocalist, however, not only chooses to deliver absurd lines like “rose grenades exploding in the palace of the dream brigades”, but does so in a washed-out, mannered tone that never approaches conviction.  “For the Angel in the Angle” begins promisingly enough with an abstract instrumental passage, only to give way after a minute to a lame, meandering full-band workout.

The cover being rather lacking in the information department, I can’t tell you much about St. Just Vigilantes other than that they consist of Alan Boyd and Jonathan Orr plus session musicians.  What I can tell you is that “In Moderate Praise of Senseless Mobs” is a standout track, sounding grittier than most of the record with its weathered quality and nagging acoustic riff.  Elsewhere, “Arrow vs. Panzer” adds neatly intercut rhythms and an angular Fripp-like electric solo.  These songs point the way to the kind of album Pastor of Oaks, Sheppherd of Stones could have been if it had jettisoned the slightly rarefied and precious atmosphere that hangs over the rest of it.

(Originally published in The Sound Projector 19, 2011)

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