The Left Outsides - A Place To Hide (Sam Giles CDr Edition) - 1 LEFT

The Left Outsides - A Place To Hide (Sam Giles CDr Edition) - 1 LEFT

SamGiles CDr Edition

Some artists embrace the magic of verse/chorus/verse; others immerse themselves in the rich sonic possibilities of nuanced ambience and drone. There aren’t many who do both, but London duo The Left Outsides have an impressively-situated grasp on both sides of that divide. It’s an imperfect comparison, but: on the other side of the Atlantic, consider how Low’s recent output has included both rock numbers and forays into drone. (Coincidentally, both groups have a married couple at their center.) If you cued up, say, The Left Outsides’ 2018 album All That Remains, you’d hear an impressively textured album with roots in folk and a terrific sense of location. This is an album that abounds with warmth and complex emotions: Alison Cotton’s vocals provide a sense of lucidity even as the music made by Cotton and Mark Nicholas sprawls into some cosmic corner of the unknown.

The best live albums are those that reveal a different side of the artists in question, and the newly-released A Place to Hide does just that. The album consists of one of their sets opening for Robyn Hitchcock in October, 2018, and the ways that it demonstrates some familiar songs — and one revelatory cover — makes for both a fine point of contrast to their studio work and a compelling album all its own. Here, the arrangements are stark, but in unexpected ways: largely Cotton’s harmonium and Nicholas’s guitar. That combination might, on paper, recall Nico’s The Marble Index, but the effect here is towards a warmer, more humanistic end. It also has a surreal timelessness to it, as their take on the traditional song “Young Girl Cut Down in Her Prime” abounds with sorrow and an air of the unknowable.

A Place to Hide closes with a cover of the 13th Floor Elevators song “Splash 1,” which pushes the psychedelia of the original version into an even more atmospheric realm. And the version of the title track of All That Remains has a greater immediacy than the version heard there, with the interplay between Cotton’s voice and Nicholas’s guitar taking on a haunted-sounding cadence. The point at which their voices converge makes for a quietly heartbreaking harmony; it’s a fine synecdoche for this album as a whole.

Tobias Carroll (Dusted Magazine)


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