The Dawn Bird vinyl of The Shape Of Things To Come – their second album at last released in a physical form - is the perfect format for the music of the Left Outsides. The cover art too - antique English, pastoral, slightly mysterious – is an ideal match for the acid-psych and English folk influenced music lying within the grooves, haunted by the spirits of Syd Barrett and Shirley Collins, Nick Drake and John Cale.
There’s a strong sense of melancholy, darkness and English reserve, in the music of the Left Outsides. 'Always The Last To Know’ strives to be upbeat but Mark's delicate, jangling guitar is held in check by Alison's sternly droning viola. In ‘Deep Rivers Move In Silence; Shallow Brooks Are Noisy’ - which sounds just like a piece of North Eastern folk wisdom - Alison sings of being “surrounded by celestial beauty”, which is just how the song is manifest, layered and deep with a plangent, melancholy tone. Alison’s ethereal vocals are quite mesmerising - like eyes in a haunted painting that follow you around a room, her voice seems to be singling you out at every turn, making intimate and empathetic contact with each and every listener.
‘Ring Out The Bells’ has a crepuscular, funereal feel, the very opposite of celebratory campanology, while the whimsical folktale ‘Through A Keyhole’ is Lewis Carroll channelled by Syd Barrett. Breaking the mould somewhat is ‘Unopened Lessons And Unanswered Calls’, more conventional psych-influenced pop, owing something to Echo & the Bunnymen while ‘The Third Light’ – a 2009 single – is one of the album’s standouts, three and a half minutes of dramatic psych-folk with a Pentangle-style jazz influence.
The effort of putting out this record on vinyl is only right given the quality of the music here. Its ethereal folk and dreamy psychedelic songs have the power to hypnotise. Heartfelt, introspective Englishness has never sounded so good.