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Spider – The Way To Bitter Lake

Currently I am digging all things folksical - the more rustic the better – think of Vashti Bunyan leaning against the door of her cottage in an apron and headscarf casting a pale sunshine shadow. Spider (Jane Hership) is a girl whose songs fit with this state of mind and like Vashti she has a simple purity of sound that makes ‘The Way To Bitter Lake’ a quiet wonder.

This is a set of eight beautifully crafted little numbers, made up in the main of a slow acoustic strum and Jane’s drifting, dreamy vocals. Sometimes, as on the soft, susserating ‘Midnight on the Nile’ there’s a crystalline delicacy to her voice. Sometimes, as on ‘End Song’ which cheekily wakes you from your reverie with a cranky electric guitar, there’s a Hope Sandoval weariness; whilst on opener ‘The Clearing’ there’s a country creak and ache that belies Jane’s apparent dewy youthfulness (her debut gig was November 2004 –The Sidewalk Café, NYC).

The excellently titled ‘I Don’t Know If She Had Any Teeth Because She Never Smiled’
is extraordinary, liltingly taking its time, stretching out peacefully like ripples flickering across a pond; Sunday sunsets and country daydreams. ‘The Bitter One’ sees a soupcon of strings sneaking in to add a warm streak to its starkly rolling acoustic picking. The cowboy swoon of ‘Cold Eyes’ is reminiscent of the velvety wonder of Mazzy Star or Opal. If you ever went weak at the knees to ‘Fell From The Sun’ (and by God you really should have) then the woozy slide guitar here will knock you to the floor in bliss. Then there’s the way an electric guitar creaks and squeals its way into the stillness of ‘Maggie’s Song For Alice’. There you are breathing gently along with Spider’s luminous voice and a spot of caressing piano, when the whole thing cracks in two with this achey shard of sound.

‘The Way To Bitter Lake’ has been my winter morning soundtrack, a sonic (too close for) comfort zone as I do the daily early morning trundle up the District Line, Spider songs whispering in my ears. It’s a treasure of a record, a glimmering campfire of sound to keep the darkness at bay.

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