Loz Bridge & The Box Social - Witches EP
Released: 1 Mar 2009
Style: Electric Blues
Arctic Top Track: November
Review by: Rich Pickings - 1st March 2009
For Loz Bridge it seems dislocation is a way of life. Geographically removed from his birthplace in the north west of England, he now makes his home on the country's south east coast, whilst musically on the evidence of Witches, he's a man struck down by both primordial blues but also the nuanced heartbreak of jazz's darker side. His resume claims allegiances to Tom Waits and Nick Cave, but in truth his songwriting doesn't yet have the mesmeric fascination of the former's character sketches as they're heard on the likes of Swordfishtrombones or Rain Dogs. This may seem like a harsh criticism, but ably assisted here by The Box Social, an inevitable metamorphosis into grizzled raconteur may be no more than a whisky sour or two away.
The title track seems set to do for labour relations what did Pete Dohery did for rehab. Via a clattering eastern european reel which at some points resembles the noise of hornets in a jar, Bridge's place of work is full of Scrooge-like villains, part slavers, part sadists, with "Evil in the admin team" and where "Hate and bile are commonplace". Proof that a resolutely un-rock context can still produce moments of eye bulging intensity, it's a moment which shares the panoramic vista of Elbow's recent outings.
Demonstrating a rare sense of depth in the ipod era, all five songs have something to say and both China and By The River deliver enough rawboned jumps and knee scraping pathos, but the signature piece is a sublime departure. Melancholy without melodrama, the faded elegance of November reveals Bridge is capable of arrangements able to conjure exquisite poignancy. Across brushed drums, a piano which sounds like it's being embraced rather than just played and a plaintive organ, the singer's tremulous upper range sounds racked with insecurity, his plaintive "I Love You's" you sense both a prayer and an evocation. Brilliantly executed, bold and astute, it's the kind of ballad blues you'd hear being played late into the night for Hopper's Nighthawks.
As if to prove that this was no slight of ear, Sarah and The Wolves then repeats the trick, the bony, fractured voice knitting together a simple piano line of stark fragility, drawing it's power seemingly from the same paranoid hubris which fired that masterpiece of introverted epic, Radiohead's The Bends. Witches may not be the finished article, but it's all undeniably grist to the singer's mill. Whilst the overnight success of Guy Garvey may have done him a huge favour, Bridge has the insight to carve a piece of rock landscape all his own.