TR 481LP TR 481LP

LP version. Key figure of the baroque pop/chamber pop genre Louis Philippe's musical output seems to follow a spasmodic timetable. This year has already seen the release of The Devil Laughs (PICI 019CD/LP), his critically acclaimed second collaboration with Young Marble Giant Stuart Moxham, now followed by Thunderclouds, on which he is joined by The Night Mail, a three-man band made up of Robert Rotifer (guitar), former Acid Jazz artist Andy Lewis (bass), and ex-member of Thrashing Doves and Death in Vegas, Ian Button (drums). Philippe and Rotifer have been close friends for many years. At the end of the first lockdown period, Rotifer went to see Philippe at his flat to go through the endless pile of musical sketches the latter had amassed during his prolonged hiatus. In early September the whole band finally got together for two rehearsals before decamping to Rimshot Studios in rural Kent to record the backing tracks for all thirteen songs as well as overdubbing strings (played by violinist Rachel Hall from Big Big Train) and trumpet parts (by Shanti Jayasinha), followed by another session overdubbing vocals, keyboards, percussion, and some more guitars, expertly engineered by Andy Lewis at Rotifer's home studio in Canterbury. The result is an album that evokes that city's fabled brand of whimsical prog just as much as Philippe's deep roots in French song-craft and a shared love for the autumnal side of sunshine pop. "Living on Borrowed Time", a catchy, bass-driven, sounds like the theme tune to a lost Lemmy Caution movie. While the album's title track cloaks the anticipation of a coming storm in heavily jazz-tinged Wyattesque chords magically rising out of the singing noise emanating from a building site next to Louis Philippe's Shepherd's Bush home, light-footed waltzes like "Fall In A Daydream" and "Once In A Lifetime Of Lies" manage to make London feel like Paris, before the closing track "When London Burns" invites the listener onto an imaginary dance-floor where an anglophone Michel Polnareff meets disco boffin Biddu. In between all that, you traverse the eerie aural cityscapes of "Alphaville", the wide dynamic range of two song suites ("The Man Who Had It All" and "Rio Grande"), the Tropicalia/folk-flavored subtlety of "The Mighty Owl", the surprising gospel grooves of "Love Is The Only Light", the arresting stop-and-start dramatics of "No Sound", the unexpected Celtic tones of "Do I" and the equally loony and beautiful semi-instrumental "Willow".