Brillig – I Ain’t Ever Gonna See The Sea (Independent)
South Australian three-piece Brillig are Matt Swayne (vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, banjo, harmonica), Elizabeth Reid (vocals, autoharp, piano accordion, ukulele, viola) and Denni Meredith (bass guitar). There’s a chance that seeing their instrumental line-up written down will give some indication of the music they make, but it merely hints at the variety of styles and the dark atmospheres they generate.
I suppose they can be loosely described as an Americana group, though one that includes sea shanties, gothic storytelling, cowboy songs and death balladry in their repertoire. The Handsome Family, Decemberists, Johnny Cash and Nick Cave all provide points of reference, and it’s no surprise that Brillig are beginning to garner the same sort of critical approval those other artists have attracted over the years. It’s a basic truth that humans like to be told stories, the darker the better, and Brillig have recorded an album full of them.
With dual vocalists, and a wealth of instrumental prowess to call upon, Brillig’s sound never completely settles. There willingness to mix things up certainly keeps “I Ain’t Ever Gonna See The Sea” interesting, as do the touches of gallows humour, whether it’s the knock-knocking on “The Devil Wears Cowboy Boots” or the down-to-earth sweariness of “Fair Warning”. Both of which are standout songs in the 13-track set, though they’re hardly alone. Opening cut “I Ain't Ever Gonna See the Sea” sets the scene beautifully, its chanted chorus oozing regret. “Five Point Star” relocates the trio to Colorado and ends badly, and the instrumental “Theme from Ghost Town” adds a little spaghetti to their western.