In Review: PETER ESCOTT – THE LONG O (BEDROOM SUCK RECORDS, 2014)

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Here is a man utterly dissecting himself and examining his own contents. His approach is almost clinical in how brutal his introspective search is. He doesn’t hate what he discovers, but he is less than impressed. Peter Escott manages to convey the muddled thoughts of the self a lot more eloquently than anyone else has ever come close to.

Peter Escott is an interesting fellow. I don’t know him personally, but he seems like the kind of person that would make an interesting friend. Don’t ask why, I guess his music reflects a degree of honesty and flair which would be grounding and exhilarating to be around. It’s the nature of the individual I see in the music that intrigues me – not many musicians are as upfront about themselves as Peter Escott is regarding Peter Escott.

As one half of The Native Cats, Escott has had much practice transforming thought into song, but this is his first big statement as a solo artist. His newest LP, The Long O was released a few weeks back through Bedroom Suck and I have been trying to come up with suitable words to describe it, at least in a way that contributes something new to the discourse – for some reason this was a hard record to write about.

I guess first and foremost: Escott is a lyricist, a wordsmith. Whether in his poetry or comedy or musings with The Native Cats, the vocals and the words they contain are a defining feature of his work. He is a literate person, one that seems to be largely introspective and introverted yet open minded and expressive (when the mood suits him). The Long O is a record of new-age balladry littered with quirks and behavioural observations that paint a picture of an individual who lives largely within his own head.

There are two flavours to this album, the beauty and the bleakness. Yes, this is a beautiful and stirring record, but there is an underlying sadness that is, personally speaking, more impactful. There is a malaise and a wonkiness that makes this album more earnest and uneasy. Also, there is a simple, yet unhinged element to the melodicism that blends with the paranoia that seems to exist in Peter Escott’s mind. Sparse piano and synths help to create the effect, but the most intimidating aspect is Escott’s wounded and soulful vocals.

The more I listen, the more I think what strikes me most about this musician is how uncertain of himself he really is. This man is incredibly talented and successful, without a doubt. However, those burdened with degrees of brilliance always seem to struggle with the weight – Peter Escott’s response to his own inner crisis is to dig inside and see if something is broken.

The Long O is about that search. Here is a man utterly dissecting himself and examining his own contents. His approach is almost clinical in how brutal his introspective search is. He doesn’t hate what he discovers, but he is less than impressed. Failed relationships and friendships are turned inside out and viewed from all angles. Something within Peter Escott’s mind is causing trouble and I hope that expressing these thoughts this honestly is the best thing for him.

He expresses with such imagination and care that we can’t help but become invested in his inner search, his criticisms of others and himself, his frustrations and his passions. I guess it will hit home to many of us – that dissatisfaction with the self and/or with those people that we try to use to fill in the blanks.

I was lucky enough to recently catch him play to a small crowd at the 4ZZZ HappyFest. At the beginning of his set he acknowledged that he was still trying to figure out how to play to audiences solo – and also how to speak to those in attendance. During his set he apologised for turning the mostly rock and roll stage into something “small and weird”. No one there seemed to mind – I figured everyone there was curious to see what Escott’s brand of small and weird was.

Everyone there had heard the album, you could tell. All of us were drawn in; we needed to see this musician in person. Those in attendance probably carried their own wounds and neurosis. Afterwards we found that Peter Escott managed to convey the muddled thoughts of the self a lot more eloquently than anyone else has ever come close to. That’s a pretty big achievement – one to be proud of.

BEDROOM SUCK RECORDS / PETER ESCOTT BANDCAMP

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