steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion

The Big Eyes Family Players

"Donkeysongs" CDR

Rusted Rail

Genre: instrumental folk, avant-folk

Sheffield, UK

June 15, 2009

You may remember these folks from their earlier incarnation - as, simply, Big Eyes - from the earlier part of this decade. As Rusted Rail's website explains, the intent back then was to create classical music without actually possessing the knowhow seemingly required to play it. This back story is, however, completely irrelevant to the current release, as Donkeysongs is instead a stunning work of atmospheric and somewhat unconventional folk.

The reason you'll come to love this album is that it is so much more than your average experimental folk endeavour. Employing a combination of acoustic guitar led instrumentals and abstract atmospheric pieces, The Big Eyes Family Players conjure up images of vivid rural landscapes under red night skies - perhaps as seen through a donkey's eyes. The record is melodic but not overtly so, with an attention to compositional detail rarely seen on CDR releases. Take the stunning mystique of "The Orange Miller," which sounds like the lament of a remote ghost town. Or mournful "Donkeys Disturbed By a Meteor Shower," whose brilliant guitar/banjo melody is accentuated by its eerie bed of percussion.

Of course, the guitar-heavy compositions consume a lot of my attention because their relative straightforwardness makes them more overtly memorable, but in truth Donkeysongs also offers several abstract pieces. "Clunk Orm," for example, is a brilliantly shimmering piano piece that employs reverse sampling to mysterious effect, and chilling "An Improvised Drowning" closes the record on a startlingly downtrodden note. These tracks add depth to an album that is uncannily mysterious and atmospheric. Taken together, Donkeysongs is a marvellously idiosyncratic journey that's worth taking.  

[Comes in a beautifully lino-printed sleeve with paper insert.]

big eyes family players' myspace



Matt Shimmer

[Vitals: 8 tracks, distributed by the label, released 2008]