The warm, comforting feeling that an uncluttered, acoustic recording can give is immediate when this sixteen song collection kicks off. The songs are prepared quite well and Revisionist certainly have a nice sense of melody and arrangement. Lyrically, the band writes well with a focus on personal reflection and experiential content lending itself to the stripped back instrumentation.
“War Pt. 1” opens the album with single strums and a vocal lilt – a perfect start to an acoustic shindig. The rest of the band kicks in shortly thereafter and the background vocals, lead guitar and jaunty strums are certainly well played indeed. “Life at Home” is also tracked well, a lively country inflected strumming pattern and some reverse, bridge strums tastefully placed throughout. The group sounds great on this tune and it really is a well written piece.
Four of the songs on this album were originally released on the band’s Coasting EP from earlier in the year. The EP was a good advertisement for the band but the songs seem much more at home on Trenches. The listener can now enjoy “Recalibrate”, “Coasting”, “Heavy Shoulders” and “Today, We Sleep!” in the context of a larger and more supportive collection of songs. Recalibrate winds lyric and melody over some lovely little minor chord changes. Of the four songs included from that EP, “Today, We Sleep!” is the easiest on the ear with some timely background vocals and a tastefully played harmonica filling out the sound.
The golden moment of this entire album is the mid-album segue “11th hour”, a natural reverb on the group vocal and a plaintiff, whistled melody line gives goosebumps to the listener and reveals the band as the consummate storyteller. The title track is also very well selected. Yes, this song seems to sum up the entire album. It has all of the emotional range and song writing characteristics that Revisionist display throughout this collection of songs. The lead guitar melody line to this is just gold and wouldn’t be out of place on a City and Colour song at all.
Despite its excellent structure and thoughtfulness applied, Trenches indicates the band still has room for improvement and experimentation. On some tracks there are occasional falters with the guitar playing; a slight lag or rush here and there, a lack of togetherness in the groove. If they were accompanied by a drum set it wouldn’t be noticeable at all. However, these obvious hiccups do detract from the enjoyment in the listening experience. The presence of a bass guitar also seems slightly redundant at times and can give the impression that there should be a drum set playing along too. Having said that, a certain amount of grace should be allowed for the completion of this recording as a DIY project and, most likely, on a shoestring. Furthermore, the fact that the group are still juggling other projects and presumably, day jobs, may indicate that this release is the charming first album that every musician deserves as a birthright.
The appearance of this release is functional but not as endearing as it could be; poorly formatted lyric sheet and a home PC produced feel to the front cover. The recording quality for such a new artist is great though, capturing the character of the acoustic guitar and Mikey Burrell’s ragged tenor. I’m definitely interested in what they do next and in particular which connections they make within the acoustic/blues/roots universe.
Written by Scott Andrews