Land’s End Reviews
Our Rating: 9/10
A rather wonderful departure from your reviewer’s usual diet of indie guitars and skwehiff Americana, MAT DICKSON’S magnificently atmospheric and wholly instrumental music has now spread across three albums, the third of which – ‘Land’s End’ – completes his magical ‘Lighthouse’ trilogy.
For the uninitiated, Mat is a multi-instrumentalist based in Hampshire and also a member of the Association of Lighthouse Keepers. Over the past ten years, he has lovingly crafted his ‘Lighthouse Trilogy’, featuring ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’ (1998), ‘The Keeper’s Log’ (reviewed by W&H in 2003) and now ‘Land’s End’. Unadorned masterpieces all, they are plainly a labour of love for Mat and his personal celebration of the bravery of the men who peopled the precarious rocks off the unrelenting British coasts until the advent of mechanisation finally drove them from the rocks around the turn of 1990.
‘The Lighthouse Keeper’ chose The Needles off the Hampshire coast as the basis for Dickson’s muse, while ‘The Keeper’s Log’ found him travelling north to the unforgiving Western Approaches off the Scottish coast. The self-explanatory ‘Land’s End’ now finds him coming south again and aurally describing the unpredictable ebb and sway of the tides off England’s most southerly point.
Again adorned by a beautiful painting of a lighthouse by Jonathan Dickson (this time the Longships light off the Cornish coast), ‘Land’s End’ was assembled painstakingly by Mat and his musical collaborators Pascal Baudot and Ralf Leleu and recorded over a two-year period in both Southern England and Paris. Much of the musical input is courtesy of this trio – with much of it stemming from Dickson alone – although there are again strategic layers added by further sympathetic cohorts such as drummer Will Glancy and Fiona Clifton-Welker, whose glimmering harp sends ripples in and around the melodies on tracks like the hugely evocative ‘King Arthur Canyon’.
Their patience has paid dividends, for ‘Land’s End’s is arguably the very best of the three releases. As always, the results are hugely melodic, layered and perfectly capture the feeling of the ocean’s vastness. While not easily categorisable as either a rock record or a soundtrack release as such, the opening brace of tracks like ‘Isles Of Scilly’, the gentle Celtic-infused drift of ‘Shamrock Knoll’ and the elegiac ‘Longships’ again favourably recall the likes of Mike Oldfield, Durutti Column’s Vini Reilly and Mark Knopfler’s OST-related projects.
Which isn’t to say it’s all plain sailing by any means. Often feared for its’ inherent violence as much as its’ calm straits, the unpredictability of the sea is perfectly captured on tracks like the darker ‘Seven Stones’ which opens with a foghorn sound and swirls into life around ambient keyboard textures and textural saxophone. A little later, this brooding feel is again touched upon by ‘Watching The Sky’: arguably the record’s tour-de-force where the initial lonely guitar figures are joined by Mat’s yearning E-bow and the sound is layered densely, reflecting storm clouds massing.
‘Land’s End’s other major strength is that it concludes with a sequence of three of Dickson’s finest outings to date. ‘Cape Cornwall’ finds accordion-like keyboards, drums tossed around by the spray and a hymnal feel prevailing, with seagulls crying as it winds down. The deceptive ‘Finisterre’ is built around nylon-strung guitars with a glorious Flamenco lilt and sounds perhaps a tad gentler than the cape for which it’s named and the finale – ‘Celtic Sea’ – suggests the dawning of clearer, brighter days after the storm and is arguably my favourite track here. It’s second ‘movement’ (a number of these pieces are suite-like in execution) is considerably jauntier and has elements of the Irish spirit the title suggests. It all adds up to a remarkably moving listen and a great way to wind up the windswept journey Mat Dickson has made around the British coast over the past decade.
Of course, now he’s completed his Lighthouse Trilogy, the question is: where does Mat Dickson go from here? That will no doubt be answered in the fullness of time, but for now let’s simply enjoy these gloriously shifting records for what they are. Yes, I agree, such moodily-crafted instrumental soundscapes are a long way removed from the kind of thing this writer usually enthuses about, but ‘Land’s End’ once again goes a long way in proving virtuosity doesn’t automatically equate with the death of the soul. Listen and learn.Tim Peacock
Back when I was younger, I had several reoccurring dreams in which there was this fantastic underground subway that ran from New York to England. That dream would transport me from the mundane realities of my life in New York to the magical land of my musical heroes. If that dream had a soundtrack, it would want it be accompanied by the 2007 CD from guitarist Mat Dickson, entitled Land’s End. Dickson has released several meditative, wistful CDs in recent years, well remembered for having excellent lighthouse by the sea artwork. Sounding inspired by greats like Mike Oldfield, some of Hank Marvin’s more experimental music and guitarist John Themis, Mat Dickson is making some of the most blissful, sonically pleasing instrumental guitar music to come out of the U.K. in recent years.Robert Silverstein
This lovely CD is the third of Mat’s Lighthouse CDs from Beachcomber Music, and has a similar feel to the previous two, but with some interesting twists.
The cover of the CD case depicts a painting of Longships Lighthouse, and opens to reveal a chart inside of the South West of England, which gives the package a really nautical touch. The first track “Isles of Scilly” provides a good catchy start, and I love the foghorn blasting out at the beginning of “Seven Stones”, which portrays a vision of a desolate lightvessel bobbing about at sea. The aptly named “Wolf Rock” provides a hunting edge, almost Enya inspired perhaps, but there is definitely a sinister feel to this track. The CD has a nice ending with “Celtic Sea”, which ends on a high.
Overall a very easy to listen to CD, with a good mixture of guitar and instrumentals. Dickson describes it as ambient progressive rock: instrumental guitar music with a blend of Celtic folk.
Our recent trip to Lands End and the Isles of Scilly made it more possible to imagine, what a shame we didn’t have it to take with us!
A must for the lighthouse collector!Joy Adcock