It’s been nearly three years since Beth Jeans Houghton burst my iPods with her jaunty, melodic folk pop EP Hot Toast Volume 1, and three years on I’m still listening to it, even though dreams of Volume Two long since galloped away. Happily, 2012 sees Houghton and her Hooves of Destiny signed to Mute Records with a brand new album full of original material, including a new, enhanced version of Hot Toast track ‘Lilliput’.
Although seemingly always a fan of layering up her voice to harmonic effect, on her debut long-player, Houghton expands these harmonies to epic, choral effect. It’s like Kirsty MacColl with a purer voice and a lot more reverb. Her jaunty, angular style of composition remains ever-present, with a staccato force that that often melts away with Houghton’s dreamy, breathless voice – skip straight to recent single ‘Dodecahedron’ for a perfect example. The Hooves of Destiny too deserve their credit, for providing the chasm of layered instrumentation, including mighty drums, thunderous male backing vocals and even an oboe.
The ten distinctly different songs stand apart from each other yet work together in a joys 35 minute journey through mythical lyrics and haunting production; this is no namby pamby acoustic fare, this is a pop record which uses retro sounding clear electric guitars, slabs of sound and reverb – but also restraint – with a folky flare. In a nutshell, if I heard ‘Atlas’ down at my local discotechque, I’d pull you up on the floor to have a boogie.
You may note from the above that former Blur producer Ben Hiller deserves his dues for laying down a collection that may have felt too traditional with the more anonymous production styles of Mumford & Son’s Sigh No More record. Without the ambitious soundscaping on show here, the collection may have become too twee for some. As it is, I defy you not to listen and smile.
Words: Frankie Ward