_V_ermillion is the debut solo foray by Alex Neilson, mainstay of the UK’s alternative folk scene, now operating for some reason as Alex Rex. But then Vermillion is full of unanswered questions. On the deceptively plaintive Please God Make Me Good (But Not Yet), the protagonist’s ex is ‘sticking pins in a voodoo sex doll of me’. The reason is unclear.
By the a cappella Adam Had No Naval, a song about “psychic decline”, he intones with glee, ‘I once knew a girl in Glasgow/Her mind was a festering sore… She said I only wanted her body/But I wanted to fuck her mind as well.’ This is folk, Jim, but not as we know it: a series of picaresque narratives, full of imagery both vivid (the promiscuous moon of The Perpetually Replenished Cup) and violent (the ‘fist in the throat from a mother to a child’ of The Worm Turns), set to an equally varied backing. Postcards From A Dream’s organ swirl has the urgency of new wave Elvis Costello, Song For Dora gallops with the fury of Nick Cave circa Mercy Seat while The Life Of A Wave recalls glam-era Bowie. But then, Lucy is “trad arr” territory and The Screaming Cathedral, with its vision of ‘horror heaped on horror’, is like Fairport Convention in hell. Intriguing.