Old Fire: Songs From The Haunted South album review

Ambient spectres from the Lone Star State.

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Ten years in the making, this is a unique vision of a world that probably never really existed. It’s Texan programmer John Mark Lapham’s celebration of the American South, done in a fashion that owes more to the artistry of Brian Eno and Angelo Badalamenti than to southern rock or country. (That’s Lapham’s dad in the cover photo, taken in the Ozarks in 1958.) The album’s 13 tracks include original songs and covers, such as Shearwater’s Helix, Low’s Laser Beam and – the most traditionally Southern moment here – Psychic TV’s The Orchids.

Ultimately what’s conveyed is a sense of alienation and disenfranchisement, like that of an individual failing to fit into the context of his surroundings. Guests pepper the album with effective contributions, none more so than Tom Rapp of Pearls Before Swine. His vocals on Shadows neatly encapsulate the album’s overall tone of marginalisation. Lapham has done a brilliant job in creating a monochrome atmosphere of disillusion, yet conversely one of hope. From the opening Old Fire 3 to the closing reverence of Deadhouse Dream, this is a complex yet riveting exposition.