So there’s Billy Ray Cyrus sat in Beelzebub’s waiting room, being forced to play Achy Breaky Heart on a one-string banjo for line-dancing demons. Not a Noel Fielding one-liner, this was our introduction into the freaky folk dreamworld of Cardiff’s Soft Hearted Scientists, who slotted neatly into the psychedelic neo-pastoral tradition of fellow Welshmen Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Super Furry Animals with this gorgeous 2005 debut, a collection of their first three EPs now re-released with an album of original demos.
Like Susan Sarandon at an award ceremony, a decade hasn’t dulled its startling charms, be they the psych-folk dream sequences of Diving Bell (in which Cyrus meets Satan) and musical Jabberwocky The Yongy Bongy Bo, or the euphoric Syd Barrett magical acid realism of the Mount Palomar or The Petition, wherein singer Nathan Hall has ‘signed your petition for some cosmic tuition’ and clearly got a first.
As their ‘musical voyage in three parts’ goes on a Beta Band experimentalist bent develops, notably on the seafaring-themed final third Midnight Mutinies and The Haunted Song, when Hall’s prog trek through Minotaur Mountains with its talking trees and singing rivers is paced by a mechanical beat.
A bare-boned prequel to broader adventures, these Uncanny Tales of monsters, motherships and fruit fly metabolisms provide an absorbing origin story for Wales’s post-pastoral magic men.