Farm Hand – International Dreams
(Review by Rob Richards)
A vein of Welsh Psych gold mined from the Radnorshire hills.
Mark Daman Thomas, from the band Islet, has gone back to his rural roots and (together with producer Rob Jones) has produced something a bit special. He is using the name FARM HAND for his solo project and he says recording was interrupted at several points by the demands of the lambing season.
The atmospheric opening track, “Precision”, transports us to the Welsh hills. With track 2, “Solutions”, the beats kick in and throughout the album they loop, drag and skip and never slip into the metronomic. The multi-layered vocals are mostly delivered in a kind of chant which seems to occupy that previously neglected space where the Gregorian overlaps with Welsh football crowd (the field of Mark’s dreams, as the title track suggests). Mark’s voice, when we hear it unlayered, has a rich chocolatey quality.
Changes of pace and mood are well-handled and “Happy Landings”, with its deeply satisfying bass groove, is followed by proof that the FARM HAND can craft a lovely tune; “Nettle Soup” is just gorgeous.
We aren’t rash enough to try to define what constitutes Welsh Psych but, surely, inventiveness and wit have to be key characteristics. Both abound on this album; just two examples – the scratchy soundscape of “Fall into Flight” and “Search Engines”, which is really just a punchline delivered over a killer bassline (and is all the more effective for its brevity). The album concludes with a pretty pop song – “I Hope She Knows” – where we perhaps detect just faint echoes of where psychedelia all started – Pink Floyd’s “See Emily Play”.