Catenary Wires, The - Red Red Skies

(ELE1199: 8428846111995)

The Catenary Wires is the new project from Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey, best known for making fuzzy, sixties girl-group inspired indie-pop in their previous bands Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, Marine Research and Tender Trap. With The Catenary Wires, they have created something different—gentler, more emotive and melancholy, although still fuelled by their great love for pop melodies and harmonies.

The Catenary Wires started when the two left London and found themselves in the middle of the countryside, with no record stores or guitar shops, and no indie scene as such. Having initially abandoned the idea of having a band, they started writing their sad and delicate songs on their daughter’s small acoustic guitar, in the winter, just for themselves.

The duo were enticed to play in public for an event celebrating their old label, Sarah Records, at the Arnolfini Art Gallery in Bristol. They played a few Heavenly songs but also took the opportunity to try out the new material. From the positive reaction, they realised that two people on stage could be a proper band, if a small, fragile one.

The mini-album comprises eight evocative songs, most of which are about relationships falling apart. It starts with their first single ‘Intravenous’, a closely sung duet which talks about the mutual dependency of love, and of resignation to a closeness so extreme that it becomes destructive.

‘When You Walk Away’ tells of a relationship started in the full knowledge that it won’t last. Inspired by Leanne Shapton’s novel “Important Artefacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris: Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry”, the song exposes Amelia’s voice and Rob’s acoustic guitar at their rawest and most moving.

‘Throw Another Love Song on the Fire’ is a song about heartbreak, while at the same time a satire on other songs about heartbreak, with the depth of Rob’s voice as he sings “thanks for making me unhappy” invoking Stephin Merritt (Magnetic Fields). ‘A Different Scene’ is about missing someone from a long distance, and the feeling of sending off emails and texts and never being sure of their impact, while ‘Things I Love’ is about how once-much-loved things can become poisoned by bad memories.

Some of the songs, such as ‘Like A Fool’ and ‘The Records We Never Play’, are bittersweet duets, with a nod to Johnny Cash and June Carter, Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot, or Adam Green and Binki Shapiro. Others, such as ‘When You Walk Away’ and ‘Too Late I Love You’ are more introspective, with Amelia’s voice reminiscent of Karen Peris (The Innocence Mission) or Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star).

The band’s name refers to the chain of curves made by the overhead cables seen suspended from pylons or above electric trains, cables that can seem to lead you off to somewhere different and unknown.

The mini-album is produced by Brian O’Shaughnessy (who has worked with people like Denim, Beth Orten, Comet Gain, The Clientele, and Allo Darlin’), and Amelia and Rob played all of the instruments between them. They stripped away all the drums and electric guitars and anything that makes noise too easily, to create a beautiful and deliberately vulnerable collection of songs.

1. Intravenous
2. When You Walk Away
3. A Different Scene
4. The Records We Never Play
5. Throw Another Love Song On The Fire
6. Too Late, I Love You
7. Like A Fool
8. Things I Love

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