Small Black Arrows: The Wave EP review

It was perhaps to be expected, but the force of creativity that has burst forth since the end of lockdown has been truly astonishing.

A rather fragile and beautiful recording has emerged via 42’s records in Manchester. No surprise given this is a label with a track record of having their finger on the pulse.

Small Black Arrows are a duo created during lockdown and comprising of Luke Bailey and Jimmy Hanley. In a bit of a departure for 42’s records Small Black Arrows are kind of folky trip-hop, with a wicked innate sense of what works, a reflective style, and a sweet sweet flow of sound.  

Luke is the vocalist of Small Black Arrows, and until now perhaps best known in the public arena as an actor (Casualty and Waterloo Road), but alongside this, he has twin tracked a long held interest in music performing in the Bolan musical 20th Century Boy, and with Televaters and Velvet Slow Dogs (with Jimmy).

Small Black Arrows have released 3 tracks week on week, and I think my personal favourite is Cherophobia, which kind of reminds me of the Moody Blues brought up to date and in a bright and accessible mode. Luke’s vocals has that soaring touch which means that fans of the likes of Gomez, Sylvette, and Dry The River would feel very at home here. While the vocals soar the lyrics are sore; here is a theme where someone has been brow-beaten by life, and where doubt and the bad experiences of the past creeps into anything new.  Cherophobia is of course an irrational fear of being happy.    

Jimmy is a platinum disc awarded (for his contribution to the critically acclaimed album ‘KevFox / Smolik’) musician & contributes, guitars, mandolin, dulcimer, lap steel, piano and bass.

Pathway to Contrition has a nice sassy style to it, and here I get a bit of a James Blake, Ben Howard smooth trip-hop style, or an updated Seal track perhaps. The song to my mind seems to be about the moral panic and battles we have on-line about abuse, behaviour and racism. It’s right to have a strong view and not be silent on abuse, but it can feel a very outraged, angry, and stark world on social media. The calm, relaxed delivery on this track makes me feel that a patient well argued debate is better than the flare. Martin Luther King leads the way as always.

The final song of the trio is the title track, The Wave, another impressively controlled and relaxed song. It’s so controlled, I almost get a vibe for a Monk’s chant. Behind the lovely vocal is a piece of sympathetic music with more than enough going on in the way of rhythms and loops to keep it interesting.

Blissed out are the words here.

Chris R

* images have been taken from the band’s social media and press release.

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