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“The [Lea Valley] landscape is described with great skill on a new album by the imaginative Lancastrian artist Rob St John. “Surface Tension” documents the course of the River Lea, and makes aesthetic and cultural capital out of both its context – decaying, gentrified, sometimes surprisingly bucolic – and its toxicity. According to St John’s notes, his field recording adventures extended to using “binaural microphones, underwater hydrophones and contact mics.” He also constructed tape loops of these recordings, soaked them in tubs of the vile river water for a month, then replayed them as they fell apart, creating an effect similar to that inadvertently engineered by William Basinski on his “Disintegration Loops”. St John’s music is as interesting as the process which underpins it. It ebbs through passages of chamber piano and cello (reminiscent of post-classical ensemble, Rachel’s), analog kosmische and, at 18 minutes, eerily euphoric, Boards Of Canada-style techno” – John Mulvey, UNCUT Magazine (8/10)
“Isn’t it grand when a debut album from a little known artist arrives in November and vies with the already-anointed likes of Metronomy, The Horrors and Ghostpoet for your 2011 top spot? That beautiful thing is Weald by Rob St John, a Lancastrian singer-songwriter with the range, boom and profundity of Ian Curtis, Nick Drake and Stuart Staples whose songs animate geography like Luke Haines’ do history” – Andrew Collins, WORD Magazine
“There’s a fractured, lost and ancient air to Rob St. John’s debut full-length release on the Song By Toad label. Ostensibly a folk record, aware of all that tag implies, the songs are simply arranged – delicate guitar work weaves around shuffling dreams beats as St. John’s vocals creak over the top. Stand out track is ‘Sargasso Sea’ which flows and moves like the currents that drive the real thing. The guitar riff, stripped back, raw and deep, reminds me of something Talk Talk would have used, an instrument in perfect harmony with the crooked vocals and jazz-tinged drums, St. John’s delivery so matter of fact that the words slam in your face” – The Liminal, Albums of 2012
“The doom-laden songs of Rob St. John, performed on reverbed electric guitar with harmonium accompaniment, are destined (or rather doomed) to become the stuff of cult legend. The guy’s a great lyricist, and certainly fills a void in the market for honest, downtempo British songwriters, synthesizing post-industrial atmospheric darkness with ultra-traditional song forms.“ – The Quietus, Upset the Rhythm Yard Party Review
“Rob St. John’s music at first suggests summer, with bird song and contented flute. The musicians play synths, samples and guitar behind a screen on which are back projected silhouettes of water, exposed film, bubbles and leaves. Yet underpinning – or perhaps undermining – any chance of a bucolic reverie are occasional sections of grinding bass noise, and when Rob St John begins to sing a decidedly mournful song in a deep voice reminiscent of Tindersticks’ Stuart Staples, it’s almost startling.” – Luke Turner, The Quietus
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