Manchester three-piece Ivan Campo released Season of the king this October, their 9th album is clearly the work of an experienced group who have no time for compromises. Their alternative folk sound is the identity of this project the same as it has been since the band formed in back in 2004.
The album’s introduction is quirky single ‘the Bloodhound and the Fox’, a song written about the love-hate relationship between Arthur Con Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty. The energetic opening guitar riff resembles a chase backed by galloping percussion, drawing you into the band’s intriguingly crafted story. ‘Waking Bird’ too pulls you into the world that Ivan Campo creates. In this case, feelings of waking up at sunrise are presented by the tweets of birds and rising layered vocals to create an appropriately angelic atmosphere; the cut focuses on a girl so pure that “the devil would blush if he saw her face.” ‘Season of the king’ highlights the group’s unpredictability with a surprise layer of maracas aided by a harmonica, unfortunately this song’s promise leads to an anticlimactic chorus that fails to make the most of these rogue instrumental choices. ‘Crome Yellow’ suffers the same shortfalls, it breaths off a sumptuous blend of electric and acoustic guitar only for rambling lyrics about man kind’s hopelessness to lose focus on what could have been a successful track. Fortunately, ‘Could the Devil be a Gentlemen’ demonstrates the band’s ability to successfully write an endearing and reflective song, clearly influenced by the singer/songwriters that were abundant in the 60’s and 70’s. ‘Wind, Sand and Stars’ highlights once again Ivan Campo’s ability to create a powerful atmosphere in their music, utilizing warm vocals and distant melodies to introduce a beautiful sense of freedom in adventure, while penultimate track ‘the Hour Before Dawn’ is a characteristically disjointed song that exudes charm. It serves as another reflective cut that harks back to “the loneliest night” where “the moon hangs by a thread”; the picture painted for us with rattling percussion. Season of the King’s closure is ‘One Cigarette’, a song which relies merely on classic folk guitar and a rousing vocal performance, It’s the epitome of this album’s honesty and integrity.
Season of the King is a warm and beautiful project that’s strengths lie in Ivan Campo’s unique brand of atmospheric storytelling. This album clearly was not made with the purpose of appealing to popular music, slightly anticlimactic at its worst but endearing and personal at its best. Based on this project it appears that Ivan Campo have no intention of slipping away from their quirky folk instrumentation; Its fresh to listen to a band that’s so true to itself.
Season of the King is out now.By Joel Landschaft-Singe