John Parish: Bird Dog Dante (Thrill Jockey)

Best known for his stellar production discography, the new LP by the Bristolian is a frequently rewarding set

Released Jun 15th, 2018 via Thrill Jockey / By Norman Miller
John Parish: Bird Dog Dante (Thrill Jockey) As long-time sideman for PJ Harvey as well as a Mercury Prize-winning producer for both her and acts as diverse as Nadine Khouri, Eels and Sparklehorse, John Parish really should have a higher profile. But the self-effacing Bristolian like to do things his way, which extends to this charmingly random album.

Parish records songs as they come to him, often with the intent of just capturing the idea – to the point that Aldous Harding’s backing vocals on Rachel here were recorded on Parish's phone backstage as she prepared to go on Jools Holland.

As well as Harding, Parish is joined here by Jean-Marc Butty on drums, Marta Collica on keys, Jeremy Hogg on guitar, Giorgia Poli on bass and PJ Harvey on vocals. Parish himself covers an impressive array of instruments too - guitar, drums, bass, keys, banjo, organ, variophon, xylophone, trombone, harmonica, harp and electronics.

The album he's produced falls broadly into two contrasting camps. One is the first clutch of songs Parish has produced in nearly a decade, the other develops the instrumental seam he's mined on recent solo recordings, including a raft of film compositions.

The songs are a mixed bag. Sorry For Your Loss finds Parish duetting with Polly Harvey on a cross between a folk ditty and dark Americana, uke riffs contrasting with downbeat lines on the passing of a mutual friend. The March works fine too, with its gruff vocals and spiralling guitar lines, while The First Star provides an uplifting finale of jangly acoustic throwaway charm. But tracks like Type 1 and Rachel form a sagging middle section that adds nothing – the first a 'clever' ditty about diabetes, the latter just banal.

The trio of instrumental tracks that dominate the second half of the album are, however, fantastic. Kireru blends drone with mournful guitar, Le Passe Devant Nous rides a slow hypnotic piano refrain, while Carver's House is a gorgeous melange of dark electronics and delicate piano.

Plenty of maverick wonder then, with just a couple of forgivable duds. 7/10