Provincials – Heaven Protect Us (Itchen Recordings) – This is a strange one, a fine one, bare with us. The policy around here has always really only to review or post about music – and yes, most of our pieces are just posts rather than reviews these days – this is a strange one, almost dismissed it a number of times now, the policy is to only feature music we feel positive about, we’ve always tried to avoid spending time on negative reviews, we never liked using up our space telling you about things we didn’t feel good about. This is a strange one, almost dismissed this album three or four times now over the last two weeks or so, we do like to go back again before we do finally hit the delete button and Heaven Protect Us has been chiselling away, it has been slowly working in, slowly revealing itself, this is an album that requires a little time and in these times of instant sound bites and fifteen mega-bitten seconds of Warholian attention before then next button is swiped and the next link is hit I know your patience is a lot to ask for but do please give this album time. Heaven Protect Us nearly got past, it took six of seven listens (admittedly not listens to the entire album, just picking at it really before it demanded we really properly listen), this is not an instant album, Provincials are not an instant pour-on-hot-water-eat-it-up-and-forget-about-it-once-you-have kind of band, this is not Pot Noodle music, they’re a band who take time to let you in, to reveal themselves, to trust you enough to really give you what they have – you go back and you’re listening again and you’re thinking hang on, there is something here, and then you go back again the next day for a little more and then again and then… and then they’ve got you.
Heaven Protect Us is the new album by Hampshire, UK based band Provincials. Apparently this is their third, new band to these ears, not sure if it was Polly Perry’s rather poetic way with words that pulled me in first or it was some of the more brooding edges of the music that fits so well with her words? Once you are pulled in it does all go together rather well. Provincials don’t have an obvious sound or style, it takes a little time to find their fingerprint, to find the band’s personality, their identity, it is there though and a band does need an identity, that vital identity does mostly come from Polly and her words, her warm voice (even when she’s says she feels so cold and she’s not dancing tonight), the identity comes from the way she puts those words together, the way her lines flow with the deceptively simple tunes. There is some fine composition here, there’s beautifully careful detail in the playing, these are proper songs, proper pieces, this is a proper band. We’re told the trio have expanded from their dark folk roots to include drums on this album, like I said, I know nothing about them or their past, I guess I need to go check out their previous releases. Not really feeling the folk angle on this latest album, they sound like a fine Alt.rock band, a mellow one, a refined band, a quietly dramatic band, a warm sounding band, maybe a touch of The Sundays or All About Eve – Kiss Of Life is beautiful, Amaranth is touching on the epic in a quietly brooding way, walking along a slack line, it feels longer that than the five minutes it actually is, the desire of Midnight Skaters follows it perfectly with her impressive ways, her want, her tempting, the album really does come to life towards the end of the affair, Corrugated Zion is excellent,almost performance poetry. Actually, maybe, for those first couple of listens, start somewhere in the middle of the album, maybe the loose feel of album opener Planetary Stand-Off isn’t the best track on Heaven Protect Us until you really get to know the album? Actually that first track might be the reason the album took some time to get into? Maybe it was the gently deceptive bite of You’ll Evaporate that made us pay more attention, who could she be singing about? Brilliant, maybe not for you Daily Mail readers (surely no one who reads our fractured pages reads the poison of Mail as well?)
Once you let it in, Heaven Protect Us is an excellent album, a strong album, a quiet album, sometimes things might be a little too polite but then maybe that polite bite is why it works? Heaven Protect Us is an intriguing album, an accomplished album, and album that takes a little time to unwrap. Polly Perry is fine frontperson, Provincials are a fine fine band, give them your time, let Heaven Protect Us unload, policy around here is to only write about the music we feel positive about, there’s beauty in this fine fine album let it unload… (sw)