avid Edwards (who is Minotaur Shock and neither Eugene Edwards nor Wovenhand/David Eugene Edwards) has made an album about the sea and he has named in Maritime. It doesn't sound or smell like the sea. The album cover shows three moons about to crash into the sea, to the consternation of one guy. It is a joyously happy album.
For all the paradoxes of oceanic size and depth I'm trying to set up, the album's pretty straightforward. Edwards sits down at the computer and mixes up a batch of pleasing numbers using live instruments as well as technical digitation. If the concept sounds folktronical, the results don't necessarily do (with the exception maybe of closer "Four Magpies").
The first instrument we get is clarinet, a sea-faring horn if ever there was one. Edwards builds on the little riff with some vibraphone support, orchestrating a basic melody into a bouncy concoction Badly Drawn Boy might have used when he was still making good music. From there, Edwards gradually raises the excitement over the next few tracks, with "Vigo Bay" turning into a downright danceable number that gets me moving in my virtual club. It's a nice piece of sequencing, the first two numbers are bouncy and jolly and "Vigo Bay" shifts the mood in a way that's unexpected, but not in a way that the opening numbers have left you unprepared for.
Edwards continues the smart album construction by moving into "Six Foolish Fisherman." I don't much care about whatever myth it's based on (something about a half-dozen silly anglers forgetting to count themselves), but I do care that it's a smooth comedown from the shaking of its predecessor. And the next two tracks continue that calming effect.
You've notice that this is turning into one of those lazy, track-by-track reviews, which probably means I don't have any overarching thoughts, but my point is this: I'm impressed as much with Edwards's consideration of song sequence as I am with the enjoyable tracks themselves. But here comes the "but": Starting at the midpoint, "Twosley," Maritime starts to drag. I don't believe that Edwards simply runs out of ideas, repeating the feel to fill space ("Twosley" is so named because it rhymes with its clarinet-led partner "Muesli"). The problem stems, instead, partly from a dedicated consistency of sound, usually a good trait on an album, and partly from the extended let-down that follows "Vigo Bay."
The tracks on the second half of the album are well-constructed, but Edwards had me moving, and believing that this disc was going to be a rare album actually deserving of the overused term "blissful." For the most part, the later tracks don't deny the joy (excepting "Luck Shield"), nor do they slack in the melody department—they just don't comprise the synth-pop album I was expecting. By the time we hit the uplifting, '80s-comedy-soundtracking, two-minute mark of "Mistaken Tourist," we're lost in the fog. The album has shifted from engaging to background through its slow descent of mood, and it doesn't quite come back.
All of which leaves a dilemma: should Edwards be praised for the great ordering of the first half of the album, or criticized for not putting the whole thing together more effectively? At this point, I'm going to abstain, tell you to start the disc at track seven (with your stereo on "repeat") and just enjoy it.
And if you've got a hammock, that'll help.