This is a quietly astonishing record of some quality.
Wayne Devro Set is the current moniker of Brian Docherty, who has moved through the Scottish music scene somewhat unnoticed (by BM anyway, maybe was distracted…) and has an impressive collaborative CV as a produced and collaborator.
He was known several years ago as Scientific Support Dept, but this album certainly puts him on a different level.
The whole vibe is minimalist and bittersweet, like The Blue Nile sparring with The Twilight Sad with the feedback turned off. The vocals are very Scottish, mordantly nuanced by both regret and hope.
The opening track builds slowly through piano, synth effects and electronic percussion, familiar sounds but somehow quite unique. Its title ‘Take My Life’ is sinister and is intoned quite a few times when, after a few pauses for effect, the very beautiful guitar lines take us into a higher plane, as it were. It is like comedown indie, or something, maybe to be played at 4am after a hefty dose of the angst. So what is to stop you from taking my life, is the question… Tingly! The whole song fades after a hoe-down of bleeps and electronic filters, but the piano remains.
‘Rolled Smokes’ starts with a guitar figure and appears to characterise small town concerns – “you said you’d get me outside”, is ambiguous, out of jail, or just outside after some event, who knows – there is talk of “wee rides”, maybe not motor vehicles, and a stunning female vocal counterpoint before the strumming starts and it is quite amazing, with more percussion kicking in, this truly is twisted modern folk tune. Intense, with more synth and the guitar plucking away. BM also sense some Surfjan Stevens influence here, something about the stillness of the moment. Anyway we get another change of tempo, and then some further transportation, or “wee ride” (missus) to folksong oblivion… sublime, really!
‘Just Me and You’ starts with minor piano, then guitar – this is love song. Very simple, but very effective. “Will you come to stay?” Get the sense this could be about something in the present, or something long ago, or a fantasy – “the fucking chancer” is a fly in the ointment, not a good sign in this wee urban, or maybe quite rural, short story. BM is intrigued and that twds can do this in 4m27s is a testament to the songwriting and the instrumentation, plus a crashing guitar breakdown with added synth effects really brings this one to a shuddering climax, before bleeding out to a very simple close – wow!
Track 4 gives us harp-like guitar and more confessional words – “should be happy here” – the title ‘Skyeboy’ maybe gives us a clue, island longing… The play between the voice and the instrumentation here is transcendent, heartfelt and moving.
‘Numbskull’ starts with a voice recording, maybe from the present or the past, a phone message from the days where they were quite common, not so much now, habits change. Very simple piano, “I Know You”, more words of caring love, BM is shedding a wee tear here – this is heartrending stuff…
What follows is even more sparse, the title track, just piano and voice really – the chords a bit warmer and guitar coming in a bit more positive. “Suck it and see” is positive, isn’t it?
The penultimate track is thoughtful and more guitar-based, a lot of picking and some good old manual drums – evocative and reflective.
Closer ’66 Recall’ has a lot of keyboard washes and piano over it – an instrumental, it finishes off the remarkable collection of songs. There was an album launch show at Glasgow Hug and Pint earlier in May which BM missed as was not aware of twds and how good this was/is but will certainly be looking for future live dates from “the set”, as this album has been on rotation in the motor for a coupla weeks and it is just superb.