Grice : One Thousand Birds22 March 2019 : hungersleep records
The cover of One Thousand Birds, Grice's third solo album, is an image of 1000 Birds, a sculptural installation by Helen Morse Palmer; an artwork commemorating the tragic life of Sadoko Sasaki, a Japanese girl who died ten years after the Hiroshima bomb from its radiation effects.
After her initial leukaemia diagnosis, Sadoko folded a thousand paper cranes, believing her father's telling of a legend that anyone who did so would be granted a wish - a forlorn act of hope that, after her eventual death, led to her coming to symbolise all the child victims of the atomic bombs. Two of the tracks on One Thousand Birds mark Sadoko's story - the stately drum machine, keyboard and strings instrumental One Thousand Birds (Morning Glory) and She Burns, which paints a darker picture.
On these new recordings Grice has again worked with Richard Barbieri (Japan, Porcupine Tree) - his sonic hand is most clearly seen in the title track - and long time collaborator Andrew Fred Ehresmann (on keyboard, Hammond organ & piano). With these cohorts, and a range of other collaborators, he has produced an exquisite, enchanting album.
There are thirteen tracks in all (making a total run time of seventy three minutes). The alchemy of their music is in the use of simple, layered elements that interact with balletic fluency; electronica, acoustic instruments, strings, strong rhythms and field recordings are all finely and seamlessly interwoven. With this delicate use of texture and shading the emotional impact the songs have is slow and gradual, but as sure as the unfurling of a desert Resurrection Plant with the first rains.
This is a fantastic set of compositions. Letterbomb is a beautiful song - the sort of artful pop Robert Fripp leavened Exposure with. If you are looking for further bearings then The Passing has a hint of the fragile yearning Mark Hollis took as a trademark for his solo LP and As I Am delightfully suggests itself as a light sketch of early Radiohead; but in reality Grice has honed his own distinct style to work with, and it is most successfully manifest here in the elegant triumph of the penultimate track, Grace - a song sublimely embellished with Luca Calabrese's freeform trumpet.
Since 2012's Propeller was shortlisted for the MPG Awards with a host of much better known luminaries, Grice has built his reputation; One Thousand Birds marks out the further soaring trajectory of a unique art-rock talent.