Now here's a sound you don't often hear. Philip Butler has moved well beyond the punk scene to blend the Incredible String Band with early Strawbs, Pentangle, and Pearls Before Swine, ending with a quirky progressive folk sound that entirely eluded older prototypes like Keith Christmas and Colin Scott—even, frankly, much as I revere the guy as a writer, Pete Sinfield in his rootsier solo work. What Butler's doing has strong affinities with the Young God and Language of Stone labels as well as with the 'weird folk' movement, though he's not chasing quirky squibs as a pop grail but rather compositional and perceptual necessity.
No one would raise a note of doubt were I to play this blind and claim it was released in 1973. Trapped at Sea has the same finished/unfinished feel a good deal of the non-mainstream—and a lot of the mainstream (Elyse Weinberg, etc.)—releases had back then, a quality that avoided overproduction for a preference in tangibility. For a home job, the sessions are damn well captured, especially the choral vocals, while throwing mellotron, lap steel, and layers of instruments into the mix, often achieving airs of pastoral majesty.
Butler threw over any chance whatsoever at a shot at the charts and, in doing so, achieved a degree of rough and raw beauty no Billboard slab could hope for. The dreary grace of My Siren, for instance, climbs into a Goth chamber trance that ends in a curious triangle abbreviation before flowing into Save Us and its Jansch-y guitaristics and desperate hero's narrative set off by odd side effects and a rubbery slide. No matter where you go on this disc, you're going to run into a blend of the traditional and the unorthodox forming a tractor beam around the ears. So, beam me up, Erasmus, I'm ready.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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