| Sound

Peter Wyeth: Humming New Time

Found sounds, field recordings, loops. Grabbing them, bringing them together and making music is only one part of the process.

Creating a compelling musical narrative from the components is the difficult bit. As the one-man advertisement for the Boss RC50 Loop Station – Rico Loop – makes painfully clear, creating vast musical arrangements with looping technology allows a single musician to produce a sound that would otherwise take eight or more individuals. What doesn't always follow is music which, were it actually being played by eight or more musicians, would be worth listening to. Applying merit to a musical work simply because it is dextrous or novel, is inappropriate. Most people are innately clever enough to just decide whether or not they like a tune.

Applying merit to a musical work simply because it is dextrous or novel, is inappropriate

Leicester fans of live music will need no introduction to Peter Wyeth, a staple presence in the music venues of the city as both spectator and performer, his EP Humming New Time comes as the first release on Tom Morris' (singer with Her Name is Calla) newly-founded label Olynka Records. Mostly carried by acoustic-guitar figures looped and built upon by further guitar melodies, self-harmonised vocals and various field recordings, there is an aspect of magpie-like gathering to the EP, as if it were less a case of sitting down to compose and record a piece of music as impose some sort of pleasing pattern out of a bunch of shiny things.

an aspect of magpie-like gathering to the EP

As it happens, Wyeth suffered from a temporary hearing problem in the year preceding the EP. Whether or not that piece of information should colour the listener's perception of Humming New Time, who knows? Once you are aware of it, the EP immediately coalesces around a simple theme: the re-discovery of the joy of sounds, the everyday sonic clutter that is not noticed until it is threatened. Slowly and sparsely layered, there is no lack of space on the record, with each sound – be it guitar harmonics, playground squabbles or birdsong – given ample prominence in the mix.

It is curiously pleasing, intimate and personal, but without succumbing to the buttonholing intensity that deeply personal albums often suffer from. The music sounds as if it is recorded more to express than impress, as if Wyeth has no real craving for attention or acclaim, but had some joyful passages of music knocking around that he thought you might enjoy.

Were the concept extended out to album-length, it's probable that it would be too thin, too lacking in musical drive or thematic narrative to hold the attention. Whilst there is plenty going on, it lacks a sonic anchor to really grab the listener. Put simply, a vocal would be nice. There are passages of voice on the record, but used as an atmospheric effect rather than as a melodic or lyrical tool. 

the grass-roots local hero making music to fit his own parameters


Wyeth does sing elsewhere on his catalogue – his earlier album Safe, Sweet, Happy Journeys has some wistful acoustic rock vocals and harmonies that are as clean and youthful as could be wished for. Humming New Time though, puts voice well back in the scheme of importance. It's a series of atmospheric vignettes more than a fully developed collection of songs.

Pleasant though, and a real example of the grass-roots local hero making music to fit his own parameters, building up a following as much despite himself as because of. The phenomenon has been so repeatedly hijacked by the marketing departments of multinationally-huge music corporations that it is natural now to suspect skullduggery and subterfuge when it is presented as an act's backstory. In this case, it's genuine.


Out on December 19th from Olynka Records


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