The notion of supergroups strikes fear into the hardest of musical hearts. They are the stuff of indulgence, born out of shared practice rooms, festival bills and long, arduous tour bus journeys where the idea of working up the noodles created to pass a few tedious hours into a full album seems like something worthy of a Nobel nod.
All of which is why Sons of Noel and Adrian are such a pleasant surprise. A twelve piece experimental folk menagerie, they comprise elements of The Miserable Rich, Hope Of The States, Lightspeed Champion, The Leisure Society and Laura Marling’s backing band, along with some arms, legs and voices from elsewhere in the hip happening group that is Brighton’s Willkommen Collective.
Knots is that multi-faceted beast’s second full outing, following on from their excellent eponymous 2008 debut, and it has been written, recorded and conceived with every dial turned to the setting marked ‘melodramatic epic’.
There is safety in numbers and a bravery that comes from having your friends around and those two facts have allowed SONAA to truly cut loose.
Ostensibly a folk album, mostly because those who have made it usually make various varieties of that genre, Knots sprawls and surges into something much more cinematic and orchestral and gathers in nods to Sigur Ros, Bjork, The Flaming Lips and, most obviously, Anthony and the Johnsons.
Indeed, this is the album that Anthony Hegarty would probably have made had he grown up wanting to follow a folk, rather than a torch song, tradition.
It is the weight and power of what is on offer that really impresses. Jellyfish Bloom, for example, stitches the endless feeling of the heaviest heart with the delicate beauty of daybreak sunlight, while Cathy Come Home has a gentle hand helming some mighty vessel through your emotions and your senses.
That said, the weight does become a little too much to bear by the finale, though the closing Heroine does lift things a little with more of a silken touch, but such an indulgence of a collective idea was inevitable in a supergroup album.
All in, Knots holds its head high and slips of the self-gratification that many similar collective efforts have to reveal an album resplendent and odd and epic and meticulous and all the better for being so.