A Small Good Thing - Slim Westerns
Cover Front Album
Artist/Composer A Small Good Thing
Length 52:28
Format mp3
Genre Experimental
Index 3978
Track List
01 Godforsaken 0 06:23
02 Drowning Light 0 03:49
03 Twice As Evil As You 0 03:01
04 Hole in the Heart 0 03:53
05 Gulch 0 05:17
06 Flamenco 1 0 02:41
07 Scorched Earth 0 04:04
08 Heathaze 0 03:50
09 Someplace South of Here 0 06:37
10 Gunsmoke 0 02:37
11 Flamenco 2 0 02:05
12 Saguaro 0 06:00
13 Jane Russell 0 02:11
Purchase Date 10/11/2002
Store Soulseek
Rating 70%
Spars DDD
Rare No
Sound Stereo
UK group A Small Good Thing is the brainchild of Andrew Hulme, better known as the driving force behind seminal tribal ambience group O Yuki Conjugate, whose Peyote and Undercurrents albums are classics of the genre. Slim Westerns represents a directional, and inspirational change for Hulme, whose customary preoccupation with tribal rhythms is here superceded by a kind of pulp fiction-inspired, and occasionally almost quirky ambient ode to the American "wild west".

Opening to the crisp, clear sounds of a kind-of laid-back, twangy, Ry Cooder-ish steel-stringed guitar piece, overlaid with the thick electro-atmospherics that have long been the hallmark of O Yuki Conjugate recordings, Slim Westerns makes an immediate impression; it is an impression of wide open spaces, shimmering, heat-haze crazed horizons, and - you guessed it - big men in Stetsons and spurs who shoot straight and ride tall in the saddle!

The curious and original thing about this album is its evocation of the "wild west" as a memory of too many rainy Saturday afternoon B-Grade serials at the Bognor Palladium, or any of its incarnations elsewhere in middle Britain. As such Slim Westerns betrays the cold, northerly aspect of its European heritage, and in so doing provides an interesting comment on the near-universal permeation of American cultural iconography in the second half of the Twentieth Century. The album is an eccentric and thoroughly overblown parody of its subject (witnessed by track titles such as: Twice as Evil as You, Hole in the Heart, Gunsmoke and Jane Russell), yet at the same time its half-out-of-tune saloon bar piano feel and dreamy Harold Budd-inspired resonant spaces lend it a listenability born of inspiration rather than derivation.

Somewhere South of Here is the recording's standout piece, locating spoken word samples of delerious religious fervour in a (spiritually?) empty ambient landscape, and throwing in undertones of implicit violence and madness for good measure; it is a piece which veritably glistens in the noonday sun whilst hiding a heart as black as coal - the perfect sonic image of the fatally flawed, simplistic duality which lies at the the centre of the "wild west" myth.

It's unsurprising that a certain strain of country music — the "high lonesome" sound, that sense of one cowboy alone in the wilderness with little but a guitar — has achieved such resonance in other musical styles aiming for a sense of drama, from Ennio Morricone's awesome soundtracks to the Fields of the Nephilim's prog-goth explosions. A Small Good Thing's use of that sound and sense bears similarities to Steve Roach's experiment with ambience and twang, Dust to Dust, but where Roach lives in the Arizona desert, the three Good Thing bandmembers live in England, making their capturing of a beautiful, haunting mood on Slim Westerns, their debut album, all the more fascinating. From the opening track, "Godforesaken" — on which plaintive acoustic guitar plays treated, abbreviated melodies over a vast synth soundscape, infusing everything with echo and depth — this is clearly not quite Frankie Laine territory, bearing much more similarity with the dark ambient compositions of Thomas Koner or Main, if anything. Slim Westerns' tracks all blend into one another over the course of 50 minutes, and while the basic sound of the album is easily summed up by that first song, it reduces the enjoyment of the disc not a jot; as late-night music, it's downright perfect, with everything from dramatic string parts to soft chimes adding to the album's quiet grandeur. While Mark Sedgwick and Tom Fazzini appear to mostly handle guitar, among other instruments, Andrew Hulme gets definite credit for his keyboard work and careful layering of sounds, which include animal calls and, in another nod to classic country, soft whistling in the background of some tracks, such as "Drowning Light." Song titles like "Gulch," "Heathaze" and "Saguaro" show that the band know their desert signifiers well, but it's the music which reigns supreme here, and quite successfully at that. — Ned Raggett