Album Review: Non Canon – Non Canon II

  • Peter Hough posted
  • Reviews

Non Canon

Non Canon II - Xtra Mile Recordings

Non Canon is the alter ego of Oxygen Thief‘s Barry Dolan and where his full electric band is an angry young man raging at dystopia, Non Canon is the introspective, gently chiding and slightly melancholy uncle, rocking gently in his chair and dispensing, with great eloquence, a wealth of wisdom. It’s mostly man and acoustic guitar, augmented with a host of co-conspirators on horns, strings, drums and keyboards which makes this album a very immersive and intimate experience. The musical arrangements are intricate affairs, rooted in melody but full of unexpected twists and turns that don’t allow the listener to feel complacent about what might be coming next. But it’s Barry‘s vocal that sits atop this confection and commands your attention. With this musical setup, there is a temptation to try to situate this album in the canon of contemporary British folk music, but that would be too easy. There’s a lot more going on. Songs like Self Untitled coil and wind around themselves. There’s something Elbow-esque in that particular arrangement, with repeating and building motifs that are mesmerising.

Lyrically, this is a very personal piece of work, full of puns and ironic twists. It’s a scrapbook full of letters to persons unknown. While Barry’s voice wavers at times, but that’s endearing and underlines the emphasis on capturing the sentiment of the song at the expense of relentless polishing and over-production.

There’s still protest, as you would expect. Lead single Dark Force Rising is a gentle diatribe against those of us who see and hear evil but do nothing about it. Barry is calling us out for keeping silent in the face of injustice, but he does it so gently that it doesn’t feel like chastisement.

This is a great and oddly diverse album that’s affecting in the intimacy that derives from the stripped back instrumentation and obvious emotion in the delivery. Top track for me is The Saying Of The Seers which is one of several melancholy waltzes and builds to a crescendo of stuttering sax. An album for an introspective evening in, maybe on the kind of winter night Barry dislikes so much.

Non Canon II is out now on Xtra Mile Recordings.