Pictish Trail – Thumb World (4 stars)

Pictish Trail – Thumb World

Pictish Trail's eight album is one of a distinct aesthetic, delivered through a lo-fi approach

Johnny Lynch's eighth album as Pictish Trail begins amid gently scything synthesiser waves and a chorus of his own soft, multi-tracked vocals on 'Repeat Neverending'. The song sounds like a kind of car boot Pink Floyd, or James in one of their most reflective moments, reinforcing the impression that Lynch is hard to categorise as an artist, yet a far more serious artist than his playfully stand-up, dress-up live shows suggest.

Still the Eigg-based commander-in-chief and party coordinator of the Lost Map label, his association with Fire Records – this is his second album with them, after 2016's gorgeous Future Echoes – has been good for both parties. In the absence of any other easy genre description, we might call Thumb World folktronica, yet that doesn't really sum up the distinctive aesthetic here; as the title suggests, this record conjures a very contemporary sense of geographic island isolation amid a decade when the whole world is no more than a thumbscroll away.

As ever, the only distant cousins to what Lynch is doing were the Beta Band. 'Double Sided' is a piece of softly driving Krautrock motorik, the combination of its insistent groove and Lynch's warm vocal lending the feel of Kraftwerk on a sunny day; 'Pig Nice' and 'Slow Memories' are breezy pieces of electroacoustica with a sonorous tone, bearing traces of Radiohead circa two decades ago; and the playful overuse of effects while constructing something epic with 'Lead Balloon' and 'Fear Anchor' reminds of Super Furry Animals.

In each case, these comparisons are filtered through Lynch's own, extremely lo-fi approach, which gives his songs a singular charm, whether straying into the anxious, Graham Coxon-esque thrash of 'Bad Algebra', the weird, Kanye-like trap groove of 'Hard Eyes', or 'Turning Back's icy house rhythm. It's true that his ambition to conjure many of these key influences exceeds his ability, but then that ambition appears limitless, and the reality of what he's created makes for an eclectic and well-formed collection.

Out Fri 21 Feb on Fire Records.

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