I am not ashamed to tell you that this review of the third Grawl!x album Appendix has been written and re-written several times. I am now at the point where I am having to throw my hands up and resign myself to the fact that no words I can write can explain quite how beautiful this album is. Yes, to unashamedly use an old cliché; this album is too beautiful for words.
Over the past few years Grawl!x has become one of Derby’s best loved musicians. He has made a name for himself by bringing grace and beauty to everything he lays his hands to including the two previous album’s in the trilogy – 2015’s Good Grief, and 2016’s Aye!. With this fins album in his trilogy on death and grief, he does not just raise the bar but launches it off into space taking heartbreak and somehow making it hope.
From the artwork – based on an original flower pressing and adding to the funereal theme behind this and the two preceding albums – to the music this is an album full of details and intricate observation. It becomes apparent very quickly is the song arrangements have had an incredible amount of work and time put into them, and are quite simply breathtaking.
On Appendix Grawl!x seems to have put aside his reverb drenched guitar in favour of a more classical approach with most songs being more piano led, which helps the true quality of his songwriting shine through. The layers and textures that build over each song mould perfectly together, sometimes through strings floating magnificently over beautiful piano, or male and female vocal tracks layered together to perfectly compliment one another.
For while this is very much a Grawl!x album – and led by the creative mastermind that is James Machin – it’s one which also features a cast of other local brilliance. Haiku Salut and Richard J Birkin lend their musical prowess while guest vocals come from Shelley Jane Newman (Mighty Kids / Sex Jokes) on This Moment’s Gone and Danielle Cotterill (Pet Crow) on lead single Don’t Do It To Yourself.
The ensemble cast make this a rich offering, at several points during this album I feel like the first time I heard albums such as For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver; the feeling of hearing a timeless, wonderfully written and beautiful album that will keep growing better over time. In songs such as the two already mentioned – The Moment’s Gone and Don’t Do It To Yourself – you can hear similarities to artists such as Benjamin Francis Leftwich but no matter the comparisons, you cannot take away from the fact that this is very much a Grawl!x album, and it is a testament to the great songwriting and musical skills he possesses.
It’s completely without hyperbole that I say this album is a masterpiece, by an artist who I swear still does not quite realise his own creativity and skill in his craft. Appendix is a timeless classic that should be owned, loved and listened to over and over again – it certainly deserves to stand out as a gem from our city and to reach hearts well beyond our borders.