HOW FAR TO HITCHIN
(2016 – ONE SEVEN TWO MUSIC – UK)
How Far To Hitchin is the debut project by British composer/vocalist/illustrator/producer Paul Dews. Fellow musicians are E.P. Dulsaw (acoustic & electric guitars, ukulele) Saul Pewd (keyboards), Wes Padpu (bass), and Ade W. Puls (flute, drum programming, percussion). If you take a second look at the names of these “members”, you might see the clever way Paul rearranged the letters of his own name, to create this make believe group. In fact, Paul is the sole artist on the record. The puzzles are plenty in the whole package, right along with the artwork on the cover.. This has a lot of styles that are interwoven with progressive and art rock. ‘Easy Targets’ instantly reminded me of some of Peter Hammill’s solo work (or even VDGG), only not near so depressing or doomsday oriented. Listening to song after song, the comparisons got wider and more diverse. Touches of Steve Hackett’s more acoustic work also quickly came to mind.
The keyboards lend orchestration like brass and string effects. On ‘Our Friend Is In The Meadow’ (track 2) Paul uses plucked ukulele, smooth as silk keyboard washes, and gentle vocals, with fabulous result that Steve Hackett once created (era ‘Voyage of the Acolyte’, ‘Please Don’t Touch’). ‘Collateral’ (track 5) may make some recall Greg Lake’s distorted megaphone-like voice from King Crimson’s ’21st Century Schizoid Man’. The music is not in the Crimson mode, just to make things clear. The following cut is the most contrasting, being upbeat, jumpy, not unlike a more progressive Tears For Fears (at their very best and in their early stage). ‘Helpless’ (track 8) is soft, slow and lamenting. Not far from the Steve Hogarth led Marillion. A beauty! ‘Sick Little Monsters’ (track 11) starts off like an industrial Peter Hammill (or 80’s Cold Wave) then moves to a Robert Wyatt influenced superiority. These descriptions hopefully give the reader an idea, but should not act as a total picture, since things change quite a bit throughout this prime recording. There are even some quick references to Canterbury (especially vocally : attention Richard Sinclair lovers – tracks 9 & 10, and Robert Wyatt fans – track 10).
I love the artwork and separate illustrations for each song in the nice booklet included with the physical CD. The disc itself is also full color and gorgeous. All done by Paul Dews, which have a grey scale beauty with neatly placed (almost hidden) color butterflies, flower (just a single one), and planet for eye teasers. The overall art could fit right in with Genesis ‘Selling England By The Pound’ era album covers. This was an unexpected gem that I am more than happy to have discovered (even if it was over a year late). With more dimensions than usual, plenty of memorable tunes, well written, beautifully arranged, and performed with a mind on excellence, this is a most diverse and incredible work. It is my suggestion that you go buy this jewel. As a note, on his next release he said he will just list himself for all the instruments. He is very talented as all who listen will see. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Reviewed by Lee Henderson 2 – 29 – 2018