Review: Gavin Clarke and Toydrum – Evangelist

Evangelist is the combined efforts of late singer-songwriter Gavin Clarke and Toydrum – James Griffiths and Pablo Clements of UNKLE fame. The album serves as an autobiographical swan song for Clarke, using the loose concept of the rise and fall of a preacher as a metaphor to portray the battle against his own demons, complete with euphoric highs and heart-rending lows.

Opening with the melancholic ‘The World I Have Created’, the title of which serves as a mantra for Clarke to repeat over this bleak introspective intro, we are welcomed into the preacher’s morbid world when the maraca-accented bassline of ‘Spirit’ kicks in – a distinctly more upbeat affair with Clarke declaring through a wailing filter: “I will make you believe”. The preacher’s rise continues into ‘Same Hands’, an unfortunately middle of the road track in this album of desire and emotion, sounding far too much like a dull Kasabian single, something that can also be said of the tracks ‘I Wanna Lift You Up’ and ‘Know One Will Ever Know’; the latter a sub-par pastiche of XTRMNTR-era Primal Scream.

Fortunately the album’s more placid moments are its strong point. The haunting ‘I’m In Love Tonight’, featuring Warren Ellis of Bad Seeds fame on viola, is a morbid harmony of Clarke’s soft voice floating amongst the drone of synthesisers and sparse drumming that would not be amiss on some of Nick Cave’s earlier albums. The lead single from the album, ‘God Song’, is perhaps the strongest on the album. The tribal rhythms of the quaint percussion are driven by the claustrophobic bass line, akin to Jah Wobble’s work with Public Image Ltd, allowing Clarke to wax lyrical as the ego-maniacal preacher; serving as the album’s moment of catharsis building up to a loud crescendo. This then dissipates into the soothing track ‘The Believer’, a more orthodox song with the euphoric declaration “I’m going to make it happen” echoing throughout.

Evangelist is finally rounded out by the surreal, enigmatic echoes of ‘Holy Holy’, giving the album a solemn, if troubled, conclusion with the whispers of many voices overlaid, accompanying the slow, hypnotic bassline as the preacher’s fall is complete.

Ultimately the album can be compared most accurately to Dangermouse and Sparklehorse’s 2009 collaboration Dark Night of the Soul, not only because it was the final album of another troubled songwriter, but the overall aesthetic of fuzz-drenched melancholy that defined both singers’ careers being taken to a more experimental place through the work of collaborators. What they may lack in cohesiveness, they make up for in charm and genuine emotion.

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