Reviews

Matthew The OxxMatthew The Oxx
Album: First Aid For The Drowning
Label: Wild Sound
Tracks: 11
Website: http://www.matthewtheoxx.com

The son of composer Terry Oldfield, and with many more musicians in his extended family, East Sussex dweller Matthew The Oxx, has music running through his blood having absorbed a love to 'write and play music simply by proxy'. As a songwriter Matthew has been inspired by coast to coast walking and exploration of his most recent adventure in Australia. Reflective dreamy photographs taken by the artist are laced throughout the accompanying 8-page booklet adding a layer of abstraction to the unfolding story told through each song. Loosely based on French author Balzac's famous classic, The Wild Ass's Skin, about a character who discovers a piece of skin which has the ability to grant him his wishes. This character goes to great lengths to avoid death.

With Leonard Cohen, amongst others, providing the soundtrack to Matthew's upbringing, it is no surprise he masters the melancholic poetry of folk music. First Aid for the Drowning is a philosophical take on differing perspectives surrounding death, exploring various interpretations of what death is. The artist attempts to portray the range of feelings and emotions surrounding death: sadness, happiness, peace, excitement and the curious.

First Aid For Drowning begins as a brave confrontation of death in Beyond The Gates, which expresses a determination to stare death straight in the face, without fear. This is enhanced by the deep bass and the gritty tense vocals, which help set a scene of suspense and the unknown. Each track emits a tone of poignancy.

Death is considered not only in abstract and thoughtful ways but also as a factual account as in the tale of Elizabeth Mary McCann where it appears as a report of someone's death at the hands of a road accident. The singalong quality of We’re All Going to Die almost bears us down our own inevitable road.

The Oxx’s vocals have a classic folk quality. Whether singing solo, supported by backing harmonies or dueting as on A Mighty Good Time there is a richness and a control that perfectly phrases the profound lyrics. The arrangements are melodic and uplifting deploying a range of acoustic instrumentation.

This album is an acknowledgement that we are all passing by, told in exquisite poetic language. It is as if each song is lapping over your feet as you stand watching the sea receding from the shoreline.

Leah Parker-Turnock