"Bannerman make you realise once again that not only can he/they not be easily pushed into a box, but that sense of the unexpected is exactly what gets you in...and keeps you there...When this album isn't song-noir it is luminescent. Rare stuff." - Graham Reid, elsewhere.co.nz
Bannerman's third record begins like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. Taking a cue from the oeuvre of composer Ernest Gold, first track, Another Light, puts you at the edge of a windy cliff top. Something is stalking behind you. Below is a raging ocean. Will you descend and take your chances or turn and confront the faceless spirit that wants to steal your thoughts? Whatever you decide, the next 49 minutes will be a journey not forgotten.
Clawhammer is not just another showcase for Richie Setford's songwriting - this is a band album. The players have now been together in the rehearsal room and on the live scene for over 18 months and it shows. Gang vocals, string arrangements, animated solos and a fat old rhythm section are a testament to their camaraderie and to the hours spent honing their parts. The eleven tracks on offer here have a cohesion and freshness that improves on debut album The Dusty Dream Hole and 2011's Dearly Departed.
First single, There Is a Lesson, is an urgent, headlong self-analysis about the trials of intimacy. Andromeda is a gently dark, string led throb. Echoes safely drones along in an understated, epic way and the title track creates a climbing tension from hushed beginnings. It's the showpiece of the album and the inspiration for the embroidered cover art, created by award winning film maker and artist Monica de Alwis. Angela Keoghan, who took out the Tui for best cover art in 2012 (Dearly Departed), is back on board to design the layout of the package.
The album was recorded at The Lab in Auckland, with Tui award winning engineer Olly Harmer. Unlike the previous records, Clawhammer was tracked live with all songs overdubbed and completed in a whirlwind three days. Recording under these self-imposed time restraints captured a vital energy that never had the chance to become lost in production. The musicians embraced every minute and surprisingly, the process never felt rushed. What you hear is a well prepped band making decisions in the moment; walking a tightrope with a crazed grin. Richie was joined in the studio by Cass Basil, Cole Goodley, Finn and Tam Scholes and Siobhanne Thompson, with appearances from Hollie Fullbrook (Tiny Ruins) and Alice Crowe (Farah Loux).