Slippery sod Huw Evans. Cardiff’s gangliest musician, after forming whizzing Kraut noodlers Meanz Heinz and playing with Gruff Rhys, Sweet Baboo and Stacking Chairs, is currently H. Hawkline, and dishes out equal doses of magic and unpredictability. Early solo sightings revolved around spidery finger-picked guitar; later, full band excursions have been playfully rocking affairs, wigging out on Jonathan Richman and twiddly keyboards, proper pop songs pickled in spiked Kool Aid. The joy of ‘A Cup Of Salt’ is not only that it synthesizes all of the above, but also that it does it with such warmth and crackling weirdness, feeling at the same time sunbeam fresh and like some mysterious relic that’s recently been dug up. ‘A Cup Of Salt’ also feels part of some nebulous, and maybe imaginary Welsh strangeness, something old as the hills and running through everything from Man to Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci.
A cupboard full of harebrained noises – toys, spinning plates, rattled cassettes – stitch the songs together, but at the album’s core is some fine finger-picked guitar, sometimes crisply beautiful, sometimes devilishly creepy, like metal strings plucked with claws. It wanders into some sweet territory: ‘Clown Catches Fly’ adds xylophone and wheezing harmonium; ‘From Her Eyes’ some nifty banjo and cat-walking-on-piano noises, while ‘Raw Horse’ goes from churchy serenading to bug-eyed hollering to what sounds like a faraway Sweet Baboo singing a hymn while a dog barks in the background. There’s great mind-expanding freak outs too: witness ‘An Old Lady Sings/Pentecoastal’s ace frazzled strut, with loping bass and flanged-out guitar working over a mangled, looped siren call, and ‘Gelly (Lleuad II)’, where a dancing guitar motif and S4C samples are buried under florid, squelchy keyboards. The whole album has this loosely perfect feel, like a brilliantly wonky scrapbook, or an acid trip where everything’s fine. And no comedown at the end: the lush title track closes things with dusty piano, a backwoods choir, garbled snatches of conversation, Huw and Cate Le Bon in there somewhere.
‘A Cup Of Salt’ could be the best thing released in 2010; a homemade treat made better for it being so unexpected.