Grasscut’s debut “1 Inch: ½ Mile” was named Electronica Album of the Month in Mojo magazine and was one of the Sunday Telegraph’s Top 10 Pop CDs of 2010. If that album featured a mix of songcraft and electronica, follow-up “Unearth” tips the balance towards songs. It’s a more vocal record and both the legendary Robert Wyatt and Gazelle Twin contribute – alongside main vocals from Grasscut composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Phillips. “Unearth” proves once again that Phillips is a songwriter of note, truly traversing any notion of genre with seeming ease and considerable depth. Grasscut’s Marcus O’Dair features on double bass; Seb Rochford of Polar Bear guests on drums.
Grasscut are uniquely concerned with place, with location, with the physicality of the world around us and how we represent that physicality through stories, poems, maps, myths and, most of all, music. “1 Inch: ½ Mile” carried this idea in its title, a reference to map scales, and in the fact that its nine tracks were accompanied by a map of the lost Sussex village of Balsdean. “Unearth” continues and deepens this journey: it features ten songs shaped by landscape and memory, each inspired by a specific location in Britain.
Inspired by Philip Larkin’s poem of the same name, the opening track, “Cut Grass,” was written after a visit to Spurn Head near Hull. Upcoming single Pieces, classical minimalism meets post-rave Penguin Café Orchestra, is set at a literal road to nowhere: an unfinished flyover in the outer reaches of East London. “Blink In The Night (East Coker Version)" began in a New York bookstore, with the chance discovery of the order of service from TS Eliot’s funeral, but ended up in East Coker, the Eliots’ family seat. “Reservoir," a harmonically unsettling string epic about a drowned village, is set at Lake Vyrnwy in Wales. “A Mysterious Disappearance”, a collision of electronic beats and 1920s lounge jazz featuring Gazelle Twin, is about Agatha Christie’s flight from fame to a Harrogate hotel. “Lights”, a dazzling cornucopia of strings, piano and vocals, was inspired by the 4.6 million shells of Margate’s backstreet Shell Grotto. “We Fold Ourselves” is a cyber duet between Grasscut’s Andrew Philips and 1950s contralto Kathleen Ferrier; it was inspired by Surrey’s ghostly Silent Pool, haunt of Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Robert Wyatt (backing vocals, pianos and cornet) guests on beautifully stripped backed closer “Richardson Road.”
So far so simple. Ten beautiful, evocative songs. Ten locations. Ten double-exposed pinhole photographs in the album artwork. But the record, too, is double-exposed. There is also a shadow version of “Unearth,” comprising alternative versions of each of the ten tracks. Each currently exists only on a single cassette, which has been concealed (with Walkman) in a box at each location around the country.
Grasscut invite those of a curious and/or dogged disposition to track down any or all of the boxes, following video directions and Twitter clues.Any fan who posts a photo of himself listening to a shadow track in situ will receive a signed CD copy of the shadow version of "Unearth".. But each Walkman also features a letter of the alphabet: one-tenth of a codeword. The first person to visit all ten locations, and to contact us with this word, will be entitled to a private Grasscut performance in their own home. The band's A&R has even promised to make soup for the assembled throng.