Album review: Trappist Afterland – Seaside Ghost Tales

Album artwork

Words by Rhys Jones

Australia’s prolific acid folk troubadour Adam G. Cole returns with the third instalment of gnostic folk album (and his 9th overall). If the rumours are true this may well be his final album under the Trappist Afterland guise but from the songs on offer here (solo compositions and collaborations) there seems to be no sign of slowing in his unique brand of four winds folk.

Seaside Ghost Tales sees a welcome return of Trappist Afterland back to the Sunstone Records stable and is presented in a beautifully pressed double album, complete with gatefold sleeve.  Initial thoughts of double albums by acid folk artist raise concern as a canvas of self-indulgence.  One could certainly look at The Incredible string Band’s 10th album U (Elektra 1970) or Harumi’s self-titled 1968 Verve album as prime examples of this. Whilst the less said about Bob Dylan’s 1970 Self Portrait the better. On occasion a lightning in a bottle moment happens and the results resemble The Visit by Bob Smith.  So where does Seaside Ghost Tales fit into this equation? 

At its core, Adam Cole, and his regular collaborators, have shaped a rewarding listen that could have done with some editing to help the proceedings along or even sequencing the track listing differently for a more coherent listening experience.  A reoccurring  problem that arises with self-producing such a huge undertaking is that potential rich songs lose their potency as they are shoehorned into a concept song cycle but this is a minor quibble as it may be a cover all basis or transition some tracks as a swansong for Trappist Afterland and a new direction for his further projects.

Adam Geoffrey Cole (Trappist Afterland)

A case in point is the lovely arrangements displayed in the album’s opener the “Serpents Isle”, which includes eastern flourishes, rippling gong washes and a shuffling backbeat coda. A marvellous opening glides along and uncovers more and more on repeat listens only for the middle eight to dissolve the initial magic, leaving a rather disjointed composition that thankfully regains some momentum only to be marred down by intermittent spoken word passages that are peppered throughout the album. More treasures are unearthed on the album’s A-side, particularly the duet with Melbourne songstress Lucy Roleff (whose 2019 release Left Alone in a Room is well worth tracking down) this stripped down song is a thing of spectral beauty that epitomises the less is more approach to great effect.

The duet is an album highlight and future collaborations between Cole and Roleff would certainly be welcomed by this listener. For the remainder of the album there are inevitable peaks and troughs, the lovely (if slightly twee) “Allegory of Stars” has Trappist Afterland in an almost pop style (“Dronee Mitchell” anyone) but the momentum is again lost in the medley “Golden Neighbourhood / Closing of the Quarters”. Cole has revisited this composition from a 2010 collaboration with Neil Sweeney (the self-released CDr Goodbye Joseph Merrick) is a strange beast that sounds like a Counting Crows pastiche that has been bolted onto another spoken word segment.

The second disk provides a greater balance and fluidity with a lovely acoustic post rock opener “Twelve Sparrows”. Here Cole seems far more comfortable with the material and the flute trills (by United Bible Study’s David Colohan) and EBowed guitar makes the song soar.

After almost two decades of reinvention and acoustic innovation Seaside Ghost Tales is a lovely final album in the troubadour’s discography.

Seaside Ghost Tales is due for release on October 28th on Sunstone Records   

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