Words by Grey Malkin
Burnt Paw (Birmingham native and Edinburgh resident Andy Green) has quietly but consistently been releasing a series of beautiful EPS and albums filled with adventurous and dexterous acoustic guitar work, and with songs replete with psychedelic, visionary lyrics and tales, since 2016’s illuminating ‘The Sparrow’s Scrapbook’. Later long players, such as 2019’s ‘Lunar Vortex Incantations’, 2020’s ‘The Owl With Two Faces’ and, most recently, the sublime ‘Let Your Armour Down’, are infused with spellbinding fingerpicking, spiritual quests and wounded optimism. Paw also forms half of the ‘mystic gong folk duo’ Chanting Temples, whose expansive and meditative ‘Rise To Meet The Dawn’ was one of this listener’s highlights of 2020. A true original, Paw’s albums often come adorned with his own distinctive and expressive Blakean artwork, adding to their unique charm and appeal. With new release ‘Levitation Songs’, Paw continues his journey both inwards, and out towards the horizon; there is something deeply human, intimate and personal embedded within his work, but in a manner that is also inclusive, shared and which embraces what it is to be in this world. To this end, this album offers a welcome form of companionship. With a sparser, more ethereal air than previous and with more emphasis on Paw’s voice, ‘Levitation Songs’ is a captivating and truly emotive piece of work; indeed, on the cassette version the tracks lead into each other to offer an impression of how it must be to sit close by in-person, and watch these songs embody themselves in real time. As Paw himself elaborates;
‘I do think this album was created as interconnected experience- and recorded that way too. Exactly what that experience is, I’d rather leave open to the listeners own perceptions and feelings. Hopefully the images will speak to everyone in a different way. But I will say this- the album was born in flames and journeys towards an uncertain path of healing. Each song is perhaps a small keyhole into an unfinished quest. But what quest? Who could say! Albums begin and end in the dark of unknowing, with shafts of light to guide us further. I think all my albums start from a need for psychic exploration and discovery. I try to weave images and symbols into an underlying landscape – even if that space is by its nature, ambiguous, shifting or dream-like.’
Opening the album with a gentle, ambient hum, ‘The Crossing’ is then cobwebbed with eerie and echoed fingerpicking, providing a gossamer base for Paw’s evocative vocals. Melancholic, but with an undercurrent of wonder and a sense of magick, it is a masterclass of mood building and cinematic atmosphere. It is telling that these songs evoke a very visual reaction, there is something quite Wim Wenders at play here, conjuring a wide movie screen filled with an equally wide horizon. ‘Reawakening’ is similarly beautiful in its warmth and tentative embrace, with picked guitar notes cascading like an orchestra of harps behind Paw’s reassuring (and at times Jeff Buckley-like) intonations. At once suggestive of the sacred, whilst also being both grounded and earthy, there is something here of finding the spiritual in the everyday, in ordinary events. Descriptions of watching sparrows on washing lines, and witnessing ‘oil tankers stumble out to sea’ meet a promise that ‘a weight had lifted, the mist is lifting’. Mention must also be made of just how gorgeous this album sounds; both the reverberated, crystal clear guitar as well as Paw’s voice are captured with a warmth and an intimacy, and with a shimmer that adds an otherworldly, candlelit air to the songs, reminiscent of Big Star’s ‘Third/Sister Lovers’. Next up, ‘Mercury and Rose’ is more pensive, but also expansive – the guitar practically glistens and the lyrics double as poetry; both elements seem to be in the same ebb and flow, complimenting and at one with each other. Indeed, in talking about how this album came together, Paw offers illumination as to how how the component parts of his songs bond and move together so intuitively;
‘One very immediate difference for ‘Levitation Songs’ is my shift to electric guitar. For the moment, i felt I’d exhausted acoustic composition, and experienced a great need for a new spontaneous direct energy to unlock my psychic pathways. Secondly, – and even more unusually- I started with a series of poems/lyrics, which rooted and earthed me in a particular moment in my life. I then sought spontaneous freeing ways to release these words and images into sounds and movement through the guitar. Some found form immediately. Others took a while to be stitched into pattern. Most of this was very instinctual however – which is very much the basis for all my albums.’
‘Feast of Shadow’ follows and feels psalm-like, with a wintery and late-night hue and shade; a solstice hymn. Those who enjoy the works of fellow finger pickers such as Nick Jonah Davis and Henry Parker will surely find much to embrace here, as well as those who embrace Bert Jansch or John Martyn. There is a further haunted and diaphanous feel to these pieces that may also draw in those in thrall to the baroque atmospheres of the 4AD label, as well as the melancholic vistas created by the likes of Richard Skelton and Laura Cannell. Next, ‘The Land Between’ once again brings a strong sense of the filmic, of wide-open vistas and a Herzogian eye for a landscape, evoking this all simply through guitar and voice. It is easy to forget that these layers and textures are the work of one person alone, as a chiming guitar peals bell-like over a steady stream of arpeggios. ‘Elementals’, by turn, is a spectral and ghost filled hymnal that lingers long in the imagination after the music ends, before ‘A Winding Stair’ brings things to a piano-led and heartrending, yet beautiful, conclusion; a missive from a haunted house, from another time.
A triumph then, and an album that is genuine, heartfelt and reflective of its composer. Paw lives in and inhabits these songs, there is never any doubt that what you are listening to is real, present and communicated with utter honesty. To listen is to get to know Paw at this step on his journey, to be welcomed into his unique world and to become a part of his quest. For those who are just joining him on his path at this point, it is highly recommended that you retrace some ground and explore the other treasures at his Bandcamp page; you will happily lose yourself in these for a day, or week, or month…
‘Levitation Songs’ is available on cassette and download from burntpaw.bandcamp.com