Howie Reeve – Friendly Demons ****
12 intricate and expressive solo compositions from former Tattie Toes member
Howie Reeve’s album Friendly Demons reviewed by The List’s Matt Evans
(Sausage Shaped Lobster Records)
Anyone who saw Glasgow’s Tattie Toes play live will surely be familiar with genial shorts-wearing bassist and bell-ringer Howie Reeve. To an already extremely inventive band comprising wildly disparate stylistic elements, he brought a (post) punky sensibility, a lean, wiry bass tone and plenty of genial humour.
Alas, Tattie Toes are no more. The other members can be found playing with The One Ensemble, Alasdair Roberts, Hanna Tuulikki and others, but Reeve has decided to go it alone. Switching his gnarly electric four-string for the subtleties of acoustic bass, he delivers 12 intricate and expressive solo compositions. Reeve describes this as the most personal music he’s ever made, and you can certainly hear why: a sense of warm intimacy pervades the whole thing. Recorded live and (mostly) unaccompanied in his living room, Friendly Demons is very much a home-made concoction, and that’s very much its strength.
The tracks are alive with ambience, dotted with string-squeak and fretbuzz, and even feature the sound of Reeve breathing as he focuses during the more difficult, tricksy passages, recalling the iconic jazz mumbles of Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Thelonious Monk. An extremely proficient player, but never gratuitously showy, Reeve’s focus is on tunes and songwriting, even though only a handful of tunes feature his soft, understated vocals. His approach to bass is beautifully expressive, melodic and thoughtful, but also takes in flamenco-style flourishes, charging post-punk grooves, choppy, percussive passages and one surprisingly violent bout of chaos.
Named in tribute to his local greengrocer, ‘Stalks and Stems’ features a fantastically wobbly and boisterous attack of string-bent low end, while ‘The Playroom’ unexpectedly blossoms into an avant-folk refrain with honeyed harmonies from Foxface alumnus and the album’s recording engineer, Michael Angus. As inventive and playful as it is richly emotional, Friendly Demons will appeal not only to admirers of RM Hubbert’s delicate acoustic portraits, but also to fans of the complex rambunctiousness of Minutemen and The Meat Puppets.