Probably the greatest pleasure in reviewing music is to receive an unsolicited request for a review from a small independant label and find that you are confronted by some of the most engaging and beautiful tracks that would otherwise have passed you by unheard…this is one of those albums.

Emphemetry is Richard Birkin, a musician and writer from Derby in the UK. He started the Time Travel Opps label in 2003 as a means of releasing music, poetry and fiction created with his friends in hand-crafted and limited editions.  When not composing as Emphemetry Birkin also plays guitar and sings with Crash of Rhinos who will be releasing their own LP on Triste Records in 2011. 

A Lullaby Hum for Tired Streets is the first full length album released by Birkin and Time Travel Opps. It came together slowly over half a decade and drew on smaller sketches and demos which were finally recorded in Derby over the winter of 2009/10. The whole album was then mastered in October 2010 by Nils Frahm at the Durton Studio in Berlin. Since then Birkin has been busy working on translating the album into a live production which he can tour in the UK during 2011.

The concept behind the album is the exploration of city streets late at night and in the early hours of the morning; the dark alleyways and side roads, dimly lit passages, chinks of light and shadowed activity at windows, that hushed presence of a new day before the sun rises and a liminal sense of place, passing time and lives lived. This is a voyeuristic journey, but we are in safe hands here with Emphemetry guiding us in his musical tour bus through the delights of this hidden world.

The opening track ‘After Catalunya’ is a deeply moving piece opening with a gentle humming guitar ambience that builds slowly with plucked harmonics, deep bass drones, light piano fills and a haunting violin melody into a devastatingly beautiful piece of music. The next track ‘Four Million Silhouettes’ introduces us to Birkin’s vocals and his highly accomplished acoustic guitar work which perfectly compliment each other. ‘A Lullaby Hum’ follows with its improvised beat (from microphone taps ?), electric guitar and droney fx laden sounds. ‘Francis Thompson’ is the longest track on the album at just over nine minutes. It develops slowly from a simple guitar and piano melody line into a full-on post rock rhythmic piece with tight acoustic drumming over guitar and strings that reach a crescendo then break to reveal a repeated guitar pluck with panned effects and a minute electronic pulse sound that fades out. And that is just side one !

Side two has six more tracks including rain soaked guitar fretwork, a ghost house quintet, flugelhorn with glitched vocals and other wonders which I will let you explore for yourself.  Oh..and make sure you listen right to the end of track 10 for the perfect ending!

An immense amount of time, care and attention has gone into the making of this album and it really shows. This is a quality production full of many surprises and exquisite tracks which will undoubtedly be on my top 10 list of 2011. Everyone with an interest in the modern ambient/post-rock/folk crossover genres should have this on their shelves or hard drives…yes, its that good !  

Emphemetry: A Lullaby Hum for Tired Streets. Cassette due January on UK label Tapes Tapes Tapes. Limited edition hand-made CD-r from Time Travel Opps due out Feb/March. 12″ vinyl LP due out in Feb/March on Triste label. Download at Bandcamp due out January on Time Travel Opps label.

Time Travel Opps Label

Triste Label

Emphemetry on Bandcamp (including two free tracks)

Emphemetry on Soundcloud