Stealing Sheep - Into The Diamond Sun
The first taste of Into The Diamond Sun was injected into mainstream awareness via an advert featuring beautiful 20 year old soap stars masquerading at a seemingly abandoned woodland carnival to the sounds of lead single 'Shut Eye'. Despite turning a bunch of Hollyoaks' fans (people who actually watch it without the slightest hint of irony) on to the music of Stealing Sheep, the ad at least did a fairly good job of embodying some of the spirit of the track-the masks, costumes and fairground rides fitting nicely with the music. On first listen Into The Diamond Sun, the first album proper from this Liverpool based trio, is equally enchanting.
With each member of the band taking up song writing duties (some of which date back to when they were as young as 17) and bringing their differing musical preferences to the table-be it freak folk, electronica or krautrock, Stealing Sheep do well to craft their influences into a cohesive sounding and wonderfully harmonic whole. At times they sound like early Broadcast, and at others like Cate Le Bon or Fleet Foxes, 'Shut Eye' in particular playing like an autumnal 'White Winter Hymnal'-cascading toms beating like a turning cog beneath subtle yet infectious vocals imbued with a certain bonfire mystique. They carve out a distinctive sound through persistent use of nursery rhyme vocals, delicate acoustic filigrees and minimal campfire percussion. For example the marching snare roll in 'White Lies' or the sparse beginning of 'Circles' where every tap of the tambourine is keenly felt, these help give the album an intimate atmosphere and create something at once catchy and subtle.
With hushed voices throughout and the use of deliberately simplistic lyrics like "Sharks are big and sharks are scary/sharks make me feel extremely wary" from 'Shark Song', this is a comforting listen that is nevertheless still unpredictable. So often, as with 'Circles' a drunkenly giddy chorus will pop up to chase its own tail and collapse in an inebriated lump and leave the tracks to meander a slightly psychedelic path. There's a sense, as promised in 'Genevieve', that "it's all just a dream you're feeling." Unfortunately though, it's a cutesy and slightly forgettable dream.
Into The Diamond Sun seems to have everything in place to be of a similar standard to CYRK or Haha Sound yet there is always the sense that something is missing; it's as if you've been invited to this mystical garden party but only as a spectator. Perhaps like their Hollyoaks counterparts once you get past the decorative veneer you discover a slight lack of substance. They have their moments, and album closer 'Beartracks' is particularly impressive, but Into The Diamond Sun ambles between endearingly naive and excessively twee. Unfortunately it more often that not slips into the latter.