Ghedi & Heppleston have old heads on their young shoulders, but they don’t let it get them down. On ‘Of Abyssinia’ they go thousands of miles beyond the Anglo-A merican folk figureheads so important to pop history, instead singing ‘rambling’ blues songs (‘Serve The Wind’) one minute and chanting faux-Africa spirituals (‘Africa Lament’) the next. What Ghedi & Heppleston do differently is to stack several styles
together with some truly original results.
Just listen to ‘Love Eternity’, ‘Of Abyssinia’s sprawling centerpiece, and its delicate ambient conclusion. This is just one instance of the way disparate elements can come together to make something uniquely absorbing. Ghedi & Heppleston’s freeform impulse is also expressed by their lyrics, more often mantras than stories, a symptom of Ghedi’s mammoth, mystic musical mission. With a transcendental drive to ‘encompass everything, every emotion, every sound…’ it’s maybe not surprising that there are pieces of both gauzy texture and deft instrumentation woven into their songs. The peaks and troughs in pace and tone laden the album with a drama it wouldn’t have had it been consistent and even.
In fact, the longest track here is an ambitious suite comprising of acid-jazz interludes, ringing guitar arpeggios, lounge trumpet sunshine and only a handful of lyrics. Basically, ‘Of Abyssinia’ feels forever phantasmagorical. Like Tolstoy to Tom Waits’ Dostoevsky, the duo is at ease marrying found-sound and chaotic elements with highly conventional styles, making ‘strange mish-mash’ sound giddily brilliant.
There’s too much on ‘Of Abyssinia’ to sum up neatly, or much of a reason to bother. One thing I would say is that the smorgasbord of emotional states and styles only start to make sense after you’ve allowed it to sink in. For such a complex and intimidating record in some ways, everything here is accessible and immediately works its magic. If only more musicians today could mix the new with the old so bravely.