Padang Food Tigers – Ready Country Nimbus (2012)

Well I’m back in England now and have caught up on sleep and general ongoings, so it’s business as usual. On today’s menu is a pretty underground, free folk group called Padang Food Tigers with their sophomore LP Ready Country Nimbus. 

Firstly I suppose we should answer the question of, what exactly is “free folk”? Well, I’m not 100% sure on that myself if I’m honest, but from what I’ve heard and what definitions I’ve seen, I think the best description available is: imagine ambient meeting folk. Loose, unstructured melodies with typical folk sounds and instrumentation with the mismatched meanderings of ambient.

There’s no vocals, almost no beats or rhythms, nothing electronic within 100 miles of this album, all it is is delicate acoustic instrumentation and soft field recordings to occupy what would otherwise be a rather empty background. “Signifyin’ Nothing” typifies the sound very well early on, floating along effortlessly to irregular pulses of improptu acoustic guitar fiddlings and piano tinklings, accompanied by bird song.

Distant church bells ring out in “Pymers Mead”, reinforcing this idyllic countryside vista growing in our mind, buried under a heap of processing almost to the brink of recognition, just barely holding a semblance of their original self, like the fading edges of a well worn memory. The trouble is that before each track has the opportunity to unfold it is swept up and carried away by the next; “Lone Carson” is so quiet and beautiful with its faint drone that it deserves more than 90 seconds of air-time before being smothered by the determined guitar and violin of “In My Heart I’m Already Gone”. That’s the biggest qualm I have with this release, it’s just too short. 32 minutes and 15 tracks is great for putting down lots of snippets of ideas but it means that nothing is fully fledged, there’s no growing room. “Pucker Boo” just randomly terminates after 30 seconds, for instance.

The longest track, the title track, really is something special because of its standout length. Ok only 3 minutes, but that’s 1 minute more than the others, and we’ve already established that 1 minutes to PFT is quite a long time. It’s nearly clichéd raindrops falling in the background reflect the mournful attitude of the acoustic instrumentation unfolding above it, lamenting their day stuck indoors. It’s the epitome of the stereotypical holiday here in England, and who better to tell it than this London-based duo? Sadly, the latter half following the title track is quite disappointing, lacking more coherence than the first half and becoming increasingly more irritating in its aimlessness. “Nobody’s Religion”, with its sample of a drink being poured, just feels too out of place, even within this album and its lack of structure.

“For Esmé” is a bit of a redeeming feature as we get to the penultimate track, with gentle running water samples and very clear guitar melody. Finally, some sense of purpose, nearly too little too late as it segues into the stunning closer “Hey, Relaxer”. Are those bagpipes or is it simply drone? I can’t tell, but its cute, naive, toybox sound and hopeful drone is a welcome relief and certainly lives up to its name.

If you want a sonic comparison, the closest I can get is this: imagine Stars of the Lid mixed with Celer (ala Capri), throw in a little more instrumentation and you’re there. Just…somewhat more aimless and less purposeful than either of the above. I want to really enjoy this, I know that I should, but it kind of frustrates me in an irrational way. I understand that the entire point of this music is to be freeform and loose, but it should at least contain a level of consistent aimlessness.