Smalls Lighthouse and the beauty of disintegration

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It has been five years since illustrator and designer Frances Castle started releasing vinyl albums in a style one could call Atmospherica Britannica on the Clay Pipe Music label. What better way to celebrate than to do a second reissue (the first was done five years ago!) of the most British of incidental musics imaginable, namely Plinth’s ‘Music For Smalls Lighthouse’?

Originally released on Second Language in 2010, ‘Music For Smalls Lighthouse’ has become a sought-after collector’s item and soundtracks the story of two men who decide to spend half a year in the lighthouse at Smalls Rock in Wales in the year 1800. Although one of the men dies in an accident and the other gradually loses his mind as he struggles on alone, the music is astonishingly soft, even pastoral.

There is something very alluring in this combination of inevitable disintegration and starkly contrasting harmony. An expression of our need to ultimately accept entropy, perhaps? In that sense, this album is to imaginary soundtracks what Stackridge’s ‘Original Mr. Mick’ is to pop music. The instrumentation here however is not pop, but instead points towards chamber music, with piano, violins, dulcimer and glockenspiel. But just like the Stackridge album, it combines field recordings with recorded music into a soothing and introspective whole that exerts a strong pull on the listener. An opportunity to take a pause from one’s all too productively oriented day and just bask in the moment, while somehow not being scared by the fact that there is nothing you can do to keep that moment from falling apart.

Everything crumbles. But there is beauty in decay.

As with all other Clay Pipe Music releases, there is of course also beauty in packaging. The vinyl is sea-foam green (although sea-foam as far as I know is white!), there’s a booklet telling the full Smalls Lighthouse story and the package is rounded off with the companion ‘Flotsam’ bonus disc that was also included in the original release.

Definitely worth owning in physical form.

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