There is an argument that art can not be great unless it is loved by the masses, but as the year steadies itself for another X-factor winner roll out, consisting of GMTV appearances and headline news stories, the gulf between reality star and traditional artist forging forward on their own steam is now more apparent than ever. The masses will not like Alex Sheilds’ brain-child A Grave With No Name – does that make what they do any less worthwhile? Well several spins of ‘Mountain Debris’ alludes that the answer should be a loud and definitive No! There are other albums out there that will gain more column inches, and will be talked about at water coolers, but there are not many that will resonate with those it touches quite so well.

Overall contemplative and haunting, it takes several spins before the album’s full depths and stark beauty can be fully discovered. Opener ‘The Sun Rises’ sets the mood; an icy Sigur Ros style sound bed, rich in atmospheric percussion and swooshing guitars, it should have BBC soundtrack selectors for Top Gear foaming at the ears. Yet though this track closely embraces the hallmarks of another artist, Shields is not merely content with replicating the past glories of other and presenting them afresh in slightly different packaging. Instead he has searched through the rubble of yesterday and pulled out the worthwhile, turning these parts into building blocks and melting them together with his own distinctive blend of concrete.
‘And We Parted at Mount Jade’ sees him dramatically shift track, pull out the distortion pedals, turn everything up a notch and fully embrace the spirit of shoe-gaze.
The influence of the genre’s most high profile and now once again hip exponent, My Bloody Valentine, is there on full parade during ‘Silver’ where melodic gliding vocals dive under a sea of driving fuzzed up guitar.

The disjointed ‘Stone Setting’ then sees the delay pedals being confiscated and AGWNN revert to a more traditional song structure that results in Shields’ debut start to sound like that of a charmingly ramshackle Times New Viking on downers, while the basis of ‘Horses’ carries on down a similar route but piles one distinctive reverb-laden, psychedelic-flavoured texture on top of another.

The guitars are temporarily packed away for the stripped down, piano-led ‘The Underpass’, which is a major diversion away from the rest of the album and apes Death Cab For Cutie at their most suicidal. Yet what makes this album flow and bind together so well is that it both sounds and feels like an album that has been constructed with patience and not hastily rushed out.

Those buried with no tombstone are usually forgotten, turned away by society before they reach their final end; with this album A Grave With No Name have cemented that they’ll be remembered, if not by the masses then at least by those that really matter.

By Nathan Westley

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