With his fourth record Toil and Trouble, it is as though Angelo De Augustine has taken a step into a new room. The comforting, reverb-washed simplicity of his previous solo works on Inside the Moon or Tomb has been replaced by a beautifully polished, highly produced soundworld.
Toil and Trouble was written, recorded and mixed entirely by De Augustine himself. With access to an emporium of unusual instruments (enough to ignite the envy of any musician), such as a glass xylophone, a Mustel celeste, a Japanese Unisynth, he has constructed a detailed orchestration of delicate sounds.
The record sits on a knife-edge between the deeply human, the surreal, the childlike and the folkloric. “I had to take myself out of reality in order to try to understand reality,” says De Augustine on the process of creating the record. This is evident both musically and lyrically throughout the album. The opening track, ’Home Town’, reflects upon the despair surrounding a school shooting near the town in which De Augustine grew up. Later in the album he sings “I don’t want to live / I don’t want to die / I keep a colt 45 in my drawer if I change my mind”, and in the next breath there are mentions of childhood figures, Peter Pan and Christopher Robin, that knife-edge duality a constant theme.
De Augustine performs no less than 27 instruments on this album, and the attention to detail is remarkable. Fluttering synthesisers, sweeping strings, grounding brass and sentimental xylophone melodies surround carefully fingerpicked guitar, all providing a rich bed for his soft, distinctive voice, which always sounds as if it is singing someone to sleep. Ethereal, heartbreaking work.
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