It appears that free folk is going the way of electronica, with seemingly hundreds of bedroom producers picking up their four tracks again and constructing delicate compositions with their accumulated collections of toys and small instruments. Of course this all means that the bubble is likely to burst any minute, but for now we can enjoy it while it's still reasonably fresh, and Jonquil's 'Sunny Casinos' is a lovingly produced marvel of a record. Taking cues from the anything-goes approach of Akron/Family and the anal production obsessions of The Microphones, Jonquil mainman Hugo Manuel layers his whimsical vocals over lightly picked acoustic guitars and grittily recorded noises. Funnily enough this reminds me somewhat of the recent slew of Twisted Nerve 7"s; Voice of the Seven Woods, Sam and the Plants et al. There's that beautifully inclusive 'throw it all in the mix' feeling, yet at the same time we've got songs on offer here and not merely improvisations; check 'There is no Ian Bridgewater' which takes a room-recorded drum part and then lays on guitar part over guitar part before adding the wordless vocal part. It feels like a tribal hymn to a long-lost idol, and this reverential quality is not lost over the course of the album's 40 minute running time. Elsewhere we get the shimmering Tim Hecker-sounding 'Too Late' and 'Tracing' which sounds like a recording made in the back room of a disused junk shop. It's quite an achievement that Manuel and his collaborators have managed to condense so many influences on 'Sunny Casinos' and come out with such an incredibly coherent statement. It might be called 'Sunny Casinos' but I can't think of a better way to keep myself smiling as the rain comes in this winter.




"Sunny Casinos"

1. Avignon
2. There is no Ian Bridgwater
3. Alhambra
4. You're Not My Mind
5. Too Late
6. Square Rigger
7. Sunny Casinos
8. Tracing
9. Woodstock
10. Full of Grace's Bitterness

CD album in gatefold sleeve
1st 45 copies came in a hessian sleeve