Mike Seed, who is also a member of the group the Phantom Carriage, returns with his third release for SVC Records. "Aether Blues" delivers a loose, eclectic collection of music that draws from wide-ranging areas of folk, blues, and rock. Seed takes the time to explore a lot of different styles using several different instruments, and throughout there is a deep sense of his creativity and risk-taking bravado. Some moments come across as a bit self-indulgent, but overall, the album is a nice trip through Seed's mind, musically and otherwise.
Some of the best tracks on the album are Seed's vintage blues-style tunes. For the aptly-named "Single Step Blues" Seed pounds away on a scratchy-sounding dulcimer to drive the uptempo song about a hanged man making his way back home. He switches to acoustic guitar for other standout blues tunes like "Ghost Clothes" and "My Folded Arm." Hardly adhering to a strict plan, Seed throws in a few curve balls to spice up the album, as well. One especially good one is the swirling drone piece, "365 Heavens Descending And Then The Earth." It features wild, echoing saxophone trills along what sounds like a harmonium (I could be wrong). In any event, it's a nice contrast to the rest of the album. In a similar vein is "Coins in a Tin," which brings back the harmonium (again, I'm guessing) along with echoed vocals. In the liner notes, Seed explains it as "William Blake having a crack at Frankie Teardrop," which doesn't seem that far off. Unfortunately, a few times, his diversions don't pay off. "The Quartered Moon," sounds a bit too much like a campfire ghost story thanks to Seed's vocal "whooo-ooohs." Another misstep occur on "The Dark Wide Smile," which is a fairly decent until Seed adopts a gruff voice to invoke Reynardine, from the traditional ballad of the same name.
A few dalliances aside, "Aether Blues" is worth checking out. Seed seems willing to explore lots of ideas in a single space, which certainly makes the album an engaging overall experience. Certainly, there are plenty of good songs, but half the fun is waiting to hear just what he'll do next. 7/10 -- Matt Blackall (19 November, 2008)