Bournemouth’s Shelleyan Orphan, the poetic singer/songwriter duo of Caroline Crawley and Jemaur Tayle, make use of a number of guests for Helleborine, mostly playing woodwinds and orchestral strings (members of Kate Bush’s band provide some bass and drums). Instead of trying to create make-believe classical music, however, the group plays pastoral folk-pop, using the winds and strings for parts that would normally be handled by standard rock instruments. Although Helleborine ultimately succumbs to its own preciousness, it is refreshing in small doses.
More blood flows through the group’s veins on Century Flower, produced by Dave Allen. The opening “Shatter” has a string quartet intro, but with pounding drums; a rather gritty sax eventually joins the fun. Electric guitars even work their way onto the LP, and Crawley’s vocals turn far more passionate than on the debut. (Tayle sings mostly harmonies, and his voice is on the slight side.) Century Flower doesn’t exactly kick butt, but it does move along nicely with well-written songs. Everything but the Girl’s art-school cousins?