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Robert Scott: The Creeping Unknown

Album: The Creeping Unknown
Label: Thirsty Ear/Flying Nun

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As a member of The Clean, The Bats, and Magick Heads, Robert Scott has long specialized in gentle, pastoral pop as well as mildly psychedelic weirdness. The Creeping Unknown, his first solo project, falls almost exclusively in the latter category, but it offers its share of highlights. Scott is a notoriously prolific songwriter, and The Creeping Unknown frequently comes across as a compilation of odds, ends, and works in progress. To his credit, however, the music remains recognizably his, and diehard fans of Scott's bands will surely enjoy sifting through his de facto scraps. Several of these spare selections feature Scott on just keyboard and mellotron, and experimental snippets like "International Loss Adjuster," "Footbridge," "The Slow Room," "Morepork Makes It Home," and "Upper Lab" do have their appeal. In fact, it's now clear just who came up with the little interludes on The Clean's last few records, but a whole album of the stuff would be somewhat frustrating from such a talented songwriter. The Creeping Unknown's best bits showcase Scott in pop mode, however loose: "Harmonic Deluxe" is hardly more than a skeletal structure, but the track is buoyed by a wonderfully melancholy vocal segment. Even better is "Fog And Wind," which boasts a full-on, fleshed-out arrangement and one of Scott's most resonant vocal hooks, akin to The Clean's early work, right down to the low-fidelity recording quality and droning organ. A few other instrumental bits (like "2nd Hand Air," one of many tracks to feature fellow Clean member David Kilgour) add melody to this solo oddity, though on songs like the short "The Wick Effect," Scott sounds just as comfortable with lovely, Syd Barrett-esque strangeness. While not quite up to the standards of some of Scott's better-known projects, The Creeping Unknown demonstrates a continued dedication to the distinctive New Zealand sound he helped create, whetting appetites for the prospect of another Clean or Bats record.