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Beautiful Imperfection
Artist: Fort Pastor
Label: Koch / Kosmos
Length:  13 tracks / 47 mins

Many of the best albums can start off appearing quite average, with tracks that sound similar to each other, and then get better with every listen, as melodies form from out of the fog. Before you know it, you are missing the music when it’s not playing. 
 
This is a similar disc. On the first listen it was the beginnings and endings that stood out: within seconds of putting this on you get a blast of didgeridoo that makes you sit up and listen; and at least five songs in a row end crisply enough to turn your head.
 
But after a while, you notice the strength of the tunes, rather than how they start and finish. Fort Pastor’s cover of Seal’s “Crazy” is very much their own, and has plenty of energy (the whole disc is well-paced). The title track is thought-provoking, while still being a fine listen, and there are other memorable and singable pieces like “Trouble” and “Mothers,” the latter being a fresh take on conflict with a hook that is sung with deep passion. “The Piano Wails” is a ballad with tender vocals and some nice harmony work; “March Out” gets a quirky feel from the xylophone as it takes a tongue-in-cheek look at selfishness and changing things in our lives (those who know Daniel Amos’ “Meal” will know what to expect); while the heartfelt “Throw Me a Rope” cries for help from a pool of regrets. 
 
One feature that particularly stands out is Brant Menswar's gritty, rock-style vocals, which are highly reminiscent of Philip Bardowell on Magdalen's brilliant acoustic tour de force The Dirt – and that's a good thing. Like that disc, which was technically a folk album with unusual instruments like duduk, hurdy-gurdy and saz, but sounded remarkably heavy, this is predominantly acoustic and has unusual instrumentation. So the didgeridoo is not an occasional novelty, but an intrinsic part of the Fort Pastor sound, which also includes harmonica, xylophone and a range of percussion. There are frequent tasty helpings of slide guitar throughout.
 
But not every track sounds rocky. Menswar’s magnificent vocals adapt to the songs, which are often gentle or poppy, with an accessibility that many will enjoy. The overall feel is of a highly confident and assured bunch of musicians with something to say, but wanting a word in your ear, rather than a megaphone in your face. 
 
(Being named after part of a zombie movie, you would imagine that the band are down-to-earth. So it may come as no surprise that this disc is the product of a trio who put their faith into action, having formed the Social Justice Army – a street-level collective whose members have committed to an hour of social action every month.) This band deserves to flourish. 
 
 
Derek Walker


 
 


 

 
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