There’s the classic line about so many music journalists being failed rock stars. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to John Robb, and nor, seemingly, Mark Hodkinson: with a career as a journalist, author (his latest novel, ‘That Summer Feeling’ is out this month), and publisher ticking along nicely, as well as having played in a number of ‘nearly-made-it bands, he re-added music in the form of Black Sedan just a couple of years ago.
Featuring some five guest vocalists, including The High’s John Matthews and multi-collaborating Kellie White, and produced by Sean McGhee, Black Sedan is less a band than a collaborative collective centred around Hodkinson, who takes a varied approach to composition. Samples abound – notably on the first song, ‘Love on Love’, which is built around extended segments lifted from Charlie Chaplain’s speech in the film ‘The Great Dictator’ and features a chorus appropriated from Nada Surf’s ‘Blonde on Blonde’.
These snippets forge a fragmentary intertext, and the broad range of sources also feeds into the musical aspect of the album, which draws on a vast array of styles.
The lugubrious ‘Why Are Churches Shaped Like Rockets?’ is a downtempo hybrid of trip-hop, post-rock, and ambient with a Curesque guitar chiming in. With baggy beats and crystalline electronics weaving layers of sound, not to mention faint hints of jazz, folk (Even Worse’) and jangling indie slowed to a crawl, ‘Adventure Lit their Star’ is a varied and atmospheric collection of songs.
The foray into jazzy funk that is ‘Joyriders’ isn’t entirely successful, but overall, it balances experimentalism with some neat, understated, and considered songwriting, conjuring dreamy vibes and charming melodies.