Known best for his work in Tasmanian freak-rock outfit The Native Cats, long-time Australian poet and sometimes stand up comedian Peter Escott has recently put to tape a magnificent solo opus, The Long O. Featuring no other performers and limited to the only instruments Escott knows how to play – piano, synth, melodica, and a solitary, awkwardly self-taught guitar chord – The Long O is as haunting as it is direct, with Escott’s voice lending a reserved gravity to the often soaring arrangements.
The minimal instrumentation allows Escott’s long-confirmed songwriting strengths to come to the fore. He avoids arpeggiating and endless layering in favour of weighty chords and open spaces, whether in the mournful stride of piano-driven lead single “My Heaven, My Rules” or the blissful dream-pop of “Mealymouth”. A thread of rough-hewn experimentation runs through the album too: “The Bell” closes the album with a melodica solo played in front of a washing machine, both heavily distorted to devastating effect.
Escott’s lyrics, already so vital to the appeal of the Native Cats, are even more focused and prominent here, as he trades his usual bold declarations and paranoid power games for a far more reflective and revealing lyrical mode. In “O”, a three-part home recording inspired by the paralysing indecision of trying to complete and arrange the album, he wonders if all art can simply be reduced to “a list of decisions”, explores the notion of artistic immortality via the history of drum sampling, and accepts the impossibility of writing to please anybody but oneself. It’s The Long O in a nutshell: pieces of an ordinary life, and a wandering mind, and a well-honed instinct for deceptively small sounds.