Released: June 6 2011
Genre: Folk / Acoustic
Label: Bedroom Community
By: Alexandra Lyon
En Garde is the debut album of an artist who, until now, has remained relatively unknown.
Puzzle Muteson, hailing from the Isle of Wight, was noticed by his music teacher for his flawless guitar technique and extraordinary voice. Similar to the indie crooner Damien Rice, his songs are ruthless in that they pull the trigger on all possible emotions of the listener.
Guitar patterns similar to those used by Rice are prevalent in I Once Was a Horse, and the title track, En Garde. Though the album is not one to rejoice and dance to, it is without doubt beautiful, bizarre and completely original. In several songs, his voice transforms; and more power emerges. In Water Rising, for example, his voice is reminiscent of Gary Jules’, in his version of Mad World, featured on the soundtrack to the 2003 film, Donnie Darko. This change in tone proves that Puzzle Muteson is dynamic, novel, and a breath of fresh air to the acoustic/folk genre.
The opening track, I Once Was a Horse utilises the sounds of the outdoors throughout, alongside a beautiful finger-picked guitar melody and several twinkly chords played in the higher registers of a piano. Through this, we are really exposed to his rural roots, and how they may have inspired him in his music. Towards the end of the track, haunting choral female vocals are added, though they remain fairly muted. It is a beautiful, understated showcase of vocal ability and instrumental simplicity.
A track to look out for is Medusa, as the opening of the track introduces an electric acoustic guitar, giving a different, almost Biffy Clyro-esque feel to the music. The drums and string instruments used in the track are similar in style to those used by Florence Welch in the majority of her tracks, so we are enlightened as to who could influence Puzzle Muteson and how he does his own take on alternative music.
Alphabet Eyes and Glover are fairly similar in pace and sound, both using not much more than the austere layering of Puzzle Muteson’s admittedly impeccable vocal, an acoustic guitar, and a piano. Glover however, does differ in that it employs the use of a backing vocal in several places; a strong male one at that.
The bonus track appears aptly, a significant end to a significant album. The lyrics are penned sublimely, hard-hitting and still gentle. This track is similar to several written by Manchester Orchestra, mainly in the texture of Puzzle Muteson’s vocal and melancholy guitar riffs. The melody is disjunct in places, giving an odd vibe, and random use of percussion instruments like tambourines give a childish, innocent feel to the track.
Overall, as a debut album, this particular record is stunning. Its simplicity doesn’t detract from any expectations that anyone may have had of the album – in fact its simple tones enhance the crisp, unfaltering vocal throughout. A perfect example of hipster break-up music, this album perfectly captures the emotions of a troubled mind; fans of acoustic music are in for a treat when they come to hear this enchanting selection of tracks by a man from a humble island off the south coast of England.
Puzzle Muteson – En Garde