The name Rural Tonic calls to mind two things. The first: a gentile spa retreat – maybe you’ve gone to the Lakes and just logged off, yknow? Got to know you? Looked up. The other thing it conjures is a kind of borderline illegal moonshine operation being run by a farmer out of a disused barn – nights of which nobody speaks. A League of Gentlemen-style fugue state that can sometimes overtake small villages. That’s the end of the spectrum that we’re on here.
There’s a peculiar, maniacal urgency to Rural Tonic, the third record from Edinburgh collective Dominic Waxing Lyrical – an amalgamation of songwriter Dominic Harris and members of Aberfeldy, Badgewearer, and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. At first, it’s a bit much – the first few tracks of the album are a bit of an onslaught, albeit one of exceptional musicianship (turns out orchestra players are really, really good) and clever melodies, while Harris’ holler and the extensive amount of harpsichord take a bit of getting used to.
Once you get past that, though, you’re in. Musically, the songs are a kind of mish-mash between ancient, trad-folk and Decemberists-style punk rock. Lyrically, Harris makes some really cool reaches across the album, but nowhere moreso than on the soaring love song Laika, which juxtaposes the oddness of falling in love with the oddness of space travel: 'Who do you love? I love the clouds and the craziness of astronauts / Think of a dog, flying alone, in outer space, without so much of a bone.'
The last two tracks are the album in microcosm – Kill Everyone, a mad driving psych-rock freakout which literally includes the lyrics 'Let us kill everyone! Let’s kill them all!', followed by Fairweather Friend, which almost sounds like emo ('It’s such a beautiful world, why does it leave me cold?' set to a classical arrangement, like if Alkaline Trio got really into baroque). It’s wild, and a fitting end to a really, really beautiful record.
Listen to: Octopus Man, Fairweather Friend