Brown Horse plays out like an audible approximation of a millennial ceiling-starer’s vacant state of mind, their eyes wide open but only painted on. Its introspections, from various places on the scale between personal and philosophical, are awash with digital interference and the winsome remnants of home recording – plosive pops and static hisses – the sum of which is as well met as a warm bath. By definition it is a split LP, but the outputs and thought processes of Spencer Radcliffe and R. L. Kelly are in tandem – to the point where one is the hand, the other the glove.
Radcliffe, the hand, swipes at the dark to see what is at his disposal: a worn acoustic guitar, electronic scraps, Books, and Microphones. He siphons an introverted voice from his mouth; it has plenty to address but caps itself out of modesty, relaying mulled over views either as mumbles or diluted calls. And his active mind, as bustling as the musical debris that cushions each of his tracks, bounds from one plane to another – starting on ‘Green Things’ as an eked out appeal towards an absentee, and riding the white noise over to the lesser-scribed decrial of captured marine mammals on ‘Dorsal Collapse’. Further to this apparent sacking of weighty thoughts, ‘My Song’ is a spoken self-evaluation, blanketed in sharp keyboard tones that smudge and bury the words – Radcliffe gives us a window to his life but makes sure that the glass is frosted.
Kelly’s glove is a thin sheath to lessen the biting cold, her multiple vocal tracks as winding fibres and layers of clothing, and with them she offers the same comfort and youthful wisdom as a big sister. ‘Wake Up’ is a tender hug for a bullied kid in which Kelly reasons that “they want to hurt you because they’re hurting too”, a kind sentiment that deflects the blow whilst also kind of empathising with the offender – she’s not quite saintly, but she is grounded. Her side of the record bares an alternative optimism, less ingenuous than an everything-will-turn-out-great ethos. Instead, she shows a tolerance for isolation and confusion: “I am alone, again” she repeats on one track, but her cooed delivery says that she’s come to terms with the fact.
At the close, the two connect, and the agreed upon avowal is one of accepting that you’ll make mistakes; the great big world won’t even know you’ve made any, it’ll always just keep spinning. It’s encouraging without instilling false pride, stripped of the sort of empty, maudlin phrases that adorn stickers and stamps, ‘cos not everyone responds to a sun wearing shades and giving a thumbs up. It rounds up this kind-hearted, demure union, and makes it difficult to think of as a ‘split’. More a fusion.